How To Turn Your Baby’s Short Naps Into More Restful Sleep

flickr / Kelly Sue DeConnick

As a kid, you didn’t realize how awesome naps are. Now you regard pro-nappers — like the Spanish, large dogs, cats of all types, and Carl from the IT department who seems to do it at his desk — with jealousy. Also, you’re fired Carl.

One person you may not be jealous of is your 6 month old, particularly if their naps are exceedingly short. Apparently, babies struggle with understanding how awesome naps are, too. So it’s time to right the wrongs and get your baby down for a few hours instead of a few minutes. That will give you some time to nap, too.


flickr / Quinn Dombrowski[module id="76950"]

The Lowdown On Naps

If your baby is still just a couple months old they will generally nap whenever the notion strikes them. Your baby will generally need up to 18 hours of sleep for every 24 hours. It’s part of the massive sleep requirements for growing, and related to the fact they chow down every 2 to 3 hours. Kind of like you during the holidays.

As your kid gets older, around 6 months, they will start consolidating naps. Typically, this will shake out to be about 2 naps a day — though some kids will add a third transition nap during this consolidation process. The consolidated naps should each be about an hour long. However, some lucky jerks have kids that will sleep up to 3 hours per nap. During which their parents probably eat bon bons, drink the finest champagne, and have all the sex.

Why The Short Nap?

First, understand that a “short nap” for a kid older than 6 months is a nap that lasts under 30 minutes. There are a couple of reasons these infuriatingly short naps may occur. Here are the top culprits:

The Wrong Schedule

The interesting thing about your baby’s naps is that you can force them to happen when you want them to happen. You can gently nudge them towards a general time, but it’s important that their natural rhythms guide the way. When the schedule is off, or wrong, things can get weird.


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No Self-Soothing

A kid that can’t calm themselves in order to get back to sleep is going to have a helluva time taking longer naps. If, by 6 months, you or your partner are still rocking them or nursing them until they’re fully asleep, you’re likely going to have issues. That’s because if the kid happens to wake up (it happens) they won’t be able to get back to sleep.

Too Tired

This may seem strange, but if your baby is too tired their sleep will be fitful and short. If they are rubbing their eyes, yawning or screaming for no reason, you may have passed the point of no return.

How To Make Naps Longer

There are a couple of things you can do to make sure your kid has the best chance of getting the naptime shut-eye they need. None of them include feeding them too much and putting them in front of a low-tier college bowl game.

Nap At Home: Sleeping on the move, in cars or strollers, is less restorative and will result in shorter naps.

Tend To The Nursery: Make it dark, but not too dark. Add some white noise to block the louder daily sounds.

Stay On Schedule: There will be times you need to go off schedule, but for the most part you should keep nap times consistent.

Limit Screen Time: It’s not the quality of the content that hops your kid up, it’s the glow. Turn off the TV and tablet before nap time so they can start winding down.


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Know Nap Cues: Be aware of when your kid is starting to show signs of being tired and follow up on those signs. You should follow these cues to develop the schedule in the first place.

Figure Out Feeding: Don’t feed a baby too soon before sleep. Particularly if they have issues spitting up. Feed them, let them chill for a bit / burp them, and then put ‘em down.

Have A Routine: You’ve probably established a routine for bedtime. The nap time routine can be an abbreviated version. This routine is a good cue for your kid that it’s sleepy time.

Finally, it’s important that your kid’s naps don’t completely freak you out. Everyone is different, and the range of “normal” nap times varies from 30 minutes to 1.5 hours. You’re going to burn out your brain if you are constantly comparing your kid to others. Better to just save your angst for those siesta-taking countries.

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