As a parent one of the most sacred times of the day is when our babies nap. This is often our only time in the day to get things done or simply get a moment to breath. So what is one to do when you have a baby that will only take a short nap? Depending on your babies age they are simple things you can do to extend those naps.
For babies under 5 months of age
Babies naps don’t naturally lengthen until 5 months of age. Up until that point it is very common for naps to be 30-45 min. There will usually be one long nap and that tends to be the early morning nap. But since you can’t officially sleep train at that age how do you survive and set the foundation for your little one to take those great long naps.
1. Help them
If your baby wakes at the 30 min mark or sooner don’t assume the nap is over. Go in and help them go back to sleep. You can use a method such as pick up put down or go in and shhh/rock/or pat until your baby is drowsy again. Try to not fully put them back to sleep yet get them drowsy and then leave. This will help in the long run when you are officially ready to sleep train if needed. Often times the last nap of the day can be the hardest. Feel free to make this nap “on the go”. You can use a stroller, carrier, make it a car nap etc.
2. Watch those wake windows
A very important piece is making sure to get your baby down BEFORE they become overtired. For babies under 5 months we want to pay attention to wake windows and sleepy cues. Oftentimes if a baby starts crying from being tired we’ve missed that ideal window.
3. Full Feedings
Work on an eat, play, sleep cycle from Day 1. This won’t always work but do your best to separate feedings from sleep. This way you have a better chance of baby taking a nice full feed. Make sure you are feeding your baby every 3 hours. That may mean you will have to wake them from a nap in order to get those feeds in during the day.
For babies over 5 months of age
If you child is over 5 months of age and still having short naps its time to do some nap training.
A large part in getting a good nap is having them on the right schedule. This will vary largely by age. You can reference my chart here on my Instagram page below. In addition to how many naps they are taking it’s also very important they are napping at the right time of day…
2. Bedtime & Wake Time
In order for your babe to be ready to nap during the day we need to make sure they are up for the day by 7am. Most children wake naturally between 6-7am. If your little one is sleeping later than 7am and isn’t napping well start by waking them by 7am. In addition to wake time bedtime is also important. Sleep = Sleep so if they aren’t getting the appropriate amount of sleep at night it will be harder for them to sleep during the day.
This is SO important! Since our sleep drive is lower during the day we need to do everything to give our LO’s the best chance to sleep during the day. One way to do so is to create a sleep promoting evironment.
- DARKNESS! Make sure that room is dark. In order for our bodies to produce Melatonin we need it to be dark. It dosen’t need to be fancy or expensive. You can be some great ones on amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071YVLK63?tag=duckduckgo-osx-20&linkCode=osi&th=1&psc=1. If you don’t want to buy anything foil and painters tape works great as well!
- WHITE NOISE! This is a game changer. You want to make sure they aren’t hearing any noises from outside or in the house. There are many great ones. Here is my favorite (Hatch):
4. Don’t assume the nap is over
Like I mentioned above if your LO wakes at that 30 min mark or so OR if they haven’t had a great nap leave them in their crib and give them the opportunity to fall back asleep. Depending on the age and how many naps they are on you want to give them at least another 15-30 min to see if they fall back asleep. If your child is on 1 nap you would want to leave them in the crib for the appropriate amount of time the nap should be:
Lastly, naps take work! They take a ton of patience and consistency. If you stick with it though it is so worth it and one of the critical pieces to having a good sleeper!