Is your child waking up after only a 20-30 minute nap?! Do you want to know how to fix short naps? It can be SO frustrating when they don't sleep longer stretches! Here are five key reasons your child isn't napping well, and what to do about them!
When you lay your baby down to nap, there is a huge sense of relief that you finally have a moment to yourself! Especially if it just took 40 minutes of rocking and shushing to get them to sleep, am I right?! But the worst is when only 20 minutes later, they are up and crying for you! Nooooooo... You barely even had time to pee or eat!
Now let's adjust our expectations first though. If your baby is less than 5 months old, this is developmentally NORMAL! Newborns and 4 month olds tend to take frequent, short naps. That's ok! Sleep will begin to elongate as baby gets closer to 6 months. But if you baby is 6+ months old and still taking short naps, definitely check out my tips below! (And if your baby is young still, take a read so you know how to avoid the issue down the line!)
Here are the top five common causes of your napping nightmare:
1) They were put down asleep. The number one reason that babies take short naps is that they are asleep when laid down in their bassinet/crib. The same goes for frequent night wakings. If you put your baby down asleep, they will likely be startled when they wake after a sleep cycle and are no longer in your arms! The key is to get them to fall asleep IN their crib/bassinet and not in your arms. For support with this, see my Instagram post on Sleep Coaching Techniques by Age.
2) They are hungry. For babies who are on a wake-eat-play-sleep cycle, they may need a “nap snack” to help them sleep for a longer nap stretch. I suggest giving baby 2oz of breastmilk or formula prior to the nap (but not so close that they fall asleep drinking it!) so that their bellies are full before going down. This can make a huge difference!
3) Their schedule is off. If baby has been up for hours, it will be hard for them to consolidate sleep. They likely have too much cortisol and adrenaline running through their body to sleep for a long stretch. It’s really important to watch baby’s wake windows so that they don’t go into a nap over- or under-tired. Sometimes adjusting their schedule to ensure they are put down in their ideal wake window is all you need to get your little one sleeping better!
4) They have not been sufficiently stimulated throughout the day. Babies of all ages need appropriate stimulation to make them tired enough for sleep. My most recommended type of stimulation is outside time. The sun and fresh air does wonders for the brain and body and almost ALWAYS improves sleep. Aim for at least 20 minutes of outside time during each wake window. This is a game-changer for most kids! If the weather is terrible and you absolutely cannot get outside, at least have some play time by a large window. Then use a fun activity to keep your baby’s brain engaged and get them tired enough to nap well!
5) You are intervening too quickly! If you have followed all the tips above and your baby is still waking after 30-45 minutes for the first or second nap of the day (the later nap(s) can and should be short), you may just need to let them fuss it out for a minute! Think about how groggy and weird it sometimes feels after you wake from a nap. Babies feel the same way, and crying is the only way they can communicate that. I recommend giving babies a minimum of 5 minutes (even if they are lightly crying, that’s ok!) to figure it out before intervening. If all of the above is met and you know they are not hurt or hungry, it’s ok to let them "fuss it out" for five minutes. They may surprise you and go back to sleep!
If all else fails, you can extend a short nap by feeding baby back to sleep or holding/wearing them for a contact nap. Though not super helpful for you, allowing them to get in an extra sleep cycle allows them to practice a longer sleep session AND sets them up better for night sleep. The more babies nap (within reason), the better they sleep at night! Plus the extra cuddles never hurt! :)
If any of these tips helped you, let me know! I'd love to hear from you!
Also, remember to check out my sleep coaching packages for 1:1 support!
Wishing you all the best
& lots of rest,