When I’m speaking at my monthly Snuggle Bugz sleep clinics a question that I often ask parents attending is “how many of you are struggling with babies not napping?” About 95% of my audience raises their hands as non-existent naps or short naps are such a common sleep struggle for parents.
If you are planning on bettering your baby’s naps it’s important to understand why they aren’t happening in the first place.
Lack of Consistency
At around 4 months of age it’s important to start working on more of a consistent sleep schedule for naps and bedtimes. When we treat naps as options, and create inconsistencies in timings you end up working against your baby’s natural sleep rhythms making it harder for you baby to fall asleep and consolidate their nap. Lack of a sleep schedule also doesn’t provide naptime and bedtime cues that will help your baby accept sleep better when it’s time to go to bed.
On the Go and Bright Lights
At some point you’ll notice that your baby will become less portable. If your baby is constantly sleeping on-the-go they are unable to get the deep and restorative sleep they need to remain well rested and even though they are sleeping in the car or stroller they still could be accumulating a sleep debt, which will result in an overtired baby who fights sleep. Practice a consistent sleep environment and one that is conducive to sleep. Darken up their nursery as best you can and make sure the temperature remains on the cool side – anywhere between 68-72F. Also drown out external sounds that may wake them up by using a white noise machine and one that runs continuously throughout the nap. The use of a constant sound like nature or static will also help lull your baby into their next sleep cycle and consolidate their nap.
No Preparation for the Final Event
Babies, and even adults, need time to prepare to sleep. Our sleep switch doesn’t just turn off; we have to help it do so. Just like doing a bedtime routine for your little one you can also do a short naptime routine where you are creating consistent activities to help prepare your baby to fall asleep. All you need is 5 or 10 minutes prior to naptime and include activities like dimming the lights, changing their diapers, talking in soothing tones, and reading a book or singing a lullaby. Your baby will soon come to know that naptime is next and be better prepared to fall asleep a lot easier.
Ending the Naptime Before it’s Even Started
If you are assuming that your baby’s nap is over after only 20-30 minutes of sleep and you go and get them because they’ve just woken the only thing you are guaranteeing is that your baby isn’t getting enough sleep per nap. Don’t assume the nap is over. While it takes time your baby can lengthen out their naptime but it’s up to you to allow them the opportunity to do by trying to not go in right away. Even if you can manage waiting 5 minutes or even 10 minutes, the longer you sit tight and allow your little one to practice to fall back to sleep on their own the quicker you will be able to consolidate those naps.
It takes time so be patient. Naps won’t get fixed in a few days or even a week. It can take weeks before things are consistent so take your time and keep taking steps forward.
Alanna McGinn is Founder and Certified Sleep Consultant of Good Night Sleep Site, a global sleep consulting practice. She and her husband, Mike, live in Burlington, Ontario with their 3 children (1+twins!) Alanna and her global team are working with families to overcome their sleep challenges. You can follow her expert advice on Marilyn Denis, The Goods and national publications like Today’s Parent, Maclean’s, Prevention, and Huffington Post. Alanna strives in helping families and corporations overcome their sleep challenges and have happy well-rested smiles in the morning. Join Alanna on the first Wednesday of every month at the Burlington location of Snuggle Bugz/Nestled for her in-person sleep clinic from 10-11am, and follow Good Night Sleep Site on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for all your sleep essentials.