Struggling with your newborn suddenly taking short naps? Learn how to get baby to nap longer than 30 minutes and get the sleep you need!
I can remember one instance when my newborn son slept for five hours straight during the day. With all those hours to myself, I had folded the laundry, prepared our meals, and even took a good nap myself and still had time to spare. I kept checking in on him to see if this was a fluke, or whether he was really sleeping.
You see, this was such an anomaly because, more often than not, I couldn’t get him to nap past 30 minutes. In fact, 45 minutes was considered a “long” naptime for him. His nighttime sleep was better, but his daytime sleep patterns were terribly short.
I also knew he was overtired with these strange nap schedules, but had no idea what to do to get him to take a longer nap.
How to get baby to nap longer than 30 minutes
Perhaps this is your sleep routine right now.
Your baby will wake up after 30 minutes of napping in the crib, but will sleep in your arms for over an hour after you pick her up. She regularly takes short naps, then wakes up and has a hard time falling back to sleep. This often means that she’s tired and cranky during the day, making both of you miserable.
And with so many short and frequent naps, you can’t get anything done, much less run errands.
To be clear, we can’t expect newborns to take a long nap with consistency. But when you’re only getting 30-minute naps all the time, this can certainly make life more challenging.
My babies didn’t sleep through the night until well past the newborn stage after sleep training. That said, I learned a few tricks to help them lengthen their naps during the day until then. Take a look at a few of the tips that worked:
1. Shorten your baby’s wake times
Many of us assume that infants will simply fall asleep when they’re tired enough, regardless of when and where. Unfortunately, that’s rarely the case. In fact, they usually need our help in some way to fall asleep.
The first step is to assume that your baby will need her nap sooner than later. One way to do so is to watch for newborn sleep cues—the second she fusses and yawns, start your nap routine.
Another is to simply watch the clock. Don’t let her go past 90 minutes of wake windows before putting her down for another nap. Let’s say she tends to fuss after an hour. If she woke up at 9am, let her eat and play and put her to sleep by 10am.
The longer you wait to put her down, the fussier she’ll likely get.
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2. Change your baby’s environment
Silence isn’t always golden when it comes to your baby’s sleep environment. In fact, it allows even the slightest sound—a creaking door, footsteps along the hallway—to wake her up.
Instead, use white noise to muffle sounds that could startle her out of a sleep cycle. A sound machine works, but a simple fan, heater, or even an app work as well. The white noise will help her sleep longer, and you won’t feel like every sound you make will wake her up.
Blackout curtains in your baby’s room can also help extend the nap even more. By turning the nursery into a dark room, she won’t have to contend with light peeking through and waking her up.
And if you truly can’t get her nap, use motion to help her fall asleep. The lulling motion of a swing or a stroller can buy you some extra time than if she were simply in her crib.
3. Swaddle your baby
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Wrapping your baby in a snug swaddle helps her sleep in a few ways. To start, the tightness resembles the sleeping position she had grown accustomed to in your womb. After all, she had been sleeping in this position for months, not lying flat on her back.
Second, a swaddle prevents her from flailing her arms from the Moro reflex babies are born with. Rather than slapping herself awake, her arms remain snug by her sides.
A swaddle was a must with all my kids, as it can extend a baby’s naps more than the times they’re not swaddled. To save on time, use a pre-made swaddle like this one rather than a blanket that can easily come undone.
4. Put your baby down drowsy but awake
Do you hold your baby to sleep, only for her to wake up in the crib a few minutes later? Part of the problem is that she had fallen asleep in your arms and feels disoriented when she finds herself awake somewhere else.
She has also grown used to falling asleep in a certain way—in your arms, as in our example. If that’s the only way she knows to fall asleep, then she won’t know how to put herself back to sleep when she wakes up mid-nap.
To help her get used to new habits of falling asleep on her own, put her down drowsy but still slightly awake. She’ll be in the mood to fall asleep, but can start practicing how to put herself to sleep in the place she starts her nap.
5. Don’t end naps when your baby cries
The next time your baby wakes up crying mid-nap, don’t end nap time just yet. When you pick her up to sleep in your arms or end nap time when she cries, she starts to expect these very behaviors each time.
Instead, help her fall back asleep without having to rock or nurse her. See if she’ll take a pacifier, especially if you catch her as she’s starting to wake up. Rock her in the bassinet, pat her tummy, or rub your hand through her hair.
Pick her up to calm her down if needed, but again, put her down drowsy but still awake so she doesn’t fall asleep in your arms. This teaches her that she’ll stay in the room until nap time is officially over, and that you won’t turn on the lights or engage with her just yet.
It’s never easy when your newborn only naps for 30 minutes at a time or is suddenly taking short naps. Thankfully, you can try a few tricks to turn things around.
For instance, shorten her awake time so that she isn’t awake for too long. Use white noise in her room to muffle sounds that can startle her awake. Keep her swaddled so she can sleep in a familiar position (and prevent the Moro reflex from waking her up).
Put her down drowsy but still slightly awake so that she can experience and practice how to fall asleep on her own. And lastly, don’t end nap time when she cries—soothe and comfort her, but don’t get her up until your sleep schedule says the “official” nap time is over.
Now she’ll be able to sleep for more than 30 minutes—and who knows, maybe even a five-hour stretch once in a while.
Get more tips:
- What to Do When Your 3 Month Old Won’t Nap
- 5 Ideas to Try When Your Baby Only Takes Catnaps (They Really Work!)
- What to Do When Your Overtired Baby Keeps Waking Up
- 3 Month Old Suddenly Waking Every 2 Hours?
- Newborn Not Sleeping? 9 Tricks to Help Your Baby (Finally!) Sleep
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