Short naps are extremely common for babies and equally as frustrating for parents. Learn why your baby only naps for 30 minutes and how to extend your baby’s nap beyond that 30-minute mark!
We struggled with short naps for a long time before my daughter turned about 6 months old. I remember getting so frustrated when she would wake up after 30 or 45 minutes. I wanted long naps to make sure she wouldn’t turn into an overtired baby and to give myself a break during the day.
Some days she would take a long nap and I would count it as a big win. Other days she would wake up after 30 minutes and I tried to extend her nap. And yet there were also times when she woke up 45 minutes into a nap and we just had to roll with it. (Easier said than done for this Type-A mama).
For babies under 6 months old, short naps are extremely common and even developmentally appropriate. If your baby only naps for 30 minutes, it’s normal and something she will likely grow out of if you’re following independent sleep habits and other recommended sleep practices.
However, there may be some changes you can make to your baby’s sleep environment or sleep schedule to encourage a longer nap. Follow these tips for how to get baby to nap longer than 30 minutes.
Why Does My Baby Always Wake Up After 30 Minutes?
Short naps happen in young babies because their sleep cycles last about 20 to 50 minutes. When your baby wakes up from one sleep cycle, they may have trouble transitioning into the next sleep cycle. Some baby sleep books, including Babywise refer to this as the 45-minute intruder.
Prior to six months, some babies are able to connect sleep cycles and go from one sleep cycle to the next seamlessly, while others wake up at that 30 to 45-minute mark and are unable to put themselves back to sleep.
Typically by 6 months old—or around the time you transition from 3 to 2 naps—your baby is better equipped to connect sleep cycles for naps, giving you those longer hour-plus naps you’ve been dreaming of!
How Can I Get My Baby to Nap Longer than 30 Minutes?
There may be some things you can do to help extend those naps and help your baby connect sleep cycles on their own. Read through the different reasons why your baby only naps 30 minutes to see if you can troubleshoot anything with your baby’s sleep!
1. Use Age-Appropriate Wake Windows
Not following the right wake windows for your baby is probably the biggest culprit for short naps. Keep your baby awake for too long in between sleep and she’ll be overtired, which can lead to a short nap. Don’t keep your baby awake long enough, and she won’t have enough sleep pressure to take a good, long nap.
I know! It can be so complicated and frustrating figuring out your baby’s optimal wake times. Most babies fall within the same range and I have all the wake windows I recommend for ages Newborn through 3 years old in my Baby Schedule Cheat Sheets.
In general, if your baby is taking a 30-minute nap or less, she is likely overtired and needs less time between naps. If your baby is waking up 45 minutes or so into a nap, she is likely not tired enough and needs more wake time.
2. Setup an Optimum Sleep Environment
Make sure the room your baby is sleeping in is conducive for sleeping. i have a few baby nursery must haves that I truly believe help with sleep.
Blackout curtains help keep the room dark and remind your baby that it’s nap time. Your baby doesn’t have any concept of time, so when they see the sun, they may think it’s time to wake up!
You can also use a white noise sound machine to help muffle any outside noises. Continuous white noise during sleep can help prevent your baby from waking up from the sound of a doorbell or barking dog.
Make sure the temperature in your baby’s room is also optimal. You can dress your baby for sleep in a swaddle or sleep sack depending on her age to keep them warm during nap time.
3. Teach Independent Sleep Habits
Remember how I said your baby’s sleep cycles only last about 20 to 50 minutes? If you constantly feed your baby to sleep and then gently put her in her crib asleep, when she wakes up she may feel very disoriented.
Suddenly her sleep environment is completely different than the one she originally fell asleep in!
However, if you put her in her crib while she is still awake, and she peacefully drifts off to sleep on her own, then when she wakes up from her sleep cycle, she’ll have an easier time putting herself back to sleep because her environment hasn’t changed at all from when she originally fell asleep.
Learn how to stop nursing to sleep and teach independent sleep habits with The Baby Dream System, my sleep guide designed for babies 4 months through 2.5 years old. You’ll learn how to teach your baby to sleep independently, wean night feeds, and encourage longer naps and night sleep! Learn more here.
4. Practice Crib Hour
This can be particularly helpful if you find your baby suddenly taking short naps, or you think all the other elements of your baby’s sleep are spot on.
Crib hour is when you leave your baby in the crib for at least 60 minutes during nap time, in the hopes that she falls back asleep. You can use a sleep training method, or leave your baby be if she is happily playing quietly during her nap time.
Make sure to only implement crib hour nap training if your baby is able to fall asleep independently.
If your baby is under 16 weeks old, you can also save the nap by holding your baby to sleep, baby wearing, or going for a walk in the stroller.
5. Try Using the Wake to Sleep Approach
If you’ve tried everything else and you feel like your schedule is spot on, then you can try the wake to sleep approach. It can be a bit intimidating for some parents to do, but if you know your baby will wake up at that 30 or 45-minute mark, it’s worth a shot.
Here’s how to do it:
Pay attention to the clock and how long your baby has been sleeping. You’ll go in and just slightly wake her before she has the chance to wake up on her own. If she always wakes up at the 30-minute mark, then go in at 25 minutes and slightly rouse her by gently rubbing her cheek, or opening her bedroom door.
You’re not waking her up all the way, just getting her out of her sleep cycle in hopes that she’ll connect to the next sleep cycle on her own.
I used this wake-to-sleep approach a few times with my daughter when she was young and sometimes it was helpful in getting her to nap longer than 45 minutes and sometimes it wasn’t.
Is A 30-Minute Nap Enough?
It depends on your baby’s age. Newborn sleep is very sporadic and naps often last only 20 minutes, or can go up to 2 hours. A 30-minute nap for your baby who is under 12 weeks old is still a good nap.
Additionally, depending on your baby’s wake windows, sometimes a 30-minute catnap is all she needs to help get her through the day to bedtime.
If your baby is over 12 weeks old and consistently only naps 30 minutes, it’s likely not enough sleep. Sleep begets sleep with babies and you want to try and avoid an overtired baby.
If you feel like you’ve implemented all these suggestions and your baby still takes short naps, then it could just be developmental. Continue to practice good sleep habits and be consistent and your baby will eventually be able to connect those sleep cycles!
For some babies it takes a bit more time, but by 7 months old, most babies should be better at connecting sleep cycles and taking longer naps.
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