The Secret to Longer Naps
I usually nap when my kids' nap. Or do laundry. Or clean. Or just sit on the couch and stare into space. Whatever I do, I love nap time. So there's nothing more frustrating than babies that take short naps. Hearing your baby's cries 20 minutes after they fell asleep is so defeating, but there is hope!
Short naps are common up to 4-6 months, especially in the newborn stage. Typical sleep cycles are 30-45 minutes for babies. Under 4 months, babies usually aren't able to string together multiple sleep cycles in a nap, so they wake after 20-30 minutes. They also like to eat, so they don't sleep long in between feedings. But as your baby approaches 4-6 months, their naps consolidate and become more predictable - hopefully! If not, here are some tips:
Create the perfect sleep environment: The room needs to be dark. Really, really dark. This is important all the time, but especially for nap. If you can see daylight creeping around the shades or streaming through the curtains, you need to make it darker. I layer blackout shades and blackout curtains to get the room as dark as possible. Also make sure you're using white noise in your baby's room. This will help soothe your baby and drown out all the noise both inside and outside your house.
Find the perfect schedule: This is easier said than done and it may take a little trial and error. If your baby is overtired, they will have a short nap. Pay attention to their sleepy cues and wake windows to prevent them from getting overtired. Check out this blog post for appropriate wake windows for all ages.
If your child is still taking short naps, it's time to find a sleep training method you are comfortable with and use it for nap. This looks a little different than sleep training at night and it also takes longer for your child to catch on, but it will work! Here's what you do:
Complete nap time routine and place child in crib awake
If child fusses, start using your sleep training method until they fall asleep
Once your child falls asleep, start your timer
If your child wakes less than 40 minutes later, repeat your sleep training method
Continue with your sleep training method UNTIL THEY FALL ASLEEP
At the next wake up, consider the nap done
Repeating your sleep training method until your child falls asleep is the most important step! Some sleep coaches recommend a "Crib Hour" where you remove your child from the crib after one hour regardless of whether they fell asleep or how long they slept. I've found that by doing this, you're just teaching your child to cry for an hour and then they get to leave the crib. They are not learning independent sleep habits or how to string together sleep cycles. That's why it's so important to repeat your sleep training method until they fall asleep. The only time you would end nap earlier is if it's time to feed or if you're concerned about the health or well-being of your child.
Nap training takes longer than nighttime sleep training, so don't be discouraged. It make take 2-3 weeks to see improvement. Hang in there!
If you're struggling with short naps or any other sleep issues, reach out. I'd love to help!