How to Help Your Baby Nap Better

5 tips to help extend those naps

 
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Baby sleep is often plagued by difficult napping among other things - like nighttime wakings! But if your little one is still not sleeping through the night, then it’s likely that naps aren’t coming together quite yet either. 

Nighttime sleep typically comes together before those consolidated naps. So, if your nighttime hasn’t come together yet, it’s a good place to start before tackling those naps. 

Working on naps and nighttime together is also a good idea. Just know that naps may take a bit longer because it’s a lighter sleep, and your little one’s sleep drive is not as strong. Whereas at nighttime, our sleep pressure is stronger making it easier to fall asleep.

Now, on to those napping tips…

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A Pre-Nap Sleep Routine

Similar to your bedtime routine, it’s important to have pre-nap routine. This routine doesn’t have to be long or complicated either. In fact, it can be a shortened version of your bedtime routine. 

When the same few things happen right before a sleep period, these cues will be the structure and consistency that sleep is around the corner. 

These few things will actually prime your little one for sleep. These cues can include dimming the lights, a diaper change, song, white noise, and swaddle/sleep sack. Whatever you chose to do, just be consistent, so your little one relates these positive cues with sleep.

If you choose to include a feeding in your routine, just make sure that the feeding comes first and perhaps not in the baby’s sleeping space. This will help prevent your little one from falling sleep on you before going down in the crib — only to wake up 30–45minutes later needing the same thing to fall asleep again. A vicious cycle.

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Nap Length

If your baby is still taking 2–3 naps a day, let’s make sure those naps don’t last longer than 2 hours. So, yes you want to wake a sleeping baby in this case. There are three reasons why we want to keep in mind how long your little one naps. 

First, if your little one naps too long, it will likely mess with nighttime sleep. Napping too long can actually steel the hours away from nighttime, and we don’t want that precious nighttime sleep to get thrown off.

Second, too long of a nap can mess with the next nap time. Timing of naps (on the clock) is actually just as important, if not more, than how long your little one sleeps. If your little one takes too long of a nap, it can push the next nap period out to a time that is not in line with their biological sleep rhythms. 

When your little one naps at “off” times, they are actually getting Junk Sleep — it’s not restorative. Kind of like Junk Food. You can eat the same amount of calories, but overtime you just feel like crap. It’s the same with sleep… you can get the same amount of sleep, but if it’s at the wrong time, it’s not as restorative and your little one will not feel as rested… AND can lead to nighttime wakings!

Lastly, if your little one has been sleeping for two hours, it’s likely it’s time to get them up for a feeding anyway. It’s important that we fill up their little tanks during the day, so they get nice and full and don’t need those nighttime feedings as often. 

For newborns, feeding times will occur every 2.5–3 hours. And for babies older than 4 months, feedings will occur every 3–4 hours, with every 4 hours becoming more consistent as they reach 5–6months old.

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Dark Dark Dark

Even though it’s daytime, we want your little one’s room to be nice and dark, especially if they are struggling with naps, nighttime, and early morning risings. Why? 

Well, we all have what is call a brief awakening in our sleep where we open our eyes for a moment, only to roll over and go back to sleep. However, any little bit of light can actually fully awaken your baby during this brief awakening as they learn to sleep. 

Our little ones have a much harder time rolling over to go right back to sleep during this brief awakening. They will sleep much better in a dark room… and dark rooms help with the production of melatonin too (our powerful sleep hormone).

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White Noise

White noise is that static noise that’s on for the entire sleep period — yes the whole time! White noise not only helps your little one stay in a deeper sleep longer, but it can drown out any home noises that your little one might be sensitive to, as well. 

There is no need to go out and buy a white noise machine, although I do love the marpac-dohm. You can always use an old phone or ipad and download the ‘White Noise’ app or use a fan. 

Just make sure there are no rhythms to the white noise you use, like ocean waves or whale sounds. The fluctuation in these sounds can actually stimulate your little one’s brain in lighter sleep stages and wake them up.

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Ya Snooze Ya Lose

One of the biggest things that can throw off getting a good nap is when your little one takes a little siesta before it’s time for that nap. Whether it’s a quick snooze in the car coming back from the market, in the stroller coming from the park, or in your arms when nursing, these little 5–10 minute snoozes are just enough to take the edge off, leading to your little one not go down for that nap.

If and when this happens (cause that’s life, they do), you can just let that nap happen as is or try and transfer your little one to their sleeping space. Some babies are more flexible than others and can transfer easily, but if your little is not one of those babies, perhaps consider letting that nap be as is. 

Slip ups happen with sleep and that’s ok. What’s important is that you get right back to your little’s sleeping space for the next nap. And make sure these little snoozes are more of an exception than the norm.

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Last But Not Least…

If you’re needing some help with your little one’s sleep, go here to schedule a FREE 15-minute call with me, and we can chat about it!

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Oh, one more thing!

Every other week I share my newsletter — The Healthy Little Note— where you can get this directly in your in box plus other great curated content to help you and your little can get the most out of their first 5 years of life.

If you have little ones, I’m sure you’ll love it!

You can check out the most recent issue here.

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Susie Menkes, PhD is a Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant through the Family Sleep Institute (FSI) and is dedicated to helping families get their little ones to be healthy little sleepers. She serves on the Medical Board for What’s Up Moms (the #1 Parenting You Tube Channel) and has a sleep talk series at Beverly Hills Pediatrics. As a mom of two, she knows and understands what you are going through and is here to support, educate, and guide you on all matters related to sleep... and more!

Susie Menkes, PhD is a Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant through the Family Sleep Institute (FSI) and is dedicated to helping families get their little ones to be healthy little sleepers. She serves on the Medical Board for What’s Up Moms (the #1 Parenting You Tube Channel) and has a sleep talk series at Beverly Hills Pediatrics. As a mom of two, she knows and understands what you are going through and is here to support, educate, and guide you on all matters related to sleep... and more!