Naps are an interesting beast.
Most families I work with as a sleep consultant involve challenges with your baby sleeping through the night. As a result of poor overnight sleep, many families often then struggle with naps, nap timing and how to make them last longer than 30 minutes.
I want to start by staying that a 30-minute nap for babies under 6 months of age is normal. Does that mean every nap should or will be 30-minutes for a baby under 6 months, no – just often a question I get asked often and something I want to explain.
When Will Naps Consolidate?
Nap consolidation happens when babies are able to self-settle between sleep cycles, generally between 3 & 6 months, they are able to do that and therefore, naps will grow in duration. Babies will nap longer when held or in the car, because of the motion and while that’s ok for some naps, you don’t want the movement to be there for all naps, because it will become a prop that baby becomes reliant on.
In addition, when overnight sleep is a mess and kids are carrying around a sleep debt, their naps struggle too as a result of being over-tired, which triggers stimulant hormones in the brain. So essentially your body knows your tired but your brain fights it, hence, a short nap. Often if a client just reached out about nap struggles, when I dig in, I find their little one is still waking several times a night as well and struggling with early morning wakings.
The other big issue with naps is the dreaded car nap.
Your baby falls asleep in the car for a few minutes and wakes up when you try to move them to the crib. They figure naptime has come and gone, which means the regular three-hour nap is out the window, which subsequently means he’s going to be an absolute beast for the rest of the day, and probably won’t sleep well that night.
Once you’ve experienced it a few times, you’ll find yourself putting ambulance drivers to shame with the high-speed maneuvers you’ll use to get home before those eyes close. (I personally carried teeth crackers or graham crackers to make it home from Target or church to personally avoid this issue.)
Seriously though, these mini naps in cars and strollers can sabotage your baby’s actual naps and should be avoided whenever possible.
If all else fails, and your little one ends up falling asleep, then I would drive around to get in a 30-minute nap. Should they end up waking up just as you pull in the driveway, wait about 45 minutes before attempting to put them back to bed. At that point, they should ‘reset’ and will then be able to fade off again for a proper nap.
From a schedule standpoint, you want to not bend to their waking at 5:00 am or put them down at the first eye rub, you want to watch their awake windows, to ensure they are napping at the right times and not too soon or too long after they should be.
A sample nap schedule for a 9-month-old baby to sleep will look something like this:
- 7:00 am – Wake for the Day
- 10:00 am – Nap 1 for 2 hours
- 3:00 pm – Nap 2 for 1 hour
- 7:00 pm – Bedtime, in a crib, asleep.
This helps to ensure that they get the total daytime sleep, at the right times. Babies at this age need 3 hours of daytime sleep and can handle 3 hours of awake time. Make sense?
Unsure of Nap Timing?
Curious about your baby’s needs or what their sample day would be?? Join me in my Slumber Made Simple Facebook Group, where each week, I host live Q&A’s, training’s and ask me anything sessions, to solve your little ones sleep challenges.
My name is Courtney Zentz, a Pediatric Sleep Expert, Lactation Counselor and founder of Tiny Transitions. As an award-winning specialist, I and my team help exhausted parents teach their infants & toddlers to sleep well every night with gentle, customized solutions and both group and private coaching options, so your family can all be at their best. Based in Philadelphia, I work in-home and virtually to provide the support that families need to all be at their best.
If you are struggling with naps for your little one and have seemingly tried it all, please reach out and set up a free evaluation. Allow me to tell you about us and the great work we do. Review some of the testimonials on our site, from once tired parents just like you. We can help you get back your sleep and allow you all to feel and operate as the best version of yourselves. We also have a private Facebook Group called Tiny Transitions Sleep Support, where I conduct live-streams weekly, share exclusive content and work to help support and guide you through successful sleep for your family. We would love to have you join!