There’s nothing sweeter than the moment your baby eventually dozes off after an eternity of rocking and singing.
You can finally take a shower, catch up on your favorite TV show, or take a catnap yourself.
God knows you need it.
But how do you manage to do any of these if your baby naps for only 30 minutes or less?
Short naps can be frustrating, and your baby’s even crankier after waking up. If you’re a new parent, you might be questioning whether this is normal to take such short naps or it’ll affect your baby’s development. How do you address this challenge?
Understanding why your baby takes such short naps is the stepping stone to get your little one to take longer and restorative naps.
Don’t worry. I’m here to help you identify the reasons behind this issue and guide lengthening your baby’s short naps.
Why does my baby only take 30-minute naps?
Before diving deep into the reasons why your baby takes catnaps only, let me tell you what counts as a short nap for babies.
Any nap that lasts shorter than one sleep cycle, 45 minutes for babies, is short. Some babies take short naps and wake up well-rested, while others get irritable, fussy, and restless.
If your baby falls into the second category, you need to get to the bottom of the problem.
Let’s look at the possibilities to figure out why your baby won’t take a long nap.
- Consider your baby’s age. For the first 4 months, it’s normal for babies to take short naps that can last from 20 minutes to 2 hours. Naps start to get longer once babies reach 5 months of age.
- Your baby might not have a healthy sleep routine. Unpredictabilities like not having a designated time and place for naps messes up their schedule.
- Your baby might be hungry.
- The environment might not be ideal for a nap.
- The room might not be dark, quiet, and comfortable enough for a nap.
- Your baby either isn’t tired enough due to short awake time or overtired because the awake time was too long (time to break the cycle of an overtired baby!).
- They struggle to sleep well at night. It isn’t easy to lengthen an overtired baby’s nap.
You need to find the culprit to fix your baby’s mini naps.
Is it normal for a baby to only nap for short periods of time?
YES. It’s totally normal and developmentally appropriate for a baby to take tiny naps, especially if your little one is 0-3 months old.
After the 4-month sleep regression (it’s a popular term for explaining the stage where a baby’s sleep habits start to change), you’ll start noticing how their shorter naps begin to consolidate into few longer ones.
If your baby wakes up refreshed and doesn’t show any signs of tiredness after a 30-minute nap, there’s nothing abnormal or unusual about their short naps. Also, not all babies learn to consolidate naps by themselves.
Some take longer than others depending on their development pattern and personality type, while some need assistance from their parents.
If your baby naps only 30 minutes or less even after reaching 6 months, there are ways to help them connect their sleep cycles so that they can nap a little longer.
5 things you can do to help your baby take naps longer than 30 minutes.
Want to know how to get a baby to nap longer than 30 minutes? Is there a magic pill?
I’m sorry there isn’t, and it’s a steep learning curve. Take it slow and learn your baby’s unique sleeping traits to start nap training.
If your baby only naps 30 minutes each time, then I have you covered here.
Let’s get started before your baby’s next wake time, shall we?
Actually, before we begin, you should check out The Baby Sleep Method, by trained Psychologist Mary-Ann Schuler. It is an awesome way of settling a baby!
Know Your Baby’s Sleep Cycle.
Babies have a shorter sleep cycle, and it can be somewhere between 45-60 minutes. Each cycle consists of active sleep (where they grunt, jerk their tiny arms and move around) and quiet sleep when they sleep soundly. I’m sure you love to watch your precious one sleep.
Notice how long your baby’s sleep cycle is. Since babies don’t know how to connect cycles and fall asleep independently, you can help them by patting on the back or gently stroking their face and nose during the transition. It’ll reassure them that you’re there, and they’ll go back to sleep.
With a good night’s sleep and your help, your kiddo will slowly master connecting sleep cycles and will transition into the next one by themselves.
Look for the Signs & Establish a Routine.
Make sure to read your baby’s tired cues correctly. Are there signs of tiredness like yawning, rubbing eyes, or staring blankly? Take a few days to figure out your baby’s specific rhythm to plan accordingly. Once you understand their sleeping schedule, please don’t wait for them to be overtired.
Immediately take them where you always put them down. Please don’t make them nap wherever you are at the moment. Just like a bedtime routine, establish a routine for naptime.
Give the baby some time to wind down first. Their routine might look like drawing the curtains, turning the lights off, swaddling, using a baby light projector, or singing a lullaby.
Whatever works for your baby, try it.
The catch is doing it the same way every day. The sequence of activities should be the same for them to associate these events with sleep.
Create a Soothing Sleep environment.
While your newborn didn’t have an issue falling asleep literally anywhere, it might not work once they’re 4-month old. Babies become more aware of their surroundings at this age and should rest in the same place whether they take a nap during the day or sleep at night.
Providing an ideal sleep environment in their baby cave is a must to ensure longer naps. Use blackout curtains in their nursery and make it as dark as possible so that light exposure can’t mess with your little one’s internal clock.
Teach Your Baby Self Soothing.
Sounds selfish? Well, it’s not.
Once babies learn to soothe themselves, they can fall back to sleep without you nursing, rocking, or holding them. If your baby’s 4 months old, you can start teaching them self-soothing to help them make the transition between sleep cycles to ensure longer naps.
I’m not telling you to let your baby cry it out. To train them self soothing, wait for them to get drowsy. Give them some time to wind down while you start the nap time rituals. Wrap your little bundle of joy in a soft blanket and sing a lullaby. Rock them gently until they settle down.
Before putting them down to the crib, make sure the mattress is warm and cozy.
If your baby doesn’t stop crying, offer a pacifier at the beginning. Give them some time before weaning the pacifier from their nap time.
Don’t Let Them Go to Bed Hungry.
Your baby won’t be able to fall asleep or have a consolidated nap with a growling and hungry stomach. Please don’t be too rigid about their feeding schedule and fill their little tummy before naptime.
For little older ones, offer a snack so that their empty stomach doesn’t wake them up.
Nursing your baby to sleep is a common practice and an amazing way to connect with the newborn. The catch is while it looks like a perfect way to put your baby to sleep, it might turn into the only way to make them sleep.
To avoid that, separate nursing or snacking from naps by a few minutes and help them wind down during that time.
Ok, so now that we have discussed how to get a baby to nap longer than 30 minutes, it is time for you to put it into practice.
Don’t beat yourself up over it if your baby’s nap isn’t consolidated after trying everything by the book. Nap training takes time and consistency. Stick to the schedule, and slowly your baby will pick up the art of taking longer naps.
Till then, don’t forget to take care of yourself and enjoy your parenthood.
These trying days will fly by before you know it.