Baby Takes Short Naps: First 5 Things to Check

What To Do When Your Baby Is Taking Short Naps. Get the tips you need to quickly get naps for baby longer. These things are very common causes of short naps, so you want to consider them first before getting bogged down in a long list of possible causes for short naps.

Baby sleeping on their side on a white crocheted blanket

When your baby is taking short naps, solving that can become all-consuming. You care about your baby’s sleep health and want naps to be long enough to be of the most benefit. You also, quite frankly, need some predictability to your day and could use some time to do little things like brush your teeth.

You want to solve this short nap problem fast! So when your baby is taking short naps, what should you check first?

There seems to be an extremely long list of things to check. There seems to be one because there is. I have a whole long post on Troubleshooting Short Naps. There is both an art and a science to figuring naps out for your baby.

Today I want to talk about the first five things you should check when your baby is taking short naps. These five things are the five most common reasons a baby will be waking up early. I do have these in order of importance. Address the first one first and move down through the line.

For the purpose of this post, I am assuming you have worked on establishing independent sleep skills (in other words, have done some sleep training) and that your baby does not rely on any sleep props to sleep. I will also assume you try to follow sleepy cues and have a bedtime routine you follow. If these things are not true for your baby, make sure you also include those factors into your troubleshooting.

How To Fix Short Naps

Ask yourself these questions, in this order. If you address these 5 things first, you have a better chance of quickly getting to longer naps.

1-Is Baby Waking From Hunger?

Is your baby hungry? Then the first thing you do when your baby wakes up is get her and feed her. Then you try to figure out why she was hungry sooner than you expected her to be.

It might be that it is age-appropriate for your baby to be hungry. This is true if your baby is having a growth spurt. Is your baby having a growth spurt? Growth spurts happen every 3-4 weeks. Babies grow a whole lot in that first year.

Hunger does not always come because of a growth spurt, however. You might have a supply issue. See my post on milk supply limit to help decide if that is what is going on.

>>>Read: Hunger Cues: How To Know if Baby Is Hungry

Baby Growth Spurts Infographic

2-Is Waketime Length Correct (aka Wake Windows)?

Waketime length is extremely important in your child having the correct length of nap. Your wake windows need to be age-appropriate for newborns and babies to sleep well. The tricky thing is that waketime length is basically ever-changing. That can leave you feeling like you are always trying to hit a moving target.

If your baby is dealing with overtiredness or undertiredness, it will be hard to fall asleep initially.

If your baby’s awake time is too long OR too short, your baby will not sleep well. When a baby sleeps, your baby will transition from one type of sleep into another right around 45 minutes into the nap. It that wake window was off, your baby might just wake up at that transition rather than move into the next sleep cycle.

This is such an important step that I have written about it in depth more than once on this blog, and one if not both of the posts are commonly in my current top five most visited posts at any given time.

This post may contain affiliate links which won’t change your price but will share some commission. This does not increase your cost at all. 

3- Is Your Baby in Pain or Discomfort?

Have you ever tried to sleep when you had a tummy ache? Bad gas? Heartburn? It isn’t easy, right? It isn’t easy for your baby, either.

A very common cause for pain with babies is gas pain. If your child’s cry seems like he is in pain, there is a good chance it is gas. A baby who wriggles a lot is likely having gas pain. For gas pain, my go-to is gas drops AND gripe water. I give gas drops after every feeding and grip water before every nap. I do this until the baby gets to a point where there is no longer gas pain going on, then I slowly back off of dosages. Note that I give 1/4 the amount of gripe water as is recommended in the dosage chart, and that works well.

There are other possible causes for pain. There is teething pain. There is also reflux pain. And of course there can be sickness that comes along, like an ear infection or a simple cold.

There can also be discomfort from room temperature or how your baby is dressed for sleep. Your child’s internal temperature absolutely impacts how well your child sleeps. If your baby is too cold, your can put your baby in a sleep sack to help with that.

>>>Read: Finding the Ideal Temperature for Your Child’s Sleep

Your baby can also be uncomfortable if your baby’s pajamas are too small. Perhaps your baby does not like to sleep with socks on the feet. Think through all of the things that could be leading to potential discomfort.

4-Is Your Baby in a Wonder Week?

Oh Wonder Weeks. How much trouble you cause.

Wonder Weeks very frequently cause sleep disruptions. Sometimes the disruption can be as little as a day’s worth, sometimes week’s worth. For as common as it is, I could justifiably put it up further on this list. However, the first three things are so important that I don’t want you immediately jumping to blaming a wonder week if the baby is hungry, needs waketime length fixed, or is in pain or discomfort.

>>>Read: The Wonder Weeks and Sleep

The sleep issues that come up with a wonder week are essentially a sleep regression. Sleep regressions can disrupt the entire sleep schedule and mess with daytime sleep and night sleep.

When you have a sleep regression going on, you basically need to wait it out. However, there are always things you can do to help your baby move through that regression more easily. Be aware of the different regressions at different ages and what you can do to help.

5-Does Something Need to Change in the Sleep Environment?

Is there something you need to change in baby’s room? Does your child need a white noise machine to help block out the noise of the family or neighborhood? Does your child need some blackout curtains to help block out light? Maybe your child would sleep better swaddled, or maybe your child is done being swaddled and you need to drop it.


Whenever your bab is not sleeping well and not taking long naps, run through these 5 things first and rule them out before diving further into other possible causes for 30-minute naps.

If it isn’t one of these 5 things, there are many other possible causes. Maybe the pacifier is interfering with your baby’s sleep. Maybe your baby is a noisy transition and you just need to wait 10-15 minutes for them to go back to sleep. Maybe it is just a habit!

For more in-depth help, be sure to click through all of the linked posts in this blog post. They will take you to more information.

Related Posts

 The Babywise Mom Book of Naps

The Babywise Mom Nap Guide eBook helps you establish successful naps from birth through the preschool years. It is a great resource!

Gary Ezzo, co-author of Preparation For Parenting and On Becoming Babywise, states: “Whether it is talking about establishing good nap behavior or offering solutions to sleep disruptions, this is a practical resource that I trust and recommend. The book is well laid out and answers just about every question a new or seasoned mom might have about babies, toddlers and sleep. We view this as more than a nap guided; it is a resource of encouragement that comes with compassion.”

You can buy it here and get an instant download

baby takes short naps pinnable image

This post first appeared on this blog in September of 2016

5 thoughts on “Baby Takes Short Naps: First 5 Things to Check”

  1. Hi I have a question about my 6 month old. He will not sleep through his naps. he will only sleep for about 30-45 minutes. I have tried everything that babywise suggests it might be and I am not finding relief. I used to try and let him stay in bed and cry it out until nap was supposed to be over but it hasn't worked. I have resorted to rocking him back to sleep which he will take to but if I try to lay him back in his bed at all he will wake right up. I wondered if I at least work to get him used to sleeping at that time even though it's in my arms and then work to transition him back to staying asleep in his bed if that would work. He has never been good at sleeping through his naps and it definitely has been taking it's toll on his night time sleep as well. My question is do you think I am digging a bigger hole for myself by rocking him back to sleep vs making him stay in bed until nap is over even though he won't go back to sleep that way and just crys most the time (which makes him even more grumpy during his wake time)?

  2. I have a question I'm hoping you can help me with. I'm a longtime reader but this is the first time I've been compelled to write.My baby is 5 months next week and for the past three weeks has been having sleep problems. She went from STTN most nights (probably 3 out of 4 nights from 7pm to 5-6am) to waking once or twice in the night. The times aren't consistent – sometimes it's 1am, sometimes 4am. I thought it was a growth spurt at first because she was hungry. Lately, however, she hasn't been hungry for breakfast at her usual 6.30am wake time, which makes me think she might not really need the night feed.At the same time she has gone from taking fantastic daytime naps to taking 45-60 min naps consistently. She was having 1-2 naps of 1.5-2.5 hours and a 3rd shorter nap. Now I'm lucky to get three 45 minute naps. She doesn't wake up crying or seem hungry – she'll just wake up and happily chat to herself in the bassinet but she won't go back to sleep and if I leave her for too long (more than half an hour say) she'll start to whine and ultimately get upset. She has been self-settling for months so I know she can make it through the transition by herself.I've read your posts on 4 month sleep problems but I just can't figure out what to do. She's still swaddled (I use a Love to Dream swaddle) so I've tried leaving her arms out of the swaddle and it doesn't seem to make a difference, although she's happy to sleep that way. She's also still in a bassinet so I've been wondering if trying her in her crib might help for some reason. We dropped the dream feed at about 12 weeks as it didn't seem to be extending her sleep but I've even started wondering if I should reintroduce that to get her through. The lack of sleep doesn't seem to make her cranky – she's a textbook/angel baby and very easy to please – so I'm also wondering if she's just getting older and needing less sleep.Any help much appreciated and thanks so much for your blog and everything you do. I'm not a strict BW devotee but I agree with lots of its principles and your blog has been a wonderful resource for this first time mother.Thanks,Kate

  3. Hi, I have a 2.5 month old who sucks her thumb to put herself to sleep. She’s normally asleep within 10 min of going down if she’s been awake for 50-60 min. Which is awesome, except she only sleeps for 45 minutes and then will squirm around for 30 min before falling back asleep, sometimes never going back to sleep. Any suggestions? I thought her wake time was correct because she falls asleep quickly but not sure what to do about helping her stay asleep for a longer period of time…



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