Here’s a fact:
We, parents, love naptime!
Naptime means we’ll finally get time for ourselves to relax and check some items off our extensive to-do list. Even better, baby naptime means we’ll get some shut-eye, too.
But what do you do when your baby is a lousy napper?
Not only does this mean sleep deprivation for us, but it also means our little one isn’t getting the sleep she needs to grow and develop.
In this post, I’ll share 6 first-hand tips for how I managed to extend my baby’s naps and have her sleep like an angel both during naptime and nighttime.
Why does my baby only take 30-minute naps?
Some of the most common reasons why your little one is taking 30-minute naps include:
- She is overtired and can’t fall asleep
- Your baby can’t transition between sleep cycles
- She doesn’t possess the appropriate soothing skills
- She’s hungry
- Her sleep environment is not conducive to sleep
- You’re putting her to sleep undertired
- Overstimulation from activities
What is considered a short nap for a baby?
Generally, a short nap is a session that lasts less than 45 minutes. Longer naps tend to last for more than 90 minutes. In fact, one full sleep cycle in adults lasts for about 90 minutes, while babies have shorter sleep cycles of 50-60 minutes. We say that a short nap is only one sleep cycle and a longer nap is two or more cycles.
Short naps are okay if your little one is a newborn. However, once she turns 6 months, napping for only 20-30 minutes at a time can make her extremely cranky and groggy.
6 tips to extend your baby’s naps
Create a sleep-conducive space
If you want to extend your baby’s naps, put her for a nap in a setting that will lull her back to sleep.
Babies are delicate little people who need a carefully designed sleep environment. A quick and easy fix is to make sure their room is conducive to sleep.
Here are a few tips:
- Keep the room at an ideal temperature, which is 68-72°/19-21°.
- When the baby was in your tummy, there was constant white noise. Consequently, she finds white noise relaxing and soothing. You can easily create a womb-like sleep environment by getting a sound machine and playing some white noise.
- The quality of sleep is much higher in a room that is dark. Consider getting blackout curtains if your nursery gets plenty of light during the daytime.
Pay attention to signs of tiredness
If you place your baby to sleep before she’s tired, then she will have a hard time falling and staying asleep. The key is to put her to sleep at the right moment. Too early and she’ll be undertired. Too late and she’ll be overtired.
What you can do is pay attention to signs of tiredness. Some of the most common sleepy signs are:
- Rubbing the eyes
- Looking drowsy
- Decreased activity
- Slower motion
The moment you notice she’s getting tired, put her down for a nap so baby falls asleep easily. You can even keep a schedule of the time when she usually gets tired. This will help you set up a daily nap schedule that’s ideal for your little one.
Keep an eye on baby’s awake times
Awake times is the period of time your baby is awake, for example, between naps.
If your baby’s awake times are too long, this means she’s going to sleep overtired.
If her awake times are too short, she may not be tired enough to fall asleep.
When your baby is overtired, her body activates a stress response that leads to the release of hormones like cortisol, that makes it even harder for the baby to settle.
So, what can you do?
Well, the trick is to follow age-appropriate awake times.
- 0-3 months: 30-90 mins of awake time
- 3-6 months: 1.5-2.5 hours of awake time
- 6-9 months: 2.5-3 hours of awake time
- 9-13 months: 2.5-4 hours of awake time
- 13-18 months: 4.5-6 hours of awake time
- 18 months-3 years: 5-6 hours of awake time
Simply tweaking your baby’s awake times will get her to sleep for longer stretches.
Regulate your baby’s sleep patterns
Here’s another fact:
Babies move through active and quiet sleep in cycles that last about 50-60 minutes. At the end of each cycle, they may wake up and need help falling back asleep.
So, if your little one is waking up after 45-60 minutes of sleep, she may be having difficulties transitioning from one cycle to the next.
What you can do to extend your baby’s naps is to observe when she normally wakes up. By doing so, you’ll find out exactly how long her sleep cycle is.
Knowing her exact sleep cycle will help you help her transition to the next cycle.
Okay, but how?
Stand next to her crib and gently pat her on the back or make shushing sounds when she becomes fussy. Keep doing this for a few days and she’ll eventually learn how to transition into another sleep cycle without your help.
Create a naptime routine
You’ve probably heard about the bedtime routine and all its benefits. Well, did you know that a naptime routine can help your little one nap for longer times during the day?
Yes, that’s right!
And it doesn’t have to be anything too complicated. It can be a shorter version of your bedtime routine.
For instance, you can have a short cuddle session, read her a bedtime story, or change her into a sleep sack. Soon, your baby will start to associate these activities with falling asleep, which can make naptime a piece of cake.
Teach your baby how to fall asleep independently
Here’s the thing:
Around four months of age, babies start to mature neurologically and develop sleep routines. They also begin to form sleep associations.
There are two major types of sleep associations. We call them positive and negative sleep associations.
Positive associations develop when babies use something on their own to help them fall asleep, such as sucking a finger or holding a lovey.
On the other hand, negative sleep associations involve somebody doing something for the baby, such as nursing or rocking.
In other words, if you’re rocking or feeding your little one to sleep, she’ll need you to help her to start a new sleep cycle when she wakes early.
What you should do is teach her how to fall asleep independently.
Introduce her to positive sleep associations, such as falling asleep in the crib, a lovey, or white noise.
By doing so, she won’t need your help when she wakes up. She’ll have the skills to soothe herself back to sleep.
Even if it takes you a few days or weeks to extend your baby’s naps, don’t get discouraged! Repeat the steps outlined above consistently and she’ll grow to become an amazing napper!