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Short Naps Suck! (5 Tips To Go From Short Naps to Good Naps)

Short Naps Suck! (5 Tips To Go From Short Naps To Good Naps)

If you have a short napper, you sure know that short naps suck! In fact, short naps plague so many families that they are the most common sleep struggle that I hear about. So many parents are frustrated and don’t know what to do to go from short naps to good naps.

But, turn that frown upside down – short naps don’t need to last forever!  Just focus on these tips.

Tip #1: What is a short nap?

I define any nap less than an hour as a short nap. Short naps are not all created equal. Each nap gives me a clue to what’s going on.

1) A nap less than 30 minutes: Your baby is overtired and most likely will wake cranky.

2) A nap that is about 40-45 minutes: This 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.

Of course, there are exceptions to this rule.

Are Undertired Short Naps Such a Thing?

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 4 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: Are Short Naps Developmentally Appropriate?

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 at this stage 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 consolidate. But, still, it may be developmentally appropriate to see short naps up to 6 months.

Baby takes short naps. short naps suck!

Tip #3: Are Naps At The Right Time?

Since short naps can occur when your baby is 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 2 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: Are Naps In A Dark Room?

When trying to lengthen short naps, take a look at where your baby is sleeping. These three components make for a perfect sleep environment:

  • cool (68-72 degrees)
  • dark
  • 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 out there, 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, buy a blackout liner (like this one) that covers the entire window. Of course, you can always use a DIY option. This will help to get the room dark, dark, dark!

Blackout EZ are the best blackout shades for your baby's room.

Blackout EZ shades are the easiest way to get your baby’s room dark! Click the image to learn more!

Try a super dark room! What’s the worst thing that can happen? Your baby starts napping longer!


A craptastic short nap isn’t fun for anyone.


Tip #5: Does Your Baby Take An Age Appropriate Amount of Naps?

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).

sleep needs by age | how much sleep does your baby need | #babysleep #toddlersleep #sleep

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 and aim for those naps to lengthen. Always recover from a bad nap day with an early bedtime!

Another tip is to try and push the first nap from starting any no earlier than 8 am (especially for babies older than 6 months).

I hear moms that are 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 a great rule of thumb for a young baby, but past 6/7 months many babies outgrow that 2-hour waketime and can potentially get stretched in the morning to get a long nap.

E.A.S.Y Routine:

Short 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 sleep association (where they are unable to sleep without that cue).  Try an E.A.S.Y routine where you actually move the feeding to right after a nap vs. before.  

Food before a nap breaks the sleep-to-food relationship and actually can encourage fuller feedings vs. snacky ones.

The EASY Routine (east, activity, sleep, you) time explained in 4 easy steps.

 A.E.S.Y Routine:

Similar to the E.A.S.Y routine, this routine, just 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).

If your baby takes short naps, I bet you will take Yes, the E.A.S.Y routine has a nice ring to it, but you can also use the A.E.S.Y routine to get your baby taking longer naps by moving the food away from falling asleep. It's worth a try. Or, PIN this image to save for later.

Who’s Ready to Get A Nap Longer than 30 Minutes?

So let’s say that the foundation is set (with the great tips above) and your baby still takes short naps…what should you do??? There is a possibility that sleep training may be in your future.  Until then….short naps suck!
Download your FREE guide:  5 Tips to Finally Get A Long Nap Today!  (click the image below)
 

Susie Parker

Susie Parker is founder of Sleep Baby Love and a Certified Infant and Child Sleep Consultant through the Family Sleep Institute. When Susie's not ridding the world of sleepless families, she loves spending time with her two girls that have given her a ton of real world sleep experience head on.

This Post Has 47 Comments
  1. I an doing all the above and most naps still 30mins! No props, goes on own in cot in pitch black room with white noise on, wakes fully at 30mins and isn’t crying, can leave for another 20/30mins before may start fussing or still quite happy. He’s nearly 8 months now!

  2. I am also doing everything in this post and my 5 month old often takes a nap that lasts less than an hour. Maybe one nap a day is over an hour, but he cannot figure out how to consolidate the naps, which leaves him with less awake time in between due to being over tired, thus resulting in needing 4 naps a day. Often times the 4th late afternoon nap is a failed attempt, but he is so cranky by 4pm and has to stay up till 6pm bedtime (at the earliest)

    He knows how to self soothe, his room is cave dark with white noise, we have a calming nap routine, but sometimes I don’t catch him soon enough which makes it less calm.

    I want him so badly to consolidate naps, take 3 naps a day and have enjoyable awake time of more than an hour! please help!!

    1. one nap a day over an hour is actually not bad The third nap is always short nap. Try an earlier bedtime in the 5s especially since he’s showing the signs.

      1. I have a 12 week old and severely struggling with naps – I put him down for a nap every 1-1.5 hours. He sleeps within 10-15 minutes which is great. BUT he wakes up after 20 minutes every time, like clockwork. I try everything to settle him back to sleep but he is wide awake! This has been the case for about 6 weeks now! I’ve followed all your tips but still super short naps… What can a Mum do?
        Btw. we also have a bedtime issue but that’s cause he’s still cluster feeding to about 10pm

  3. We have an 8 month old 30 minute napper who will occasionally give us an hour and a half or so at one of her naps…not once a day, maybe once a week we will get this when she’s finally worn out completely. One question that we have and that never seems to get addressed is how you go about handing the feedings if you have a 30 minute napper. While we’ve followed this routine with all of our children–eventually having them form a good schedule, we’ve never encountered the 30 minute napper. Our 8 month old feed schedule is breakfast, lunch, snack bottle, dinner, bed time bottle. On the one hand, you don’t want to associate eating with sleep so you try to feed at some point soon after the nap. But with a half hour napper you could potentially be eating lunch at 9:30 in the morning if your baby starts her day at 7:00. But you also don’t want to drag out the period between naps to accommodate feeding times to the point that they’re overly tired, thereby ensuring the cycle continues. Your then almost forced to chose between the feeding time routines that you’re trying to implement, or follow the EASY routine. I’d love to hear how some others handle this.

    1. hi. one way that you can get around this for your baby at 8 months old is to get on more of a by the clock schedule. So your baby can be on 2 naps at this age and they can be at two set times throughout the day so you can set your feeding schedule around it. Good luck!

  4. I Have a 7.5 month old that has rarely napped well and has been a regular cat napper. The first of the day is always around 30 mins. The lunchtime nap usually varies from 1.25 hr’s-2 hours with late afternoon is about 40 mins.
    Last week napping went awry although our any is inconsistent and unpredictable, he now is refusing naps, first nap is now now 25-28 mins and the lunchtime one sometimes as short 35 minutes. Our baby settles himself the cot in quiet dark room, so not sure what is happening.

    1st nap – 2 hours after wake time which variea.
    2nd nap – 2.5 hours after wake up Rom 1, st nap

    1. it’s hard for me to really do a deep dive without knowing a little more details, but at 7.5 months old, your baby is a little older so if probably dropping that third nap, so now it’s playing with some of the variables to create the right structure of your day.

  5. I have a 7.5 month old that has rarely napped well and has been a regular cat napper. The first nap of the day is always around 30 mins. The lunchtime nap usually varies from 1.25 hr’s-2 hours with the late afternoon nap being about 40 mins.
    Last week napping went awry although our baby is often inconsistent and unpredictable, he now is refusing naps, first nap is now started to reduce to 25-28 mins and the lunchtime one is erratic sometimes as short 35 minutes. Our baby settles himself in the cot in quiet dark room, so not sure what is happening.

    1st nap – 2 hours after wake time
    2nd nap – 2.5 hours after wake up from 1,
    3rd nap – 2.5 hours after wake from last nap.
    most websites advise that the am nap should be min 1 hour but we have only achieved this once.
    would really appreciate some advise

  6. hi – my baby is 11 weeks old and we cosleep at night from approx 8p-6:30a, she wakes several times for breastfeeding but can go up to 4hrs. she used to nap anywhere and for over an hour, now shes super sensitive and is napping in crib for 30-40 min, occas an hour. i try to get her down as soon as she cues but she cries right away and its always a battle. i do combo of stepping away for moment and coming back to soothe her and usually she falls out on her own. she wakes up crying always and still seems very tired. by the afternoon she is a mess. any suggestions? also, if i let her nap or sleep on me then we get a much longer nap of course.

  7. I have a 7 month old and I’m at an absolute loss. We did CIO about a month ago, and he stays in his crib from about 7:30 to 6 a.m. He was doing good when we started CIO at staying in bed til about 7. But now that it’s been about a month, when you would THINK it should get better, he’s waking earlier and earlier? I sort of use a judgement call on whether or not we just get up and start our day or not. Today he woke up around 4 a.m. and it took him 45 minutes to go to bed, but it was just too early to wake up, so I made him “tough it out” and he did ultimately go back to sleep…but when he woke up AGAIN at 6 I just called it ‘good enough’ because at some point he’s just too rested to get himself back to sleep no matter what you do and it’s not worth it. Our naps have absolutely fallen apart as well. I end up changing the times a little every day (based on how early he gets up, since that has been inconsistent, it’s hard to plan). But like today, he was put down at 2 hours 30 minutes awake…cried very little, went to sleep, but was up 20 minutes later!! For awhile I had been putting him down after an hour and half or 2 hours, and that was TORTURE. Tons of screaming, and still only 20 minutes sleep. So I figured that wasn’t enough awake time. But it seems like no matter what time I do, it just isn’t working? I don’t know what I am doing wrong!! Are my wake times completely insane? I was thinking 2 hr 30 for the first nap, and 3 hrs for the rest…which seems reasonable for a 7 month old, but he just never wants to sleep..I had tried stretching it out longer, to see if we could do better than 30 mins, and everything fell apart. We lost the “success” of 30 minute naps and started getting 20. So then we went back, but its been about a week and we still only get 20. HELP!!

  8. Hi, I have a 7 month old boy. We had to sleep train him at night as he was waking 5/6 times wanting to be rocked back to sleep. He is sleeping now from 19:00-5am (bf)-7:30. His naps are only 30min at a time and I’ve tried everything. I have his awake time as 2.5hrs and he takes 3 naps a day. He is so grumpy when he wakes up, I assume he is still tired. Any advice on how to get him nap better please?

    His schedule is as follows:

    5ish breastfeeding
    7:30 wakes up
    8:30 oats
    10:00 nap
    10:30 formula
    12:00 lunch
    13:00 nap
    14:30 formula
    15:00 snack
    17:00 dinner
    18:00bath, breastfeeding and sleep all before 19:00

    Many thanks 🙂

    1. Hi – It’s really hard for me to assess exactly what’s going on but I can tell you confidently that the numerous nightwakings and not falling asleep independently are most likely the culprits. I am more than happy to help you figure out a plan if you’d like additional help. https://www.sleepbabylove.com/consult

      1. Hi Susie,

        I am putting him down to fall asleep on his own for naps now, go in every 5 min to reassure him, he usually falls asleep within 5-7min, but only for 30 min. He does not wake up at night anymore, he sleeps roughly from 19:00-07:00.

  9. I have a 7 month old who goes down awake, has a dark room and has anywhere from 2.25-2.75 hrs of awake time in between sleeps. She has never napped for longer than an hour (except as a newborn for the first 2 months). She currently takes 3 naps each between 35-55 min. Usually her longest nap is the 3rd nap. Not much else I can do to extend her naps.

  10. I’m wondering how to lengthen the second nap. My 8.5 month old always naps 1.5 hours in the morning about 2.25-2.5 hours after waking. Then he only naps 30 minutes in the afternoon NO MATTER WHAT. I have tried wake times from 2-3 hours. He has black our shades and noise machine. He goes down awake and puts himself to sleep no fuss. But always wakes up 30 minutes later. Any advice?

    1. Assuming that all the other components are there, I would bump out the wake time after nap 1 to about 3-3.5 hours. Or, you have to cap the nap #2. I’m giving very general advice so if that doesn’t work, I have other ideas!

      1. Thanks! I will try pushing wake time after nap 1 to 3-3.5 hours and see how that goes this week. It’s tough getting stuck with so much time before bed after nap 2, but not enough time for another nap!

        Thanks again!

        Katie

  11. Hi there – I have a 4 month old boy who was always swaddled and slept in a swing newborn-3 months. When he was 3-4 months, I started putting him in his crib for naps and bedtime. I tried to stop swaddling him but his naps would only be 20 minutes long, so I began swaddling him again and his naps still only last 30-40 minutes. I watch the clock and its like clock work…right at 40 minutes, he opens his eyes. It’s like something switches on! Sometimes I try to nurse him back to sleep (which I know is a bad idea but I’m desperate for a longer nap). It usually doesn’t work. Sometimes I try letting him cry. He cries for 30 minutes and then only sleeps an extra 20. Again, not worth it. His room is dark, has a white noise machine, he falls asleep by himself, I soothe him to sleep (without nursing) and yet, he STILL wakes up 30-40 minutes in. I DON’T KNOW WHAT ELSE TO DO! He is taking 3 – 40 minute naps and goes to bed at 6pm. He still wakes up 4 times to nurse during the night. I have a 3 year old too at home and I work from home so I need longer than a 30 minute break. I don’t know how to break him of these short naps when I feel like I am doing everything right.

  12. My 5 month old has mastered the cat nap (our night sleep is good.) He constantly wakes up 20-45 minutes in and won’t go back down. How can he connect sleep cycles all night but can’t during the day?

  13. I am a mom of three with my youngest being 5 months old. She is the happiest baby even with her lack of sleep. Here are my issues:
    – we only ever get 20 minutes out of her (sometimes only twice a day). With my other two in preschool and kindergarten we are always on the go. This means that inbetween those naps she takes 10 minute car naps.
    -her first nap time falls right during school drop off so she often dozes on the way. When we get home she wakes immediately whether transferred or not. How do I battle this with school schedules?
    -she is often so tired that she falls asleep while nursing. I know this is a major association for her but I don’t know how to break it. She is impossible to keep up! (She is well fed and in the high percentile so I know she is eating plenty). When I put her down she will stay asleep but only for 10-20min.
    -we have been sleep training to stop night wakings. Currently she will go down at 6:45 and wake around 3:30. I feed her for 15min and put her back to bed. She wakes for the day around 6:15.

    I am grateful that she is alway so happy (except when in her crib screaming for an hour at a time!) and lack of sleep somehow doesn’t make her too grumpy, however I am desparate for some time to myself!

    1. you have some great things going with the nights! Your circumstances with other kids is hard – but keep focusing on the positives!

  14. I’m wondering about my 2 month old…I try to follow the eat-activity-sleep model as best as he lets me. In the evening, he tends to fall asleep immediately following the eating. My big question currently is that for the first and second naps of the day, I’ve been trying to put him down “drowsy but awake” in a dark, cool room with a sound machine and swaddled. He typically can do this for about 25-30 minutes before waking up. If I then hold him and try again, he won’t go back to sleep. If I hold him, he’ll sleep for well over an hour (or longer). Any suggestions? At night, he goes down no problem.

  15. What if my 4 month old is sleeping 12hrs at night?
    She takes four 30 minute naps during the day, and she wakes up from these short naps smiling.
    In this case, should she still be taking longer naps?

  16. Hello,
    I have a 6 month old….7 months next week and she takes three, 35-45 min naps. We just transferrred her from the Rock and a Play to crib naps because she’s getting too big for the R&P. We are doing the same thing at night. She’s awake usually 2 hours in the morning before her first short nap and then 2.5-3 between her other two. I let her cry it out for about 10 min on her first nap, go in and shush and pat and she’s out. The other two, we read and sit in the rocking chair and she usually falls asleep and is drowsy ( sometimes asleep) when I put her in. I try to catch her at the right time. She’s really active and busy so I try to keep her busy. She naps great in the car. I use white noise, keep it dark and just the right temperature in the bedroom. No matter what, I’m stuck with three short naps. Help!

    1. If I were to guess, I think the independent skills are playing a part. Even in the first nap, you have to make sure that you’re not patting/shushing to sleep – she has to get down by herself! Remember, the third nap can be short!

  17. Hi Susie… so my wee girl was sleeping from 7pm-5am feed then asleep from 5.30-7.30/8am n having 1-2hr naps 2x day and a little catnap around 5. Turned 4months n all went out window!
    Now at 5months after playing around n trying few things out, she’s settled into 7pm-4/5ish am feed n backdown till 7.30/8am. But she can only manage 30-40min naps. She self settles, I watch the clock for awake times, or if I see a yawn it’s bed. There’s no sleep associations I’m aware of n no matter what I do she won’t sleep longer. She’s happy enough most days in between naps but 2 30 min naps n a wee catnap at 5months seems very little? Her room is dark, same routine each time… I’m at a loss!

  18. Hi Susie,
    Our 3 month old seems to have trouble breaking the 30 -45 minute intruder. y wife sleep trains and we have a 2 yr old as well. both sleep through the night no problem (8pm-7am) but the 3 month old is not napping well at all. The room is not as dark as it needs to be but we are working on that. I can’t believe that is the only issue. We are trying to currently move her to a 3.5 hour schedule and are just not sure if it is too much for her. Is this just par for the course? is there something we can do to break this?

  19. Thanks for the great article. My 8 month old has consistently taken 30 minute naps for a long while. Sometimes we get lucky and she’ll sleep for 1.5 hr but that’s not the norm. At 5 months I did some gentle no cry sleep training and she started falling asleep by herself, but then would regress and it felt like we just were constantly sleep training, then getting regression, and in the end I was tired of all the crying and time being put into the sleep training. So three months later I’ve given up. I nurse her to sleep for naps and bedtime. She usually sleeps between 10-13 hrs at night and always wakes up thirty minutes after I lay her down then once more in the early morning. Any advice would be welcome. I also have a toddler and need to juggle her schedule around his needs and getting out in the morning and back for his nap at noon. Thanks in advance ????

  20. Hi Susie

    I have a four month old turning 5 in a week. We are working on her being tired for a nap every 1.5 hours as she gets grizzly at this point. She will only sleep for 35/40 mins despite all the advice above. We are up at 6am and bedtime is 6pm. She is now fighting the last nap and it is often a failure meaning we are putting an overtired baby to bed who last woke up around 3:15pm. Please help!!

  21. Hi Susie,
    I have only just come across your site, having always worried myself over my babies sleep. He is 7.5 months old and we have a very vague pattern/routine.
    He tends to go to sleep about 7-7.30, and would sleep for 12 hours, without waking. Sometimes he will fall back asleep for another hour after a bottle. But in the day time he tends to nap twice for about 40-50 mins each. And usually wakes happy.

    I have always took his lead. Sometimes he naps for longer in the afternoon but not often. (Yesterday 2.5 hours after 35mins in the morning and has woke after 11.5 hours tonight)
    He is just trying to crawl, mastered rolling and teething…should I be trying to encourage longer naps when we don’t have big issues at bed time? (Although when he is teething really struggle to get him to sleep)

    Thanks
    Gemma

  22. This is a good guide. I haven’t come across info like this. Makes sense. I have 8 month twin boys. They’ve spent the last month with short naps but also both teething. Now both 2 bottom 2 top teeth have cut through, they are napping longer and twin 1 is nursed/bottle after nap.

  23. Ha! I like the “you time” Netflix, FB part in the diagram.. sure in a perfect world there is time for that.. There is usually tons of house work to be done, dishes, laundry folding, cleaning, work from home… It’s a nice thought and sure is necessary for mental health to have that time but it’s not so realistic. Especially with multiple kids.

    Might as well put

    Eat

    Activity

    Sleep

    10 day vacation in Hawaii

    Wake

    Eat

    Activity….

    It’s more like –

    Eat

    Activity

    Hopefully baby naps

    Baby wakes up 5 min after you put him down, stop folding laundry, go back 3 spaces do not pass Go do not collect your $200… then try to get back to sleep, 17 min later, back to folding laundry.. baby wakes up 30 min later, stop folding laundry go back to try again etc.. .

    Not finish laundry

    Feed baby

    Diaper change

    Tummy time, maybe get more laundry folded… whoops forgot it was a half day at your toddlers pre school but the baby just fell asleep. Put baby in car seat quietly as possible, but baby wakes up unhappy, scramble to get out of the house with the baby to get toddler on time..

    Toddler wakes up baby in the car… etc etc

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