Tell me if this baby naps scenario sounds familiar…
Your baby wakes up in the morning after a solid night’s sleep. You feed her, change her, play with her for a little bit, take her for a little walk outside. Then rock her to sleep and put her gently into her crib for her morning nap.
And then, 30 minutes later, she wakes up fussy and irritable. Despite your pleading, bargaining, and offers of riches, refuses to go back to sleep.
So after half an hour of trying to put her back down, you finally give in. You hope she’ll be that much more tired when her afternoon baby naps roll around. But then you have the exact same scenario play out again. And baby is a cranky ball of unhappiness for the rest of the day.
Sleep, like food, is one of those elements where baby’s got the final say on whether or not they’re going to cooperate, so there’s no sense trying to force the issue. If baby isn’t sleeping, just leaving them in their room usually won’t fix things.
Here’s What’s Going on with your Baby Naps, and How to Fix It
Babies, just like the rest of us, sleep in cycles. We start off in a light state where we’re easily woken up. Then we gradually fall into a deeper stage where even loud noises or movement might not be able to rouse us. This, incidentally, is the good stuff. This is the really rejuvenative, restful sleep where our brains and bodies do all of the maintenance work that leaves us refreshed, clear-headed and energetic when we get enough.
Once we’ve come to the end of the deep-sleep cycle, we slowly start coming back to the light stage again. And typically we wake up for a few seconds and then drift off again, and the whole thing starts again.
In adults, one of those cycles typically takes about an hour and a half. Baby sleep cycles can be as little as 30 minutes.
So the fact that your baby won’t sleep for more than 30 minutes is actually completely natural. In fact, if she wasn’t waking up regularly, that might be cause for concern.
“But,” you’re thinking, “I have friends whose babies nap for two or three hours at a time.” Well, that’s partially true. But in a more literal sense, they’re stringing together several sleep cycles in a row. The only difference between their baby and your baby is…
They’ve Learned How to Fall Back to Sleep on Their Own by Self Soothing
That’s it. That really is the heart of the issue. Once you’ve learned how to make a baby fall asleep without help, they’ll start stringing together those baby sleep cycles like an absolute champ. That’s going to make your baby a whole lot happier. And, on the self-indulgent side, leave you with two hours at a time to do whatever you like. (Granted, as a new mother, “whatever you like” might not mean what it once did, but still, two hours twice a day to catch up on motherhood-related tasks is something we can all appreciate.)
So remember back at the start of that scenario. There you were, getting ready to put your little one down for her baby naps. You were gently rocking her to sleep and then putting her down in her crib.
Stop Right There
That’s where you need to make some changes to your baby’s naps. Because in this scenario, you’re acting as what we in the baby sleep consulting business refer to as a “sleep prop.”
Sleep props are basically anything that your baby uses to make the transition from awake to asleep. Pacifiers are the most common example, but there are many others, including feeding, rocking, singing, bouncing, snuggling, and car rides.
Now I’m not saying you shouldn’t rock your baby, or sing to her, or read her stories, or love her like crazy. You absolutely should.
Just not to the point where she falls asleep.
Put Baby Down Awake
When it comes to bedtime, put your baby down in her crib while she’s still awake. And let her fall asleep on her own.
There might be a little bit of protest for a day or two. But for the majority of my clients, the results start to materialize in about two or three days.
Think about that. Two or three days, and you and your little one could be enjoying the extraordinary benefits of proper sleep. She’ll be happier, healthier, more energetic, and you’ll both sleep better at night to boot.
Some Other Pointers for Extending Baby’s Nap Time:
- Keep the bedroom as dark as possible. Buy some blackout blinds if the sun is getting in. If you’re on a budget, tape some black garbage bags over the windows. It doesn’t have to be pretty, it just has to be functional.
- White noise machines are useful if baby tends to wake up due to the neighbor’s barking dog, the inconsiderate delivery guy ringing the doorbell, or any other noise that might startle them out of their baby naps. Just make sure it’s not too close to their ears and not too loud. 50 dB is the recommended limit.
- If you’re running into trouble applying these suggestions, give me a call at (832) 640-5492. You can also set up a free 15 minute consultation. The solution might be simpler than it appears, and most of my clients see a dramatic improvement in under a week.
To healthy sleep,
Kaley Medina, Your Houston & Dallas Sleep Consultant