How to Get Baby to Nap Longer than 30 Minutes (the Best Things to Try)

August 28, 2019
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Are you pulling your hair out wondering how to get baby to nap longer than 30 minutes?

As a mom of the new baby, it can be so frustrating when your baby only takes short naps.

While it is very common, it is still hard to navigate.

Short naps mean that you can’t get as much done, you do not have the chance to rest as much, and your baby can sometimes be cranky.

So is there a solution to short naps? Is it really possible to extend your baby’s sleep during the day?

That is what we’re gonna talk about this post.

I’m going to share tips to help extend your baby’s naps. We’re also gonna have a mom to mom talk about how normal this is and what to expect going forward.

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What is Considered a Short Nap?

Before we start, it is really important to define what a short nap is.

In the past, I’ve complained about my baby taking naps less than an hour in length but some moms consider that to be a long nap and I think should quit complaining.

While there isn’t anything truly unhealthy about a baby that catnaps, they will naturally have more restorative sleep if the nap lasts at least 1.5 hours.

Therefore, anything under an hour could be considered a short nap.

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What Causes Short Naps?

There are many causes are babies taking short naps some of which I listed below.

In my experience, these are the most common reasons for babies to sleep for only a short period of time throughout the day.

  • Biological Norm – First of all, it is entirely normal for babies to take short naps when they are little. It takes time for them to consolidate their sleep into longer amounts. So if you find that your baby is only sleeping for short increments and you’ve tried everything else to extend naps, it could just be that this is biologically normal for your baby and that time will be the answer (as frustrating as that may be).
  • Wind – Trapped wind is a very common complaint in little babies. It can mean for short naps. When your baby cannot get a burp up they’ll often wake because they’re going to be in pain. If your baby is waking up within 30 minutes of being put down, it could be that they just need to be burped. There are times when you cannot avoid this but it is always a good idea to burp them well before they go down for a nap.
  • Reflux – All three of my babies have had a mild-moderate case of reflux. It for sure influenced how they napped during the day. Getting reflux pain under control is something to be aiming for if your baby is waking as a result of it.
crying teething baby
  • Overtiredness – This right here is one of THE MOST COMMON reasons that babies won’t take a long nap. This is especially true if your baby is waking up very upset and grumpy. An overtired baby will struggle to connect sleep cycles and will often wake after less than an hour of sleep.
  • Incorrect Wake Time – Having the correct wake time for your baby will help to get away from having an overtired baby. However, it can also help with babies that are under-tired or under-stimulated. This post talks more about the appropriate wake time amounts for babies according to their age.
  • Hunger – Your baby may not be sleeping for very long because they are hungry. This is especially true during the newborn stage when there are a whole lot of growth spurts. In the book, Babywise, they always suggest feeding your baby as the first course of action if they wake early from a nap.

How to Extend Baby’s Naps

Here is what you need to know about extending your baby’s naps. Granted, these tips won’t work for every baby, but they definitely make a difference for a lot of them!

baby dropping the swaddle

Create a Consistent Schedule

Have you ever decided to go to bed early because you’re super tired but then haven’t been able to fall asleep?

I’ve totally done that and you know why it happens? Because our bodies are used to falling asleep at a certain time.

Think about if you’ve ever taken a trip around the world and experienced some jetlag. It could be 3 AM and you just. can’t. fall. asleep. because your body thinks that it is 12 PM and it just isn’t ready to sleep yet.

Or, it is 4 PM and it is taking everything in you to NOT fall asleep because your body thinks is it 12 AM.

Our bodies are smart and will adjust to help the situation when there is consistency.

The same is true for our babies. If we provide a certain amount of consistency to their sleep patterns, it will ultimately mean that their bodies adjust and will get into that sleepy stage that much easier.

It will be incredibly helpful for your baby if you can commit to creating a nap schedule and then respect it.

Two great resources for this are Babywise and Moms on Call. I’ve used both to varying degrees with my children and have seen great success.

Healthy Sleep Habits
Baby Whispherer
Moms on Call
Babywise
Healthy Sleep Habits
Baby Whispherer
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Healthy Sleep Habits
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Babywise

Add a Pre-Nap Routine

Part of having a nap routine is having a pre-nap routine. It doesn’t have to be elaborate at all, but it is a great way of signalling to your baby’s brain that it is almost time to sleep.

Some moms like to rock their babies and sing a song.

For me, I’ve always kept it short and sweet. I hold them while I draw the curtains and turn on the white noise. I then tuck them in and kiss them goodnight.

I’ve always also explained what is happening to them. Something like, “It is sleep time now. Mama will come to get you when it is time to get up.”.

You don’t have to do anything super complicated, but doing the same things before you put them to bed will help them to get into a routine.

baby sleeping later

Work on Night Sleep

One thing to consider when trying to improve day time sleep is how nighttime sleep is going.

Is your baby going to bed at an appropriate time so that they’re able to get the amount of sleep that they need?

Night sleep is more restorative than napping during the day, so if your baby is lacking in that area, it will really help to address it.

Start by having a bedtime routine and putting them down somewhere between 6-8 PM. Late bedtimes work for some babies, but for others, it can really disrupt their sleep cycles.

If your baby isn’t getting good restorative sleep overnight, it will lead to overtiredness and poor naps.

A good night’s sleep doesn’t have to mean that they’re not waking at all, but more that there is consistency and good sleep habits being worked on.

Get the Correct Wake Time

Knowing the correct wake time for your baby can be the magic fix for short naps.

Did you know that newborns typically shouldn’t be kept up for any longer than 60 minutes, and that includes feeding time?

Of course, there will be times where you try everything and your baby just won’t sleep, but that shouldn’t be the norm.

Here is a graphic that gives you an idea of average wake times for most babies. Not all babies fall into this, but the vast majority do. Check out the full chart for all ages HERE.

Work on Independent Sleep Skills

Another factor that will greatly impact the quality and length of your baby’s naps is whether or not they can get themselves off to sleep independently.

There is a misconception out there that sleep-training moms intend for their babies to sleep without ever waking up. That is an unrealistic expectation because even as adults we wake through the night, right?

Related: What is the Right Age to Sleep Train?

The truth is, sleep training isn’t meant to get babies to just not wake, but instead to be able to put themselves back to sleep after waking without outside intervention.

If your baby is not skilled in getting themselves to sleep on their own, then it makes sense that they may wake after one sleep cycle and not know how to get themselves back to sleep.

Independent sleep skills are something to work on from early on, but especially so with older babies.

What You Need to Know About Moms on Call's Soothing Rounds

Create a Sleep-Conducive Environment

Do you remember when you brought your baby home from the hospital? They were so tiny and sleepy.

You could put them in the bassinet in the living room among the hustle and bustle and they would just sleep through everything.

Then one day that all stopped and you found yourself tiptoeing outside their bedroom door just praying they wouldn’t wake early.

That is all totally normal, but here are a few things that can help your baby to sleep better in their sleep environment.

  • Blackout Curtains – I’m not a huge fan of totally blacking out a room in order for my babies to sleep because I do feel as though it leads to some inflexibility. However, it is a good idea to at least darken the room so that it signals to them that it is time to sleep. Blackout curtains or blinds are a great way of doing this.
  • Sound Machine – Sound machines are wonderful for helping your baby to transition between sleep cycles, block out noises that could wake them, and help them sleep more deeply. We use and love the Marpac Hushh portable sound machines.
  • Right Temperature – Sometimes babies nap for a short time simply because the temperature isn’t ideal. See if you can work on adjusting the temperature of their sleeping environment and then check if it makes a difference.

Use a Swaddle

For babies under the age of 8 weeks, swaddling is incredibly effective in helping them to sleep for longer stretches of time.

The startle reflex that they’re born with can really disrupt naps and lead to poor sleep all around.

There are many swaddle options out there, and if your newborn is struggling they are definitely worth looking into.

Miracle Blanket
Swaddle Me
Halo Swaddle
Swaddle Up
Miracle Blanket
Swaddle Me
Halo Swaddle
Swaddle Up
Miracle Blanket
Swaddle Me
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Swaddle Up

Use a Pacifier

This is a method that I used with my second and third babies with a good amount of success. If they were struggling to make it through a sleep cycle, I would quietly pop into their room and give them the paci.

It was enough to soothe them back to sleep and continue their nap.

However, this is a method I would only use for babies under the age of 3 months. After that point, it can become a sleep prop which will only make things worse.

Consider the Wake to Sleep Method

There are some babies that you can basically set the clock to when it comes to them waking from a nap. I’m talking down to the minute.

If that is your baby, you may find the wake to sleep method helpful…or at the very least, worth a try.

You can find a full description of the method here, but essentially, you go in a little while before they usually wake a cause them to stir (not fully wake) so that their sleep cycle is reset.

For some babies it works, for some, it doesn’t, but it is worth a try.

Common Sleep Disruptions

Even if your baby does take longer naps, there is almost certainly going to come a time where their sleep is disrupted. It is just the nature of babies and all the changes that occur during the first year.

Here are some of the most common causes for nap disruptions:

  • Sickness – Babies get sick just like the rest of us and unfortunately it can impact their naps. If you find this happening, it is wise to try and extend the nap by rocking them or wearing them in a baby wrap. This is so they can get the sleep that they require to recover. If they just won’t sleep, then that’s not your fault, but at least you tried your best.
  • Teething – All three of my babies have had their naps disrupted as one point or another from teething pain. Once I realized that was the cause, I would administer pain relief about an hour before nap time so that they were pain-free and would sleep better.

Related: What to Do When Baby is Teething

  • Wonder Weeks – You can read more about the Wonder Weeks HERE, but they are basically mental developments that babies go through during the first 2 years of their life. They can definitely affect sleep, but it should be short-lived.
  • Milestones – Is your baby learning to crawl or rollover? Any new development like that has the potential to disrupt nap time. Do your best to encourage them to practice their skills during playtime and I promise it won’t last too long.

Baby Suddenly Taking Short Naps

If your baby was taking good long naps but has started to cat nap all. day. long. then it might just be that they need a schedule change.

Go through the topics we discussed above and if nothing sticks out, then it is wise to look at the schedule.

Schedule Change

If your baby does require a schedule change, it is often that they need more wake time before naps or at least more stimulation.

When you do change up the schedule, give it at minimum 3-7 days before deciding it isn’t working.

If your baby is under three months of age, I would keep that to more like 3-5 days, simply because they are more prone to becoming overtired.

Related: The Newborn Sleep Hierarchy

mom and baby 24 hours postpartum

What You Need to Know

All three of my babies have gone through periods of taking short naps. My eldest was a catnapper from 3 weeks-9 months of age.

My second child only took a few short naps and was generally my easiest baby to sleep train.

My youngest fell somewhere in the middle.

Here’s what you need to know…

Short naps won’t last forever, but there are some things that will last longer than short naps. Sleep props, for instance.

Using sleep props to help newborns get the sleep they need is not a big deal at all, but using them for older babies can cause issues down the line.

Even if your baby needs time to grow out of their catnapping ways, you can still work on establishing healthy sleep habits and creating boundaries.

My kids are now 4, 2 and 10 months. My eldest no longer naps but has 2-hours of quiet time while his little sisters sleep every afternoon.

Despite the short naps and wonky schedules throughout the years, consistency has paid off.

The one thing I WISH I had truly realized as a first-time mom with a chronic catnapping baby, is that you can’t MAKE a baby sleep.

You can set up the perfect environment and do your best, but that is all you can do. In fact, that is where your responsibility ends as far as their sleep is involved.

Give yourself AND your baby some grace. Short naps will pass, however frustrating they are in the moment, and you’ll look back a year from now grateful that you don’t have to worry about them anymore.

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