Is baby taking short naps? Here is an easy way to get baby taking longer naps and fix those short naps. This trick is counterintuitive, but it works!
It seems most if not all moms come across short naps at some point in time. There can be many different reasons for short naps. You can really go down a rabbit hole looking for the root cause of your sleep issues. Sometimes it takes a lot of effort, but many times there is a simple solution to your short nap problems.
I would like to share my number one fix for both short naps and long crying sessions before naps.
How to Fix Short Naps
The nap/crying fix is nothing new.
Shorten waketime length.
“During the first two months, if your baby is not napping well, try cutting back on his waketime by 15-minute increments” (On Becoming Babywise, p.130).
That’s it. Whatever time you are starting nap right now, try starting it 15 minutes sooner than that.
I wanted to stress this fix. It is not something I really gave much weight while Brayden was a young baby, but learned as he grew how true it was. I do, however, apply it to all ages of babies now and often even with toddlers.
If your baby cries a lot before a nap, there is a good chance he was up too long. If your baby typically doesn’t cry at all but cries before a particular nap, he was likely up too long. Read up on how to calm your overstimulated baby here.
Read: The First 5 Things to Check When Your Baby is Taking Short Naps
Finding the Correct Waketime Length
As your baby gets older, it is easy to let him stay up too long. Many of them change their sleepy cues or drop the cues altogether.
You also want your baby to get all the waketime possible, often in hopes of a good, long nap will follow. This will often backfire.
Maybe you were just having too much fun with baby-and I know we start to miss our babies as the nap draws on.
If your baby is waking early, the first thing I would do is evaluate your waketime. Be aware of the time he wakes from the previous nap so you are sure to get him down in time for the next nap.
Read: When and How To Extend Baby’s Wake Time Length
The timing of naps stays important way beyond the young baby months.
I have found that even at 9 months, Kaitlyn needed to be down in time for a nap. If not, my 2 1/2 hour sleeper turned to a 1 hour sleeper. Sometimes she went back to sleep, sometimes not.
If she was down in time, her nap was seamless.
Even with Brayden as a toddler, getting down for his nap in time was important. His nap started at 1:00 PM. If he was down by 12:50-1:00, he fell asleep almost immediately. If he was down by 1:15, however, he would take at least an hour to fall asleep. He just stayed in his bed and sang to himself. It also wasn’t unusual for him to not fall asleep at all after getting down 15 minutes late.
Read all about Optimal Waketime Lengths here.
While this is an easy fix, do not discount it. I always recommend it be the first fix tried when problem-solving because it is so commonly the culprit and so easy to fix. Some moms are hesitant because they don’t want their baby waking any earlier, but if baby is taking a 45-minute nap and you move downtime back 15 minutes and baby sleeps 1.5-2 hours instead, baby is sleeping much past that old 45-minute mark!
For comprehensive help on getting great naps, get my eBook The Babywise Mom Nap Guide.
Other Reasons for Poor Sleep
If your baby still is waking early after trying this fix, check out these posts for more ideas:
- How To Stop New Skills From Disrupting Naps and Sleep
- The Wonder Weeks and Sleep
- How To Manage Baby’s Dreaded Witching Hour
- 10 Reasons Your 5-8 Month Old Stopped Sleeping Well
- Troubleshooting Naps
Read more about short naps
- Common Reasons for Poor Sleep
- What To Do When Baby Wakes Early But Isn’t Hungry
- How To Deal With the 45 Minute Intruder
Reader Comments about Naps
- Jennifer said…
Thanks for this easy nap fix. I was wondering what was going on with my DD. After reading this post I can see what is going on with her. We were laying her down late. I work a very early shift and my husband would keep her up so that I could see her before her afternoon nap. I walk in the door at 1pm. Well, she needs to be in bed at 1pm for her nap. So, I told him this week to go ahead and lay her down and not to wait on me (her sleep is more important than me seeing her…if that makes sense). So he started that on Monday and by today she was out before I came in at 1:15pm. PTL! Thanks for all your good info on this blog. I am slowly reading through them all. Ha. So that is why my post are so late!
April 10, 2008 12:54 PM
Glad to help Jennifer. Before you know it, your daughter will be awake when you get home. Good job putting her needs before your own 🙂
April 10, 2008 1:53 PM
Reader Questions about Naps
- Beth said…
I love your blog and your approach to BW. I have found lots of valuable and helpful information here! Thank you! I have a question about our third daughter…First of all, we used BW with both of our other daughters (now ages 7 and 5) and it worked great. Our first daughter was ‘textbook’ – sleeping through the night at 8 weeks. Our second daughter took until 13 weeks, but after two nights of a little CIO, she was also sleeping through the night. Our third daughter has thrown me for a loop! She is nine weeks old, has acid reflux, and has never been a good napper or sleeper. She is on Zantac for her reflux, which has helped somewhat. For the most part, though, she wakes at the 45 minute mark (or the 1 1/2 hour mark) during each nap. I realize that these are sleep phases, but at nine weeks, she still is having trouble putting herself back to sleep. We put her in her crib awake with no sleep props. Her napping has gotten a little better – sometimes I can get 1 or 2 naps out of the day where she doesn’t cry mid-nap, but she usually won’t sleep longer than 1 1/2 hours (after only 50 minutes to 1 hour of wake time). So, that means we are still on a 2 1/2 hour schedule at 9 weeks… is that okay? Both of my other girls were well onto a 3 hour schedule by this point (in fact, they did 3 hours pretty much from birth). Also wondering if you have any insight into when we should (or could) start trying for a 3 hour schedule. She rarely will sleep longer than 1 1/2 hours, and she’s not ready to have a longer waketime yet, so I’m not sure if that’s what I need to wait for before we try to stretch to three hours. Also, she is still waking for one middle of the night feeding at 4 or 430am – although she did sleep from 11pm to 7am twice this week. I like what you said about progress being a spiral, so maybe I just need to be focusing on the greater goal amidst the rough naps. I was just wondering if you had any suggestions for me and if you had any insight on how reflux plays into this? Thank you for listening!January 29, 2008 9:32 AM
Okay, Beth, My theory is that reflux can really throw a loop in the whole thing. I am sure you read my reflux with Babywise post. I think Kaitlyn’s life has been much better with a schedule than it would have otherwise been. But it did take her longer to get those big milestones. I fed her on a 2.5-3 hour schedule for a long time. I wish I remembered the exact age, but it was past 4 months for sure. We moved to a 4 hour schedule just before she hit 7 months. I dropped the dreamfeed at about 6.5 months. I had really bad heartburn when I was preggo. I know it was better for me to eat small amounts every so often. I think the same was true for Kaitlyn. It was good to be on a schedule so her acid could be regulated, but also good to eat smaller amounts closer together for a while.Do you have her inclined to sleep? That really helped the burn, although she would wake up because she was sliding down the incline. Life is harder with a baby with reflux, for good reason. But it is a lot easier for the BW reflux baby than the non-BW reflux baby. If you ever need a boost when you are having a difficulty, to to babycenter.com to the reflux group. Many of the poor women on there are nursing babies around the clock, sleeping in recliners for the first year with baby in their arms…when I read about their difficulty, I didn’t feel so bad about the fact that Kaitly was moving along a little slower than otherwise. Please continue to ask about questions. Keep an eye on the Zantac. I have heard it can stop working really fast. I believe it is also weight-sensitive. Keep up the good work!January 30, 2008 6:57 PM
Oh, and I would wait for the 3 hour schedule to just come either when she can sleep longer or stay awake longer.January 30, 2008 6:58 PM
- Micoise said…
Hi. I guess this is the best place for my question. First, thanks for your blog. I have been reading it since my twins were born 11/9/07, and it has been a huge help. We started our b/g twins on the eat-play-sleep routine at 2 weeks. At 8 weeks, we started letting them CIO. They have been doing really well, but their naps are not as long as I think they should be. My babies were born big (7 lbs 13 oz and 9 lbs 4 oz), so it seems to me they should be on a 3 hour schedule at least, but they tend to stay awake for about 90 minutes and then sleep for an hour or a little less. Shouldn’t we be moving toward longer naps at this point? Any suggestions? I’ve tried putting them down earlier, but it doesn’t seem to make much of a difference. They do a great job of getting themselves to sleep, but if they wake early from a nap it’s nearly impossible for them to get back to sleep without my help. Any thoughts you may have on this would be HUGELY appreciated.January 31, 2008 3:16 PM
How much earlier have you put them down? Just 15 minutes? Or did you ever try just one hour of waketime? My daughter could only do 1 hour at that time to take a good nap.Also, remember that 1 hour nap is perfectly normal for a 3 hour schedule–it just doesn’t always get you to 3 hours. Did they have any reflux problems?February 1, 2008 10:04 AM
- Lia said…
I’m so glad I found this site! We’ve used Babywise with all three of our kids, and have had wonderful results. Right now I am having a problem with my 7-month-old’s naps. A couple of weeks ago she came down with a little cold, which of course disrupted her sleep patterns. Problem is, while she is now sleeping great at night again, she barely naps! She used to take two 1 1/2 to 2 hr naps. Now I put her down for her morning nap and she sleeps about 30 minutes, then won’t go back to sleep. This of course messes up the afternoon, as well. I’ve tried putting her down a little earlier, and keeping her up longer, and letting her cry. Nothing is working. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
April 24, 2008 3:48 PM
See today’s post for my thoughts on waking early. Does she still have the cold? Have you seen the troubleshooting naps post? It also might just be too soon for her to be back on track. I would also consider if she is ready to drop a nap.
April 24, 2008 10:21 PM
- Life Glimpsed: The Denglers said…
ok, how do i know when my little one is able to stay awake longer? or at least consistently? she is almost 10 weeks now and has been stuck at 2-2.5 hour feeding schedule – unable to move forward b/c even though she could only stay awake for about 40-45 minutes, after we put her down, she would only sleep for 1-1.5 hours. this doesn’t get us to the 2.5-3 hour mark. though this week she has slept a bit better at nap time and made a 3hour mark once or twice. so maybe she’s moving ahead without my pushing? and maybe she’s able to stay awake longer than i’m allowing? do you have any suggestions? thanks!
April 25, 2008 8:19 AM
If you have a baby that doesn’t give you obvious sleep cues, it is hard to know when to extend waketime. My daughter has always been that way. When I thought she might be ready for longer waketime, I would put her down 5 minutes later and see how that went. Then work up from there. See this post for more ideas:Waketime: Length, Extending, and Calculating
April 25, 2008 9:59 AM
- Nicole Viola said…
HI! I just came across your blog from the GFI website. I’m an adamant babywise fan and I have a question about my almost 1-year old daughter. Her morning nap usually starts about an hour after she wakes up. Occasionally she’ll fall asleep quickly, but normally she’ll talk, play, make mellow noises in her crib for an hour or sometimes up to 2 hours! And then of course, our schedule is either all screwed up if I let her take a normal 1.5-2 hr nap or I have to wake her up early if I have lunch plans or something. I don’t think she’s ready to drop the nap because she still sleeps quite a while once she falls asleep. I’m not sure if I should try keeping her up longer or what? She’s a great night-time sleeper and I usually only have this problem in the morning. Thank you for any help you have!NicoleMay 1, 2008 11:09 AM
Nicole, I would try a longer wake time. 1 hour is pretty short for your average 1 year old–my daughter who is 12 months has always had very short waketimes, but has 2 hours these days. I would slowly lengthen in maybe 15 minute increments and see how it goes. Keep in mind that 5 minutes can make a difference, so it might take a while to find the perfect timing 🙂
May 1, 2008 9:51 PM
- Becca said…
I am a first time mom of a 3 week old and am wanting to try PDF. You say if baby is crying for long periods of time before napping cut back on wake time. What if cutting back would basically mean going straight from eating to sleeping??? Often times my 3 week old takes 30 minutes to eat and then I only have him up 15 more minutes tops (I’m trying to watch for sleep cues). Only recently have I started seeing some success in getting him awake in between feeding and napping and I don’t want to lose that ground. Is this too early to try getting him to sleep on his own?? I’m also just trying to learn his cry pattern (I don’t even think he knows it himself yet!) but am noticing huge differences before each nap.
May 5, 2008 5:35 PM
Waketime for a 3 week old can be anywhere from 30-60 minutes, including feeding time. I started CIO with my daughter at one week, so I don’t think three weeks is too early. I think you need to be ready because if you aren’t consistent, it won’t work or will take longer to work. So you need to evaluate and be sure your baby is ready for it.Figuring out sleep cues and cry patterns is challenging for each child–even for moms who aren’t doing it the first time. Hang in there and keep working on it. Be sure to look through the CIO posts. Also see the posts on keeping a log and sleepy newborns.http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/03/problem-solving-tip-detailed-log.htmlSleepy Newborns: http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2007/12/sleepy-newborns.html
May 5, 2008 11:20 PM
I am a little worried about consistency… during the day it’s really no problem to be consistent, but my husband tends to cave in quicker than I would in the evening or on weekends. I try to keep him from interfering, but not always successful with it. (My LO is definitely more fussy on weekends and at night it seems). Am I just confusing my baby too much by trying CIO for his naps during the days or is that enough for him to learn the technique??May 7, 2008 6:42 PM
If you aren’t doing CIO at all on evenings or weekends or you are getting him up while he is crying, I would say that will more than likely make the whole learning process a lot harder on him. Consistency ensures he learns. It will also help him get to a point of no crying (or minimal crying) faster. I would encourage you to push for consistency. It is best for your child in the long run.
May 7, 2008 10:00 PM
- krystal said…
hello. i am again in need of help with my 3rd son. i am beginning to think he is stubborn or that he may not be a great sleeper like my other two. yikes! he is 12 weeks on wed. and is still having trouble with napping and is still fairly inconsistent at night. most nights he sleeps until about 5:30, and i am still feeding him one last time about 10:00. i think he should be sleeping longer than this by now. as far as his naps, it seems like he sleeps well every other day. i have tried the easy nap fix, but he still seems to sleep, cry, sleep, cry throughout his nap time. perhaps i am giving him too many naps? i currently am keeping him awake about 45 min. total before giving him a nap. so, he is taking 4 naps a day, with the last nap being only 45 min. i am not sure if i have given you enough information to help, but i would appreciate anything you can give me. thanks so much!
May 10, 2008 8:47 AM
While the sleep situation isn’t ideal, it is actually the same way my daughter was at that age. There are always so many possible factors. That was about the age I dropped the swaddle with my daughter, and she started sleeping much better. I doubt there are too many naps, especially if htey are only 45 minutes each. My kids both dropped the 4th nap at 4 months (though you could certainly drop it earlier if needed). Be certain there aren’t any sleep props interfering and look through the troubleshooting naps post. Another factor for my daughter was her reflux. It should come. It might take time, but he should get there at some point, but I know how frustrating it is when you don’t know when 🙂
May 10, 2008 9:29 PM