Baby sleep expert, Tara Mitchell, helps unravel why your baby is taking short naps and what to do to help overcome the issue.
Short naps … If you have a little one, chances are you know exactly what I’m talking about!
It’s the type of nap that takes longer to get your little one to sleep than the time they actually sleep for. The ones where we find ourselves setting a timer for around 30-45 minutes to get as much done as possible in this small window of opportunity!
In most cases, short naps are here to stay unless we do something about it. So here are some of my top tips to see the end of this pesky sleep issue.
The biggest blunder – not self-settling
First and foremost, the most common cause of short naps is quite simply this: an inability to self-settle. This translates as an inability to sleep without being patted, rocked, fed or given a dummy to get to sleep. When I start with clients, this is one of the first areas we work on, and within days we start to see naps turnaround from 30-50 minutes to 1-2 hours. Here’s why: When your little one has the ability to fall asleep independently, they then have the skills required to settle back to sleep after the end of their first sleep cycle (somewhere between 30-50 minutes). We all rouse after sleep cycles, but self-settling is particularly important for babies and toddlers as they often struggle to drift into the next cycle. This then leads to them waking with not much luck of re-settling.
The daily grind
Run your day by distinct periods of ‘feed’, ‘play’ and ‘sleep’. I cannot recommend this enough! It is a fantastic way to structure your day and set your little ones up for good naps and solid feeds. Differentiating each period is key. It is also a good idea as your little one starts to take more solids to offer something to eat (snack) 20 minutes prior to their nap. I would begin implementing this type of structure around 10 – 12 weeks of age.
Timing is everything
Have you tried to get your little one to sleep well when they are over or under-tired? It’s like fighting a losing battle. So when you’re working on getting naps sorted, be sure to keep this in mind. Getting to know your little one and their tired signs is important in working out the optimal time for naps. This will not only make the initial settle much more pleasant, but will also give your baby a better chance at taking a longer nap. I recommend taking a look at my previous article on Baby Hints and Tips that talks about ideal wake times for your child’s age.
Plenty of practice
The more opportunities your baby has to sleep in their safe sleep space, the better. Routine and consistency play a big part in creating and maintaining healthy sleep habits. If you are rarely home, or your child is in and out of the car and pram all day, it’s hard to expect that they will be taking long naps on the rare occasion they are at home.
Set the scene
I really encourage families to provide their children with sleep spaces that are conducive to quality sleep. Creating a dark room (without night light shows and mobiles), provides your child the chance to drift peacefully off to sleep and then again into another sleep cycle without becoming distracted.
Happy Sleeping! – The Gentle Sleep Specialist.