Extending You Baby's Nap Time
Tell me if this 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, and take her for a little walk outside. Then you 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 and refuses to go back to sleep. Even though you are pleading and bargaining and praying for her to sleep longer!
So after half an hour of trying to put her back down, you finally give in. Maybe she’ll be that much more tired when her afternoon nap rolls around, you think. But the exact same scenario plays 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 they’re going to cooperate. So there’s no sense trying to force the issue. If they’re not sleeping, just leaving them in their room usually won’t fix things.
So here’s what’s going on, and how to fix it.
Babies, 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 is the good stuff. This is the rejuvenating, restful sleep where our brains and bodies do all the maintenance work. We feel refreshed, clear-headed and energetic when we get enough deep sleep.
Once we’ve come to the end of the deep-sleep cycle, we slowly start coming back to the light stage again. 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. In babies, it can be as little as 30 minutes.
So the fact that your baby is waking up after only 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…
The Key to Longer Naps
They’ve learned how to fall back to sleep on their own.
That’s it. That really is the heart of the issue. Once your baby can fall asleep without help, she'll start stringing together those sleep cycles like an absolute champ. That’s going to make your baby a whole lot happier.
On the self-indulgent side, this leaves 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 baby down for her nap, 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. Because in this scenario, you are acting as what we in the sleep consulting business refer to as a “sleep prop.”
Sleep props are 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.
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, or 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 nap. 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 and 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 just one or two sessions.