To help your baby take longer naps, learn their sleep schedule and watch for tired cues. Help your baby understand it is time to sleep by creating a naptime environment. This includes room temperature, noise control, and light control. Babies sleep better with full bellies, so aim to complete a full feed not long before their scheduled nap.
It’s a known fact that babies need a lot of sleep. They’ll take several naps a day and hopefully sleep at night to set them up for the next day.
When their sleep schedule is consistent, there are likely minimal problems at naptime. But the world isn’t as perfect as we’d all like, and days will come where your baby takes short naps and become fussy.
Sometimes, shorter naps will satisfy the amount of sleep needed, and there’s nothing you can do. But other times, there may have been a way to prevent your baby from waking too soon.
Long Nap Versus Short Nap
To help you understand if your baby needs a longer nap, first, you should understand what makes a long nap.
Generally, anything under 45 minutes is considered a short nap, and sleeping over 90 minutes is a long nap. Naps get categorized like this due to the length of baby sleep cycles.
One cycle for an adult will last approximately 90 minutes, but a baby’s sleep cycle is about 50-60 minutes. As you can see, a short nap wouldn’t allow them to complete one entire cycle.
What to Do If They Wake Early
The first thing to do is to take note. Is your baby fully alert or still a little sluggish? If they are wide awake at this point, forcing them to go back to sleep will not go well.
If they still appear a little sleepy, you may be able to soothe them back to sleep by rocking or holding them. As they begin falling asleep again, gently place them back into their crib.
Pay attention to your baby before attempting to get them to sleep again. Check for a dirty diaper first. If it’s wet, make the change, and begin to soothe the baby to sleep again.
Unfortunately, naptime will likely be over since they’ll be fully alert after the diaper is changed.
Tips for Longer Naps
Some days it may seem impossible, but there are a few tricks you can try to help your baby sleep for an extended period. If you find your baby is waking earlier, try one of the suggestions on this list.
Know Your Baby’s Sleep Patterns
A few causes for a short nap is that you’re putting your baby down before they are ready, or they are overtired. Your baby will develop their own sleep schedule.
It can consist of two longer naps that last an hour or more, while another option could be three shorter naps that last around 45 minutes each.
Sometimes it takes a while to figure out what kind of nap schedule works best for them. But, once you establish naptime, it will be less demanding.
Create a Naptime Environment
Part of getting your baby to sleep for an afternoon nap will be to create a sleeping area that is quiet, dark, and comfortable.
Sleeping in their pack n’ play with light shining through the living room window is likely a reason for a short nap.
It’s the best practice that your baby naps where they sleep at night. While car naps are inevitable from time to time, it’s a good idea to avoid them whenever possible.
Aim for Fuller Feeds
Hunger is a common reason why a baby wakes from their nap early. Always aim to feed them an appropriate amount during waking hours to help keep them full during nap time. (Around 4 to 5.5 ounces every two to three and a half hours is the suggested amount.)
Watch for Tired Cues
Yawning, eye rubbing, looking sleepy are all cues that it might be time to put your baby down for their nap. If they are showing any signs, move quickly and capitalize on the tiredness.
Take them to their naptime space, which is ideally their crib. As you pay attention and learn their cues, you’ll eventually establish a sleep schedule and plan around the nap schedule.
Establish a Naptime Routine
Create a routine that will cue your baby that it is time for a nap. Change their clothes, read a story, or have some time to snuggle.
As you incorporate this into the routine, your baby will begin to associate them with sleep. Eventually, falling asleep will be an easy process, whether it is for naptime or nighttime sleep.
From dogs barking to police sirens wailing, the list of things that can keep a baby awake is endless. All it takes is one loud noise to disrupt the afternoon nap and the sleep cycle.
While some of these things are beyond your control, take action to control the things you can. Silence your phone, keep the television volume low, and keep the baby’s door shut. Keep the room temperature at a comfortable level to avoid your baby overheating.
Take Control of Awake Time
One way to help your baby sleep for longer durations is to keep them engaged while they are awake. It doesn’t have to be a deeply involved activity.
Something as simple as counting the socks as you fold them or turning your trip to the grocery store into a sightseeing adventure. On good weather days, make sure they get fresh air and some vitamin D from the sun.
Cry It Out Method
You can always try a sleep training method to help produce a longer nap. Wait until the baby is around 14 to 16 weeks of age to begin, and one of the more popular methods is the Cry It Out Method (CIO).
With this method, your baby is placed in their designated nap area and allowed to cry until they fall asleep. However, weeping past 30-60 minutes could indicate another problem that needs to be addressed.
The Ferber Method
The CIO method is not the only way to sleep train. The Ferber method suggests that when a baby is tired, place them in their crib and leave the room. If they begin to cry, do not rush into the room.
Instead, wait several minutes until you reenter the sleeping area and comfort them for a short period. Comfort them by patting or rubbing their back, but do not turn on any lights.
After they’ve calmed down again, leave the room. If your child begins to cry again, wait for several minutes again before repeating the process.
As you continue with this method, increase the amount of time before you enter the room to reassure your baby. Eventually, they will learn to soothe themselves back to sleep.
Trial and Error is Great, But Ultimately Listen to Your Baby
There are numerous reasons why your baby may be taking shorter naps. It might take some trial and error, but you’ll figure out the problem and come up with a solution.
It could be as simple as adjusting the amount they are fed or creating a more comforting sleeping environment.
You may need to try some sleep training and establish a routine to help balance the other factors. The bottom line is your baby is the one that determines their sleep schedule.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t encourage and teach them to be on a more consistent schedule.