Why Short Naps Happen and How To Extend Them

4-16 months

Jun 27, 2024

Are you frustrated with your baby’s short naps? You’re not alone! Many parents, like Stephanie from Ontario, find that their baby sleeps well at night but only naps for 30 minutes unless held, which extends the nap to two hours!

Understanding why short naps happen is crucial for helping your baby achieve longer, more restful daytime sleep. In this blog I’ll share the differences between nighttime and daytime sleep, the role of sleep props, and practical strategies to extend those brief naps.

By the end, you’ll have the tools and knowledge to help your baby connect their sleep cycles and enjoy longer, more restorative naps!


Why Do Babies Have Short Naps?

Stephanie shared that her baby sleeps well at night but only naps for 30 minutes unless held, which extends the nap to two hours. This is a common issue many parents face. Understanding why this happens starts with recognizing the difference between nighttime and daytime sleep.

  • Sleep Cycle Lengths: At night, sleep cycles last about 90 minutes, but during the day, they’re typically 30 minutes. This shorter cycle can lead to brief naps unless your baby learns to connect these cycles independently.


The Role of Sleep Props

Sleep props like pacifiers, rocking, or nursing can create dependency and cause short naps for your baby.

If your baby relies on these to fall asleep, they may struggle to transition between sleep cycles on their own, leading to frequent wakings.

Imagine a sleep prop is in the driver’s seat, driving your baby to Sleep Land. When the prop is no longer there, your baby, who is in the passenger seat, doesn’t know how to continue the journey alone!

Sleep training can teach your baby to self-soothe, placing them in the driver’s seat! This means your baby is now demonstrating self-soothing methods like sucking on fingers or finding a comfortable position independently.


What To Do When Short Naps Happen

Now that we know short naps will happen, let’s make a plan for what to do when baby wakes from a 20-30 minute nap.

If your baby takes a short nap and wakes up after 30 minutes, consider what happens next.

Instant responses to crying can reinforce short naps! Baby will begin to connect the habit that the moment they wake and start to make noises, you will come in and pick them up. Nap over!

Instead, give your baby a chance to self-soothe and connect sleep cycles on their own.

Avoid immediate intervention and see if your baby can try to fall back asleep. This might mean waiting a few minutes before going in to soothe them.

This is even more helpful when you know that babies are noisy sleepers! It’s common for a baby to make cries, whines or start fussing between sleep cycles.

Allowing for space when they emerge out of a sleep cycle and wait to fall back asleep is very helpful!

Finally, make sure that your approach to naps is consistent with nighttime sleep training. Being consistent across nap and nights reinforces good sleep habits! 


Correct Nap Schedules

Another solution for short naps is ensuring your baby is on the right nap schedule. If your baby is on the wrong sleep schedule and they haven’t been awake long enough to sleep long enough, short naps will be a vicious cycle!

Remember that awake windows and nap timings change as your baby grows. Especially from 4-12 months there are 4 possible schedule changes!

Keeping up with these changes is crucial and includes slightly adjusting their awake windows to allow for more awake time as they grow and develop, which improves nap length and quality!

Unsure if your baby is on the right schedule? Grab The Complete Schedule Guide so that you’ll have every single schedule you’ll ever need from 0-3 years old HERE!


Holding Baby For Naps Is A Temporary Fix

While holding your baby can extend naps, it doesn’t solve the underlying issue.

Your baby might be able to transition between sleep cycles because you’re there to assist. However, for long-term nap success, sleep training to promote independent sleep is so important!

When you’re ready, using a comprehensive sleep training course will help you implement a step-by-step method to teach your baby how to establish fuller naps in the crib and 11-12 hours of sleep all night long. 



Short naps can be frustrating, but understanding the reasons behind them and implementing consistent sleep training for both daytime and nighttime sleep can help. 

This is likely why your baby has short naps in the crib:

  • Baby has been depending on sleep props to help them connect sleep cycles
  • When held for a nap they are easily able to connect sleep cycles as you help them back to sleep immediately
  • Baby’s schedule needs to be reevaluated for their age appropriate awake windows

If you haven’t already, check out our Complete Schedule Guide to keep track of your baby’s sleep needs as they grow and develop!

Ready to jump into sleep training to make consistent change and kiss those short naps goodbye? Take this quiz to discover which Sleep Training Course is the best fit to support your baby’s sleep journey!


why short naps happen and how to extend baby's naps

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