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5 Tips to Extend Your Child's Short Naps

We've all been there: just as you settle into a task, your child's short nap ends abruptly. It's a common frustration for many parents..

But what if I told you there are ways to extend those short naps? Yes, you read that right; your child CAN take longer naps than a whopping 33 minutes. And guess what? Even babies under six months can take longer naps. For some younger babies, short naps can be a "thing," but only until 4-6 months of age. 


Below, I am sharing five tips to help you navigate the choppy waters of short naps:

  1. Setting Realistic Expectations

  2. Independent Sleep: A Key to Longer Naps

  3. Pause and Wait

  4. Check the Sleep Environment

  5. Balancing Sleep Schedules



Setting Realistic Expectations

First, I want to set realistic expectations on when short naps can be normal in your little one's life. Thirty-minute intruders can be developmentally appropriate for babies 0-6 months of age. However, please know this doesn't mean that you must live in a season of short naps until your child turns six months old.


Newborns can be known for having very sporadic and unpredictable days. Some naps can be two hours, whereas others are only 20 minutes. It's important to remember this is all normal. Even though short naps can be common until 4-6 months of age, you can do plenty of things to encourage your baby to sleep longer gently. I have had a ton of success with lengthening naps for my 4-6-month-old clients; the main takeaway is that if naps aren't consistently lengthened before 6 months old, that is OK. 


Having a clear understanding of this can be helpful when dealing with those pesky 30-minute intruders. But remember, just because your baby is five months old doesn't mean you can't work towards lengthening their naps.


Independent Sleep: A Key to Longer Naps

The first tip to help lengthen your child's nap is to check if they have independent sleep skills or another way to phrase it: "Can they fall asleep fully on their own"? Throughout your child's night, they transition through many sleep cycles (see picture below). At the end of each sleep cycle, they will briefly awaken, and if your child's environment isn't exactly the same as when they fell asleep, the "brief awakening" may turn into a full awakening. For example, if a child has fallen asleep while nursing or rocking in a parent's arms, they may look for this exact thing to help them fall back asleep each time they transition to another sleep cycle (i.e. cue multiple night wakes). 


 In contrast, when children have learned how to fall asleep completely on their own (i.e. FULLY awake too FULLY asleep), they won't need any help falling back asleep during these "brief awakenings" unless something is bothering them (i.e. illness, over tiredness, a tooth erupting, etc).


Pause and Wait

Try to wait a few minutes before you scoop up your child from a short nap. Please take a moment for yourself, grab a coffee, hug your toddler, and then get them up. Depending on your comfort level, you can wait 1-2 minutes or even up to 10-15 minutes. This step, coupled with encouraging independent sleep, is crucial for lengthening short naps. Giving your child time and space to transition through a sleep cycle can be helpful. Some children fully wake up, whine, fuss, roll over, and then fall back asleep. If you go in too early, you may unintentionally shorten their nap.


Check the Sleep Environment

Ensure your child's sleep space is dark and there's white noise in the background. White noise helps drown out environmental sounds that could disturb your child's sleep. A dark room, on the other hand, signals to your child that it's time to sleep. If you've been around here for a while, you know my thoughts on darkness - it's essential for quality sleep! If you are curious about my white noise recommendations, head to this blog. 


Balancing Sleep Schedules

Check your child's sleep schedule. Over-tiredness and under-tiredness can both lead to less-than-ideal naps. It is crucial to understand your child's total sleep needs and ensure they have appropriate sleep pressure going into their nap. If you're struggling with creating a sleep schedule, download my free sleep needs chart, where I share sleep needs for babies and children birth to age nine. 



Wrapping It Up

In conclusion, short naps don't have to bepermanent fixture in your life. I have successfully helped MANY families extend chronic short naps, and I'm confident I can help your child, too!

Check out Greyson's short nap story:

"Our experience with Alyssa was amazing. We saw a drastic improvement in our son’s sleep on day 1. We went from being up several times a night and struggling with naps to sleeping the entire night and 2-hour naps almost immediately. Alyssa was more than happy to answer all our questions and was phenomenal to work with."

Let's chat if you are ready to put short naps behind you! Together, we can decide if a 1:1 support package OR a 30-minute support call is right for your family. 




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