Solving Your Baby’s Short Naps


Sep 1, 2022

Does your baby wake up at 30 minutes after a nap? Are you constantly struggling to figure out how to get your baby to nap longer? Short naps are a constant struggle in the world of baby sleep, and this has to be the most common topic we are working on with Little Z’s families!

In this episode of the Little Z’s Sleep Podcast, Sarah and I are covering all things short naps.

Hang in there!

Short naps are EXTREMELY common during the first year of a baby’s life and we are here to help you solve them.

The good news is that this won’t last forever! In this blog we’re going to give you strategies you can start TODAY to solve these short naps.

The reason short naps are so common is because daytime sleep cycles are different than night time sleep cycles.

When a baby takes a short nap, they are waking up after a daytime sleep cycle that is anywhere from 20-40 minutes in length. A short nap is typically one sleep cycle in length (20-40 minutes) or sometimes shorter. 

Short naps can be frustrating because not only are you having to think about naps all day long, but your little one is not getting the deep, restorative sleep that they need! 

Believe it or not, solving short naps does take time AND perseverance from both you and your little one. As you implement these strategies, you may start to see progress on the same day…or it could take a few weeks to sync up! 

Since you’re probably short on time due to your baby’s short naps, let’s dive right in and tackle my top tips for solving short naps together!

Analyze your baby’s schedule 

First things first, is your child following the right nap schedule?

 If your baby isn’t having enough awake time, then they will definitely experience short naps and this will derail their sleep during the day and through the night!

 If your unsure of whether or not your baby is following an age-appropriate schedule, be sure to check out my FREE schedule generator HERE! 

 Within the first year of your child’s life (ESPECIALLY between 4-6 months and 10-12 months), the nap schedules are changing constantly and so are your child’s sleep needs!

My free schedule generator will provide you and your child with an age appropriate routine or schedule to follow from birth to 5 years of age.

To solve short naps we need to have your child on the right schedule that uses age-appropriate wake windows (instead of sleepy cues!). This helps your baby to build enough “sleep pressure” before going to sleep, without going down overtired!

If your child has been going to nap before or after their ideal awake window time, they will likely have a short nap due to over or under tiredness.

Find your child’s schedule and let’s get that going right away.

Consider your baby’s size

This may sound a bit odd to ask, but is your child taller or larger than average?

If so, then this could actually be leading to their short naps!

Although I don’t have any research to back this “theory,” I have worked with 500+ families in a one-on-one capacity. Throughout my experience, I have found that children who are above average in height and weight typically make nap transitions sooner and/or require more a little more awake time between naps and bedtime in general!

So now that you have your schedule in hand from step one, implement that and slowly add +15 minutes to their schedule.

This is not a proven concept and it doesn’t apply 100% all the time, but if you’re implementing the schedule I shared above and you do have a baby who is slightly above average in weight or height- give it a go!

Rethink your baby’s feeding schedule

Believe it or not, the length of your child’s nap can be helped or hindered by their feeding schedule!

From birth until 4 months, it’s very easy to implement an eat-play-sleep routine with your baby. You feed them upon waking, allow them to have some tummy time on the floor, read them maybe a book or two, and then offer them another nap at the end of their small wake window!

Since they ate roughly 1-1.5 hours ago, they are satisfied and ready for sleep.

However, around 5-7 months of age, when your little one’s wake windows begin to increase to 2.5-3.5 hours, it might help to offer them a top-off milk feed before each nap to ensure that they are going to sleep full and satisfied.

Otherwise, your little one could wake up 30-40 minutes into their nap, hungry!

During the 3-2 nap transition, it is very common to feel like you are CONSTANTLY feeding your little one and that’s okay!

Your baby’s nap lengths really may improve simply by adding a feed 15-20 minutes before it’s time for a nap.

If your little one is struggling with short naps and you aren’t offering them a top-off feeding before nap, then I would highly consider adding one in, 15-20 minutes before nap time (wide awake with no drowsiness!!).

This top-off feeding will ensure that they are going to sleep satisfied, and if they wake, that they are not waking out of hunger.

Examine your baby’s sleeping environment  

You probably knew I was going here- but it’s so true!

The darker the room, the better the sleep.

It’s safe to say that everyone, babies and adults, sleep better when the environment is intentionally prepared for sleeping.

If your baby is struggling with short naps, it’s absolutely necessary to consider their current sleeping environment.

Is the room 100% blacked out?  Is there white noise?  Is it a comfortable temperature?

Maybe your child has slept fine in their room without it being completely blacked out from the very beginning. If so, that’s great!

However, if their naps have become shorter, and you know that your schedule and feeds are on track, then I strongly recommend  blacking out your child’s room.

A great way to test the darkness of your child’s room is to do the “hand test.” Enter your child’s room and close the door. Give your eyes several minutes to adjust. Once you have been in their room for a while, put your hand in front of your face and wave it. If you can see your hand moving, then the room isn’t 100% blacked out.

As babies grow older they naturally become more aware of their surroundings but obviously cannot tell time!

So when they wake 23 minutes after a sleep cycle is over, their brains are registering the sunlight = playtime! When in reality they are still tired.

Elements such as light and sound can trigger your baby to wake and stay awake in between sleep cycles.

Blackout your child’s sleep space (here are my favorite options) to really make sure we have better naps!

Give your baby time and space when they wake

The last thing we want to do when our baby takes a short nap is to rush into their room and get them up out of their crib (even if they are crying!)

In fact, if you rush in to get your baby up after their short nap, then you are rewarding the short nap with instant gratification, and this will only lead to MORE short naps in the future.

It’s likely that if your baby took a short nap (45 minutes or less) then they are still tired and need to keep sleeping.

If you immediately go in and get your baby out of their crib because they are fussing or crying, then you are removing the chance for them to go back to sleep and hindering the quality of both their next wake window and nap!

Give your baby time and space before getting them up from their short nap.

Use your video monitor as a way to check on your baby and their safety without disrupting them.

By giving them time and space, you are giving them the opportunity to remember that they can put themselves back to sleep and it encourages self-soothing, an invaluable skill when it comes to independent sleep!

No matter the age, ALL babies will benefit from you giving them time and space when they wake from a short nap.

Remember that sleep is a process, not an event

Solving your child’s short naps isn’t going to happen over the period of one nap, or one day, or even one week!

Changing your child’s sleep is a process.

In order to see change and progress, it’s important to implement one change at a time for 1-2 weeks before making another change.

All of these top tips listed above are foundational when it comes to solving your baby’s short naps!

But sometimes, quick tips in a blog post aren’t quite enough and have you searching for more!

Your baby is constantly changing, and just when you think you have it all figured out, they change again!

Since every baby is unique, and a schedule isn’t always a “one size fits all,” it is sometimes necessary to make additional adjustments!

You’re probably thinking,

“But how will I know WHAT to adjust, WHEN to adjust it, and for how long?”

I’m here to tell you that today is your lucky day and I have the PERFECT resource for you and your baby.

Have you heard of the Little Z’s Sleep Podcast?

Tune in so you can feel confident in your child’s sleep journey, every step of the way!

Sleep truly is a process (not an event!) and we are here to make the process as seamless as possible!

What if my baby isn’t sleeping independently for naps or nights?

If your baby is not only struggling with short naps but also isn’t sleeping independently, then NOW is a great time to jump into one of my Sleep Training programs!

Short naps really are just a piece of the puzzle and we want you and your little one to be well rested during the day AND at night!

After committing whole-heartedly to one of my programs you will experience:

  • A well rested child who sleeps 11-12 hours all night long and maintains a consistent nap schedule.
  • A fun, predictable, and life-giving bedtime routine that fosters deep connections between you and your child.
  • Freedom and time in the evenings to rest and take care of yourself AND experience a full night of sleep yourself!

Wondering which program is for you? All you need to do is take this quick quiz to find the exact program for you and your child.

There IS a light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s never too late to make sleep a thing for your whole family.





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