Raise your hand if this sounds familiar: Your baby goes down for their nap, and you’ve finally got some time to catch up on all the dishes or bills or laundry or whatever else needs doing, and maybe, if you’re lucky, sneak in a nap or some Netflix for yourself. But thirty minutes later, your baby is wide awake—and you barely even got to sit down. (All of the parents here at Nod are raising our hands, FYI.)
The occasional shorter-than-usual nap is bound to happen, but most babies will generally nap for an hour or more at a time. If you’re getting short-napped by your baby on a regular basis, there are a few things that may help.
Keep on schedule but watch for the signs
Putting your baby down for their nap at roughly the same time(s) every day will help them fall asleep quickly and stay that way longer. But remember that the exact timing of your baby’s ideal “nap zone” may shift over time, or even from day to day. Watch for the signs that your baby’s getting sleepy: Eye rubbing, fussiness, yawning, blank stares, or losing interest in toys. As soon as you spot these cues, it’s time to move into nap mode.
Routine, routine, routine
You’ve probably heard it a thousand times, but a consistent routine goes a long way when it comes to getting your baby settle down. As Dr. A.J. Schwichtenberg of the Pediatric Sleep Council explains, “Just like a three or four step routine at bedtime routine can help your child know it’s bedtime, a few steps in a naptime routine can also be helpful.” Those steps might include a diaper change, a quiet song, rocking and cuddling, or reading a story.
Stick to the crib
Your baby may love snoozing in their swing, stroller or car seat, or snuggled against you in a baby carrier. But your best bet for consistent, long naps—and better nighttime sleep, too—is a crib, preferably in a dark, cool, quiet place. When babies nap on the go, the motion essentially soothes them to sleep. As a result, they don’t learn the self-soothing that’s so critical for longer periods of sleep.
Wait before you go in
If your baby wakes up from a nap after twenty or thirty minutes, avoid the impulse to immediately go in and try to soothe them back to sleep. There’s a good chance they’ll settle back to sleep on their own, especially if they’re six months or older. If the fussing lasts longer than five minutes or so, you can go in and see if a gentle tummy rub or pat helps ease baby back to dreamland.
If you’re trying all of the above strategies and nothing’s working, it’s possible that your baby is simply a cat-napper. According to Dr. Dr Harriet Hiscock of the Pediatric Sleep Council, “Some babies seem to fall into a sleep schedule without any problems while others struggle and tend to have very short sleeps during the day (that is, less than 1 hour per nap). Around 15% of babies catnap and these babies often sleep for longer at night.”
Another possibility is that your baby is ready to drop a nap. Most babies go from three naps a day down to two between 3 and 6 months old. Between 12-18 months, most babies transition to just one nap a day. But every baby is different.
One thing is for sure, though: Sleep begets sleep. So, if your baby is getting a good night’s sleep, they’re more like to have good naps—and vice versa.
Are there other napping challenges you’d like some advice on? Let us know in the comments, or on Instagram!