Nap Lengthening…..What to do when Baby Has Short Naps, and How to Make them Longer

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Hi there! I’m Lauren, founder of baby & toddler sleep consulting company “Sleep and the City”. I often refer to nap time on social media as “stay-at-home-Mom gold”- meaning there is no better part of your day that finally getting that long awaited “break” you deserve (ok the giggles & laughs are better but you get the idea). After cleaning up for the 60th time, letting the dog out, quietly reprimanding the UPS guy for even thinking about ringing the doorbell (again) & tiptoeing past their rooms to enjoy the latest episode of Real Housewives when….oh no. NO. Your stomach drops…..Baby is up. After 30 minutes. Aack!! Having a newborn in the house is SO precious, but so are long, age-appropriate naps. With so much information online these days from multiple people claiming to know what’s best when it comes to baby sleep, it can be overwhelming to any parent, new or 2nd+ time around.

Infants: Sleep cycles that infants experience can be anywhere from 30-45 minutes, so you’ll often either see your infant stir on the monitor & resettle back to sleep into another cycle, or in most cases, wake up screaming for you to rescue them. Always wait a few minutes to be sure they are truly awake before barging in their room or taking them out of the swing in case they ARE able to fall back asleep. If waking after only one sleep cycle is a continuous event day in and day out, you may want to attempt “nap lengthening”, which is the process or idea that children can resettle and pass into the next sleep cycle unassisted for that beloved longer nap. With infants under 6 months, you’ll really want to rely on sleep cues (yawning, becoming fussy) vs. a “clock schedule” for the best results.

Toddlers (one year & up): These children experience sleep cycles much closer to adults, about 45-90 minutes. As adults, we too experience partial arousals after a cycle at night, waking up briefly to fluff our pillow or check the time, and we often don’t remember them at all- as adults we know how to put ourselves back to sleep, but some children do not. Depending on the age of your child & how long he/she sleeps at night would determine how long of a nap they’ll need, but on average it can be around 2 hours/day until that nap begins to disappear between 3-4 years of age. It is best to have a clock schedule at this age, but always watch for those sleep cues if they appear earlier after a big day.

So what do you need to do for your baby to get these longer naps:

CONSISTENCY: The most important. If you swaddle, then rock, they lay down baby drowsy but awake and give a kiss goodbye- KEEP DOING IT OVER AND OVER. Even if one day your child decides they want to stand up or cry out randomly one day as you’re leaving. As parents we have to run the show using our social cues, and children crave routine- they love to know what’s coming next. Once you choose a new routine, stick with it! A lot of times you’ll hear Moms say “we tried everything and nothing worked”; sometimes that alone is the problem, and when children are confused it creates uncertainty – and usually tears.

WAKE WINDOWS: Study and know your age-appropriate wake window for your child! A newborn can stay awake about 40-90 minutes between each nap, but a 1.5 year old on one nap can go about 5-6 hours!

PAUSE before you respond: make sure your child is truly awake and not transitioning on their own to the next sleep cycle if an irregularly short nap occurs.

SLEEP ENVIRONMENT: Naps that take place in the same time in the same place, every single time. I advise my own clients to use a place where they’ll want their children to sleep in 6 weeks, 6 months or 6 years from now- most choose the child’s nursery 😉

Dark, dark, DARK! It has to be nearly pitch black for your babe to sleep during the day. I hate expensive curtains, so I bought this custom shade for my own kids under $50. It’s hard enough to fall asleep with the sun shining in your room, let alone when the Fed Ex guy ignores your “Baby is Asleep” sign and ringing the doorbell. White noise (we use this humidifier) is imperative to block out unwanted noise, always swaddled under 6 months, and introduce a lovey/small item for child to hold to combat any separation anxiety.

Easier said than done? 😉 Often times we truly need a little guidance, and nothing makes me personally crazier than all the contradicting or unsolicited advice out there on child sleep. If your babe needs a little assistance falling back asleep, don’t hesitate to drop me a quick note at, or visit my website at for more ideas and insider tips!

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