Extending Your Baby's Nap Time

This might sound all too familiar…

After waking up for the day, your little one has enjoyed a feed, a clean and fresh diaper, lots of snuggles and interaction, play, outside air and now, it’s time for a nap. 

You have finally gotten your baby to fall asleep, but about 30mins later, you realize it didn’t last long. There are some unhappy cries, despite all your efforts to get your sweet babe back to sleep. 

Trying to be self-encouraging, you think “it’s ok, this just means that my baby will be that much more tired and ready for the next nap,” but, as a cruel joke, the same thing happens again; a short nap has yet again caused your baby to wake way too quickly from what should have been a descent break for both baby and mom.

This is what’s going on:

Similar to adults, when babies fall asleep, the journey starts off in a light stage and they can easily be woken up. From there sleep enters a deeper stage where even loud noises or movement might not be enough to rouse baby, which is the kind of sleep considered to be good, quality, rejuvenating, restful sleep. This quality sleep is necessary for our brains and bodies to do it’s maintenance work, and when we get enough, it provides a feeling of being refreshed, clear-headed and energetic.

At the end of the deep-sleep stage, the journey goes back into the light stage, at which point we typically wake up for a few seconds and then drift off again, starting the whole process over for another sleep cycle. 

One such sleep cycle lasts about an hour and a half for adults whereas for babies, it can be as short as 30 minutes. 

You probably have friends who have babies that nap for two or three hours at a time, and although that might be true, what is really happening is, their babies are stringing together a few of those sleep cycles in a row and the only difference between their babies and your’s is…

Their babies have learned how to fall back to sleep on their own.

Therein lies one of the biggest keys in helping your baby extend their nap to past those short 30 minutes. Falling asleep independently, without any outside help, is the skill that is needed at the time of waking up from a sleep cycle to enter into the next one again. This will allow your baby to get enough sleep, feeling happier and will give you more time to either rest yourself, or catch up on all those tasks that are waiting for your attention.

How can you help your baby learn how to fall asleep independently?

Think about how you are currently getting your baby to sleep and identify that as the one or two or maybe more things your baby needs to fall asleep. The goal is to remove those “props,” which are basically anything your baby uses to make the transition from awake to asleep. Pacifiers are the most common example, but there are many others, including feeding, rocking, singing, bouncing, snuggling, car rides, etc.

I am definitely not saying you shouldn’t rock your baby, or sing, or read stories, or love them like crazy. You absolutely should! 

Just not to the point where they fall asleep.

In the practical, that means at every sleep time, whether that is during the day or night, you are going to give your baby the opportunity to fall asleep on their own by putting them in the crib awake. Know that this will take time!

This might not be the only consideration that will have to take place, so here are some other points to look over and implement as necessary. 

  • Keep the bedroom as dark as possible. Buy some blackout blinds if the sun is getting in, or if you’re on a budget, tape black garbage bags over the windows. Practical and functional are more important than aesthetically pleasing. 

  • Outside noise can be problematic if the neighbor’s dog is barking or the doorbell rings unexpectedly, or any other noise that might startle them out of their nap. Implement a white noise machine, and just make sure it’s not too close to their ears and not too loud. 50 dB is the recommended limit.

  • Make sure they are not overtired by the time they go down to sleep but also tired enough to sleep well. 

  • If you’re running into trouble applying these suggestions, set up a free 15 minute evaluation call with me. I’d be happy to see how I can help.