How Can I Get My Baby to Take Longer Naps?
Trying to get a baby to sleep throughout the night is one thing, but trying to get your baby to nap during the day and trying to get them to nap longer are two completely different cans of worms. Maybe your little one has very short naps, and you want them to nap longer. Whichever your reason is, naps are a tricky subject-matter to tackle. It seems like once you finally manage to get the hang of nap time, your baby now needs less naps. It’s hard to find the sweet spot for naps to make them effective and capitalize on them.
You also need to consider that naps are much more easily affected by daytime external factors such as sunlight, outside noises/construction, birds, dogs, cars, and so much more. Or maybe you have a package that’s delivered and the driver rings the doorbell and that’s enough to wake them up. The list goes on and on…
Helping Your Baby Take Longer Naps
The best part about naptime is that if you actually get your baby to take a nap and stay asleep, then it’s your prime opportunity to be productive and get things done around your house. Naps are my personal ways to pause and give myself some me time. I can choose to get laundry done, watch some TV, spend some time on my hobbies, take a shower, or even take a nap for myself! The options are seemingly endless when you have a baby napping and you know they can be napping for at least an hour. That’s assuming that they don’t wake up. Wouldn’t it be better if you could have them nap for even longer?
Naptime is essentially you time, that’s why it’s so important. You can choose to either get a lot done during nap time, or use that time for yourself and relax. Whichever you choose to do, there’s no doubting that naptime is invaluable.
Sleep in general is important for everyone. Sleep regulates hundreds of different functions in our brains and bodies, and is absolutely of the utmost importance for babies. Sleep is directly responsible for their physical and mental development. Sleep deprivation or a lack of sleep affects us immensely in severe ways, so it’s extremely vital that we all get the required amount of sleep we need.
Because sleep is so important, we especially want our babies to get all the sleep that they need. Nighttime sleep is very important, so are naps. I know how frustrating it can be when you put them down for a nap and it doesn’t last long at all. Try giving some of the methods below a shot!
Sticking to Routines – Consistency Is the Key!
Consistency is so important for sleep training your baby, as well as just about every aspect of sleep involving them. By being consistent with your routines, your timings, etc., you’ll better prepare your baby because it puts them in an environment that they’re familiar with. Sleep training also prepares them for a process that they are familiar with. This will help their bodies and minds know when they should be winding down a little bit and preparing to go to sleep.
Even the National Sleep Foundation says that by creating a consistent bedtime routine during your child’s early development will lead to improved cognitive performance – as well as less behavioral problems in the future.
Consistency is so important, even for their environment like I previously mentioned. This means that you should be making them nap in the same location each day. Whichever spot you do decide to choose, whether it be in their bedroom, or special nap designated area in your house, make sure that you keep them in that place each time they nap. They’ll start to associate that that specific spot means that it’s time to go to sleep.
If your baby currently goes to a daycare, then there’s a good chance that while during naptime, your child knows where their designated nap spot is. They also have a general idea when it’s time to sleep from your daycare’s sleep cues and routines. Over the weekend, try to mimic what your daycare does if you can. At the minimum, try putting your child down for a nap at a similar time that they nap during daycare.
Creating the Perfect Sleep Environment for Your Baby
By creating an ideal sleep environment for your baby, you’ll be able to maximize the amount of rest that they get by ensuring that it’s a comfortable, suitable, and safe place to take a nap in.
A dark, peaceful, and cool environment is ideal for making your baby fall sleep, as well as getting good quality sleep during their naps.
I make sure that my daughter’s room is as dark as possible, even during the daylight. Double-blind shades are great for not letting sunlight potentially wake your baby up.
I try to be ready in case my daughter does wake up for her naps. I try to be in general close proximity to where she sleeps. Usually, I’ll try to pick a nice and quiet activity to do somewhere around her, or maybe listen to music with one ear free and clean around the house.
I try to be close by in the event that my daughter wakes up during her nap. It doesn’t matter whether it’s from a loud noise, or if she waking up on her own and is cranky.
I try to make sure that whatever it is, I’m here for her and that I’m there if she wakes up again. I always try to let my daughter get herself back to sleep, as self-soothing is such an important ability for children to learn.
Ya know, my daughter still experiences separation anxiety. I’m prepared for at this point and practically expect her to wake up looking for me or Daddy. In that event, she’ll usually be so upset that even if I try to get her back to sleep, she’ll be too wired and awake to let that happen.
Sometimes though, she’ll be able to soothe herself back to sleep for at least another hour. Although she doesn’t do it every time, it seems like she’s getting better at doing it. I always try to make myself available in case she wakes up all of a sudden crying and calling for me to help her.
Learning Your Baby’s Signs of Tiredness
It’s important to pick up on signs of tiredness, so that you can begin crafting your naps around the ideal time. Eventually, feeding patterns develop and it’ll be easier to find that best time. Try to generally look for when your baby is tired. Even though newborns need roughly 16 hours of sleep each day, this number will eventually decrease as they get older.
Since babies are constantly growing and developing, their nap schedules will need to be adjusted as they grow. Whichever time you actually do decide is their nap time, you should try to put them down in their bed 10 minutes prior for your target goal. By prepping them for sleep, the rest should be much easier for them – especially if they are already tired and a good environment, etc.
Prepping Them for Naps
Similar to how you prep your baby before bedtime, you should also try to find pre-nap routines. These can be completely different than night time routines, or you can follow them very similarly. Regardless of what you choose, you should make sure that these pre-nap routines are basically a shorter version of your nightly routines.
If you don’t feel like changing your nightly routines or making new parts up for your routine, then it’s easy to just pick and choose some parts of your night time routine and apply them to your pre-nap routine. Maybe you read them a story, or give them a soothing massage. You can choose to do some of these things and apply them to your pre-nap routines as well. Whatever you choose to do, make sure that it’s simple enough to do, doesn’t take too much time, and signals to your baby that you’re prepping them for a nap.
These routines should be done around 15 to 30 minutes before they nap. It should be consistent, and should not change. You’re essentially going to be doing the same activities each day. Try to make these activities relaxing, laid back, and something that your baby enjoys that helps them relax.
Putting Your Baby Down for Naps While They’re Half Sleep and Tired
Timing is crucial if you want to be successful with sleep training your baby. Regardless of what method you choose to implement, your baby’s temperament plays a huge role in both of your successes. Some babies require very little effort and attention before getting tired and going to sleep, others require huge amounts of effort.
One of the most important aspects of sleep training, and what you should definitely focus on, is training your baby in how to self soothe, as well as putting them down for sleep when they show that they’re tired, but yet still awake. This will help them get to sleep faster, and stay asleep longer. The same applies for naps.
The logic behind this is that you know most babies will easily fall sleep in their parent’s arms, with some sort of intervention from the parent helping them fall sleep. When your baby does wake up, they’ll be confused and want you to help them get back to sleep just like you previously have done so.
By putting your baby down for sleep when they’re sleepy, yet still awake, will teach the extremely important self-soothing techniques that will help get your baby back to sleep if they wake up in the middle of the night. It will help them be independent and they’ll be able to get themselves back to sleep without you cuddling them, rocking them, or nursing them.
Sometimes, babies will actually wake up for no logical reason at all other than to make you tend to them. This is why it’s so important to sever the association between you making them fall sleep completely without any effort on their part. It won’t be easy, but as long as you’re consistent and determined, they’ll eventually start to associate certain things with sleep, and should be able to get to sleep without your constant help.
Get Your Baby to Fall Sleep Without Rocking Them
Even though rocking your baby to sleep is a wonderful and soothing way to get them to sleep fairly quickly, you should still teach them how they can fall asleep without being rocked – considering their crib isn’t going to rock them (unless you have a smart crib).
Let’s say that your baby falls asleep the fastest and easiest by rocking them. Instead of rocking them until they are sleeping, start by slowly rocking them until they are close to falling asleep. Then let them be.
Keep continuing to do this, while attempting different positions until your baby finds one where they can fall sleep comfortably without you rocking them. At this point, you can put them down into their crib/to sleep. Always make sure you do this when your baby is almost asleep, but yet still awake.
Once your baby is able to fall sleep without you rocking them, then you can move onto only touching them to make them sleepy, instead of holding them. An example of this would be gently holding your baby’s hands or placing your hands on their head in a nice calming and soothing manner.
There are so many great resources on YouTube for how you can give your babies a soothing massage just like the one below:
Still No Dice? Nothing Working?
If you find that despite everything you’ve tried, your baby is still waking up frequently, distressed, and crying each day for weeks at a time, you should definitely visit your pediatrician to rule out some underlying cause.
Make sure you restrict your baby’s nap time as well. They shouldn’t be napping for excessive amounts of time, or they’ll be sleeping poorly during the night. Most babies need around 14 to 16 hours of sleep each day, that number will gradually decrease as they get older.
Generally speaking, you don’t want your naps to exceed 2 ½ to 3 hours for most infants, as it will result in them not wanting to go to sleep until much later. Not only will it delay the bedtime, but it’ll reduce the quality of their sleep during the night and they’ll be waking up much more often throughout the night. They won’t be able to sleep for long periods of time, and even nap. Even though the amount of time that each baby requires changes as they get older, it’s best to make your naps an even amount of time and spread them out throughout the day depending on their needs. Something like an 18-month-old will need considerably less naps than a four-month old, so at that point the 2 ½ hour nap would be suitable for them.
How many parents here live for nap time? Does your baby take short or long naps? Do they actually sleep throughout them or are they light sleepers? What are some of the things that you like to do when you take advantage of nap time? Do any of you parents have tips to get your baby to sleep longer during naptime? I’d love to know the comments below!
Hi everyone, I'm Elizabeth. My beautiful daughter Alice keeps me awake occasionally...but when I'm busy and can't sleep, I post parenting tips and different ways you can get your baby to sleep soundly through the night, and even naps!
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