Ah, naps. Sweet, sweet naps. We love them as adults. So why don’t babies feel that way, too? If you’ve ever wondered how to get a baby to sleep for a long time, you’re not alone. The most common sleep complaint I hear is “Why won’t my baby nap?”
Is this situation familiar to you? Your baby falls asleep for a nap only to wake up again around 30-45 minutes later. Trust me – it’s not just your baby. If you have a chronic cat napper at home and your baby is not sleeping properly at nap time, I have good news. Short naps can be explained and corrected. But let’s first explain why these short naps occur.
We all sleep in cycles of light and deep slumber, also known as REM and non-REM sleep. When you cycle in and out of these phases we can wake up a little – something called partial arousal. Adults cycle in and out of sleep every 90 to 110 minutes but with babies it’s closer to every 45. A-ha! So how do we push them back into another sleep cycle? With some practice and a lot of patience.
We are all born with the ability to sleep but the ability to fall back asleep is a skill we must learn. We had to learn it and our children have to learn it. Picture it like any new skill: walking, talking, riding a bike. Babies need to practice. It’s up to us as parents to give them the chance to do so. At some point we have to let go of their hands and let go of the bike, right? Even though they may fall and cry.
4 steps to help get your baby to sleep longer:
- Don’t assume the nap is over when they wake after 30-40 minutes. It’s not. Stop. Wait. And listen. Let them practice soothing themselves to sleep first before you go to them. The only guarantee if you go to them right away is that they won’t fall back asleep and they won’t get that restorative sleep they need throughout the day.
- The darker the better. Darkening up your child’s room with black out shades can help with the release of that awesome sleep hormone melatonin, which will aid in making your baby nice and drowsy. (For a cheap and effective way to darken your child’s room RIGHT NOW, tape up some garbage bags. If you see that it works well then you can make the investment in new window coverings.)
- Quiet is best. Introduce a white noise machine that runs continuously throughout his nap. This consistent sound will help lull him into a deep and restorative sleep. All sound machines must be turned at the lowest volume and placed farthest away from the crib.
- Routine isn’t only for bedtime. You can incorporate a short naptime routine before your baby’s nap. I always recommend giving yourself at least 30 minutes to have a nice, relaxed bedtime routine. Condense this routine for naps to about 10 minutes or so. For instance bring baby to the nursery, dim the lights, change their diaper, and read 1 story. This can help cue baby that naptime is coming.
Naps are tough – I’m not going to lie. They can be one of the biggest struggles when working through baby sleep training. This is where I can help. Sometimes just having that added support during the process is what you need to help you through it. I can also help you get your child on a proper nap routine and schedule for their age.
It is possible, moms and dads. Your child can be that amazing napper that you’ve always wanted. With persistence and A LOT of consistency you can do it.
What are your nap successes or struggles? Share them in the comments below – I’d love to hear from you!
Alanna McGinn is a Certified Infant and Toddler Sleep Consultant and Founder of Good Night Sleep Site – a Global Pediatric and Family Sleep Team. She provides free child and family sleep support through her Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. She invites you to join her sleep community as she works towards Good Night Sleep Site’s mission of a healthier rested family unit. For more sleep tips please visit Good Night Sleep Site.