What to do when your baby only naps for 30 minutes
If you have a short napper, you know that short naps suck! Short naps plague many families; they are the most common sleep struggle. So many parents are frustrated and don’t know what to do to go from short naps to good naps. What should you do when your baby only naps for 30 minutes?
Don’t lose hope! Short naps don’t need to last forever! Just focus on these tips.
Tip #1: let’s define a baby’s short nap
I define any nap in less than an hour as a short nap. Short naps are not created equal. Each nap gives a clue as to what’s going on.
1) Your baby only naps less than 30 minutes could mean your baby is overtired and will most likely wake cranky.
2) A nap of about 40-45 minutes is the length of your baby’s sleep cycle. It shows me that your baby can’t transfer sleep cycles and may not possess the appropriate soothing skills, or the nap timing is off.
3) A nap that lasts 1-2 Hours is called an awesome nap. Since your baby transferred his sleep cycle, you should run around the house celebrating.
Of course, there are exceptions to this rule.
The Biggest Myth About Short Naps
I talk to many parents who feel inadequate that their baby isn’t taking a 2-hour nap.
I’m not sure parents get that naps should be two hours from hearing their friends or their families – but NAPS DO NOT NEED TO BE 2 HOURS. Some babies are not capable of taking a two-hour nap.
A good nap for some babies is anything over their sleep cycle time. Or anything over 40-45 minutes. So if you see a 50, 55, or 60-minute nap, especially when your baby wakes content, celebrate it since most likely your baby was able to transfer their sleep cycle.
Is Your Baby Not Tired and Taking a 30-Minute Nap?
A 50-60-minute nap may not necessarily be considered short – it’s a gray area depending on your child’s behavior and ability to wake up happy.
Plus, the last nap of the day (typically the 3rd nap after four months) is just a bridge nap – to get your baby enough fuel until bedtime. A nap for 30-minutes is O.K., and should be expected.
Tip #2: Short baby Naps can be O.K.
As frustrating as short naps are, they can be developmentally appropriate for babies less than 4 months old. At this age, there is no consistency in sleep rhythms. You may see a 30-minute nap followed by a 2-hour nap. Or you may see several short naps in a row. Just set the stage for now for great sleep, and keep your baby well-rested. Try not to stress if you can.
Right after the 4-Month Sleep Regression, we see sleep consolidation, and your baby may start taking a longer nap occasionally. But, still, it may be developmentally appropriate to see short naps for up to 6 months.
Tip #3: try to make baby naps happen at the right time
If your baby only naps for 30 minutes, they might be overtired. Focus on putting your baby down at an age-appropriate time. Long naps come when your baby is out of sleep debt and well-rested. Here are some wakeful times to guide you to figure out the best nap time.
- Under two months: 45 minutes to 1-hour max
- 3 months: 1.5 hours max
- 4 months: 1.75 to 2 hours max
- 5 months: 2 hours max
- 6 months: 2.5 hours max
- 7 months: 2.75 hours max
- 8/9 months: 3 hours max
- 10/11 months: 3-4 hours max
- 12-14 months: 3-4 hours max on 2 naps, 4.5-6 hours max on 1 nap
Tip #4: Keep your baby’s room dark if possible
When lengthening 30-minute naps, look at where your baby is sleeping. These three components make for a perfect sleep environment:
- cool (68-72 degrees)
- quiet (with white noise)
Let’s focus on the DARK in that statement. Work on making your baby’s room CAVE dark. With the majority of blackout shades, light can still filter into the room (affecting your baby’s ability to transfer sleep cycles).
Now is the time to double up on window coverings: you can add blackout drapes on the outside of your blackout shades or buy a blackout liner (like this one) that covers the entire window. Of course, you can always use a D.I.Y. option to get the room dark, dark, dark!
Try a super dark room! What’s the worst thing that can happen? Your baby starts napping longer!
A craptastic short baby nap isn’t fun for anyone.
Tip #5: adjust for the right amount of naps by age
Assuming that your child knows how to fall asleep on their own and sleeps in the right sleep environment, sometimes there are better times to take naps than others.
Focus on the right amount of naps and the right amount of sleep for your baby’s age (after 4-6 months).
For example, If you have a 7 or 8-month-old, rather than having your baby take 3 crappy short naps a day, try and aim for a 2 nap schedule, to lengthen those naps. Always recover from a lousy nap day with an early bedtime!
I hear moms still keeping their baby up no longer than 2 hours which was made famous by Dr. Weissbluth’s book. Yes, that window of time is an excellent rule of thumb for a young baby, but past 6/7 months, many babies outgrow that 2-hour wake time and can potentially get stretched longer in the morning to help long nap.
Try the E.A.S.Y. Routine:
When your baby only naps 30 minutes, the E.A.S.Y. routine might help. Short baby naps often occur when your baby is not falling asleep independently. Many babies are still nursed or bottle-fed for sleep, so the food is considered a baby sleep association. Try an E.A.S.Y. routine where you move the feeding to right after a nap vs. before.
Food before a nap breaks the sleep-to-food relationship and can encourage fuller feedings vs. snacky ones.
You can also try the A.E.S.Y. Routine:
Similar to the E.A.S.Y. routine, A.E.S.Y. gives you a guide to help break the food-to-sleep association that gets in the way of awesome sleep. So, in this case, you are still feeding before bed but just not feeding to sleep. See… it’s different.
So go ahead and try it (or pin the picture to refer back to it later).