How long should your baby nap for? The answer is more complex than you might think, and the truth is that the medical community doesn’t agree on an exact amount of sleep for kids. It varies between 1 ½ – 4 hours a day, depending on the age of the child! That’s quite a vague and wide average, isn’t it?
That being said, every baby is different. But one thing is for sure, no parent likes short naps. They can be frustrating and tiring for the parents. Working on extending these cat naps are sometimes the only thing to do, and being patient and consistent with the process is the way to go.
So what now? Your baby has been taking 30 minute naps for the past few weeks or even months. There are various reasons as to why this is.
Here are 10 reasons as to why your baby may be taking short naps:
1) Sleep association
If your baby is older than 6 months and needs assistance falling asleep for naps (by nursing, rocking, bouncing, etc), chances are he needs that same support when he wakes up at night. He has not yet learned to fall asleep independently and he needs you to do the work for him. This is by far the NUMBER ONE reason why your baby may be taking short naps. When he wakes up after a 30 minute nap, he cannot fall back asleep without you! He needs you to nurse, bounce or rock him etc…
2) Room environment
Is the room dark enough? Is she comfortable? Any distractions or discomfort can stunt the length of a nap. Oh, and use a white noise machine!
3) Overtired or not tired enough
When babies are overtired, they have a hard time sleeping because their little bodies produce a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol acts like a mild dose of adrenaline. If your baby is overtired it will be very difficult for her to take long naps. Alternatively, taking too many naps might prevent her from successfully falling asleep and staying asleep for more than 30 minutes. Try removing one of the naps and extending the others to create more balance.
4) Age appropriate
A 12 month old baby who naps for 30 minutes potentially has a sleep problem. At this age, he should be able to take 2 naps a day, each an hour and half long. On the other hand, it is more acceptable for a newborn to take multiple short naps. Their sleep cycles have yet to be organized. Their circadian rhythm should be established by 6-8 weeks. By then, parents may start to see a more consolidate sleep, but asking to him to take consistent long naps is too soon. My advice to parents is to simply have age appropriate expectations for naps!
If your baby needs to eat when you put him down for a nap, he may wake up shortly after falling asleep as he is hungry. This is common especially if the Eat, Play, Sleep method is used. If you are convinced that your baby is hungry close to nap time, feed her 15 minutes prior to bed! That way, they won’t associate feeds with sleep.
Focus on creating a consistent nap schedule and your little one will thank you by taking a long and restful nap!
6) Power naps
If your child sleeps for 5 minutes in the car or while nursing, it might be enough to replenish her sleep tank and prevent her from falling asleep for a real nap. If you try to put her down for a nap, she will probably not be able to sleep as she is already somewhat refreshed
7) Nap routine
Your baby needs to transition from their busy day. Shutting down the world for a nap is extremely important, especially for alert babies. Create a 5 minute nap routine that will be performed before every single nap.
8) More soothing
If your baby is younger than 4 months, add extra soothing techniques to your routine: swaddle her, swing her, use a white noise machine and/or use a pacifier. After 4-6 months, we will work on phasing out these techniques and will teach them to self-soothe without props. But for now, soothe your baby to teach her great napping skills.
Newborns are extremely flexible and can nap almost anywhere and under any circumstance. As they get older, they begin to need to nap in the same environment and at the same time. Of course, this is sometimes not possible and a car or stroller nap is inevitable. However, try not to make it a habit! Focus on creating a consistent nap schedule and your little one will thank you by taking a long and restful nap!
10) It’s habitual
If you have tried all my tips above and your baby is not napping for longer than 30 minutes, you might have to accept that this is the way it is! She got used to taking short naps and there is nothing wrong with that. It is more inconvenient for you than for her. If she wakes up refreshed and happy, great!!! But if upon waking she is grumpy and fussy, call me! I can help you find out the reason why she is loving and enjoying her cat naps. You can also read my blog Tips to break the short nap habits for further insight.
I hope you find these tips helpful! Let me know if any of these worked for you and your family!
As always, Sleeping Babies = Happy Families,
Much love, Eve