How to Get Babies to Nap Longer: Tips from a Registered Nurse

How to Get Babies to Nap Longer: Tips from a Registered Nurse

Experiencing nightmare nap times? Wondering how to get your baby to nap longer? Wondering when babies start taking longer naps? Well, get ready to turn nap time into the new happy hour with our ultimate guide to helping baby nap longer.

Try this 👉 Well-spaced out naps

Well-spaced naps during the daytime can have a positive impact on your little one’s behaviour, as well as nighttime sleep. How? Well, appropriate naps prevent overtiredness and reduce the hormone cortisol.

Cortisol gradually rises throughout the night and is the hormone responsible for waking us up in the morning. Cortisol also rises in babies who are overtired and can turn your little peanut into a serial bedtime bandit and non-existent napper.

That’s why it’s key to focus on those all important wake windows, aka the Nap Gaps - the time from when they last woke. There’s no need to clock watch, but by keeping a rough eye on the time you can space naps appropriately. This will ensure your little one doesn’t become overtired, and helps you establish a time when they’re tired enough to go down for a nap.

Try this 👉 Changing your routine

If you’re finding yourself typing ‘why does my baby only take 30 minute naps’ into Google, I feel you. I’ve been there. If you’re a mama to a little one that wakes after only 30 minutes, try settling them back to sleep at 20 minutes or so if you hear them stirring. You can try white noise, patting, stroking, or ‘shhing’ them back to sleep. In time, they’ll be able to link their sleep cycles more easily, resulting in a longer nap!

If your peanut is adamant on having short snoozes, the likelihood is they’ll still be overtired when they wake. Make sure you note the time they wake up and adjust the next nap accordingly. If they normally wait 2 hours between naps, but are sleeping for short periods, you’ll need to bring the next nap forward. This can throw your routine off for a few days, but your hard work will pay off!

Try this 👉 Comforting or meditation

Picture this: you’ve missed your all-important window and you’ve now got an overtired baby to deal with. What do you do? First off, you don’t panic. Babies are clever, and they’ll feel your anxiety, so try to remain as relaxed as possible. You will get them to sleep, they just need a little extra help from you.

If they’re overtired and suddenly appearing completely awake, don’t be fooled. This is the cortisol and adrenaline kicking in. Pop your babe down to sleep, and try rocking, patting, singing, feeding, cuddling, or reading a story until they fall asleep. Do whatever it takes - as much comfort as they need. And no, before you ask, you’re not ‘spoiling’ them.

For a toddler or preschooler, you could try helping them to settle with mindfulness or meditation. Even if they don’t understand the concept, sometimes listening to someone’s voice, the pattern, tone or any music, is enough to help distract their busy minds and settle them enough to drift off.

Try this 👉 Structuring your day

News flash… It’s a misconception that skipping naps during the day will ensure a peaceful night’s sleep. The amount of cortisol swimming around your little one’s system will be high, causing them to wake more frequently. This is commonly seen during the second half of the night, with wake ups as often as every 45 minutes.

Having a structured day, including set mealtimes, set nap times, and an appropriate bedtime routine in place will put an end to the nocturnal behaviours. By carrying out a set routine at roughly the same times each day, you’re preparing your little one for sleep by letting them know what’s expected of them.

Try this 👉 Learning sleep cues

Often, the younger the child, the more subtle the sleep cues can be. But some common ones include:

  • Rubbing eyes
  • Becoming irritated
  • Fidgeting
  • Yawning
  • Tugging ears
  • Sneezing
  • Turning away from anything stimulating

As soon as you spot any sleep cues, pop them down for a nap. You can even try keeping a sleep log that notes awake times and sleep cues to help you structure your day.

So, with your little one in the land of nod, what are your nap time plans?

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