Is your baby taking shorter naps? It maybe time to drop a nap
Joanna Paul | Jun 15, 2023
So you finally feel that everything is going great with your baby’s naps and that you have gotten the hang of their wake windows. They take nice long naps, giving you some downtime during the day and you feel like you are getting stuff done. Then one day, you start noticing that their naps are getting shorter and shorter. They are resisting going down for a nap or you see their night sleep being affected with more night wakings than normal.
Your baby may be getting ready to drop a nap.
As your baby gets older, they will be able to handle longer wake windows, thus reducing the number of naps they take during the day. As a newborn, your baby may take 5 or more naps each day, which can range from 20 minutes to 2 hours long. As your baby grows past the 4-month age range, you will see that their sleep needs decrease, spending more time awake and thus reducing the number of naps they take in a day.
Nap transitions happen on average around the following ages:
- 4-6 months old (dropping from 4 to 3 naps)
- 7-9 months old (dropping from 3 to 2 naps)
- 12 -18 months old (dropping from 2 to 1 nap)
- 3 years and older (dropping from 1 nap to no nap).
How do you know when your baby is ready to drop a nap?
Your baby may be ready to drop a nap if they exhibit the following behaviors consistently for over 2 weeks:
- Naps get shorter and shorter, usually only lasting 20 to 25 minutes (especially the last nap).
- Baby is able to stay awake longer between nap times, and pushes bedtime past 9 PM.
- Baby protests going down for a nap and is progressively more difficult to get to sleep.
- Baby flat-out refuses to nap.
- Increase in happy night wakings or occurrence of split nights.
- Early morning wake-ups when previously sleeping through the night.
- Your baby is in the age-appropriate range of dropping a nap.
How do you drop a nap?
First, if you are not already logging their sleep, I highly suggest starting to log their sleep.
Logging sleep helps you identify patterns on how long exactly are they protesting the nap in their crib, how long they are sleeping and more. Log sleep consistently for at least 3- 5 days to help build a picture. There are a variety of apps that you can use, or just plain paper and pen would do.
To drop a nap, gradually add wake times to the nap that is problematic, in increments of 15 - 30 minutes.
Go back and forth if needed for a few days to help them adjust to more waketime in a day and prevent overtiredness.
Ideas for stretching wake windows:
- Taking a stroll in the sunlight
- Engaging them in an activity such as a dance party, blowing bubbles, or just simple toys that they enjoy
- Providing a snack – please note if this is a feeding, they may fall asleep during the feeding. Try to avoid this by feeding in a brightly lit room, tickling the feet, and taking breaks if needed. If they snooze during the feeding, it may take some sleep pressure off resulting in nap protests.
What to do if my baby has short naps?
When your baby wakes from a short nap, always pause. You determine how long you are comfortable pausing. For children older than 6 months, I generally recommend pausing for at least 10 minutes.
Pausing allows your baby to get comfortable with their surroundings when they wakes up and provides an opportunity to fall back asleep on their own.
If your baby is under 6 months, it is developmentally normal for them to take short naps. Follow a full wake window for the next nap. If your baby seems very tired and cranky, you can reduce the next wake window by 15 minutes.
If your baby is over 6 months and has not yet learned to connect their sleep cycles through the nap transition, thus resulting in a short nap, you can employ the “Crib Hour” method.
What is Crib Hour?
If your baby is happy when they wake up from their nap, you can pause and leave them in the crib for as long as they tolerate. The best-case scenario is that they continue resting for the remainder of the nap. If this is consistently happening, for 3- 5 days, you can try to add 15 minutes to the wake window before the nap to help build sleep pressure.
When calculating the next wake window for the next nap, rather than using the time out of the crib, you can use half of the time spent in the crib hour - the full wake window.
e.g. nap 1 – 9 – 10.30 am (expected)
woke up at 10 am
Crib hour 30 minutes
Full wake window – 3 hours
Wake window for nap 2 – 15 minutes – 3 hours = 2.45 minutes wake window – nap at 2.15 pm
Not sure what wake windows are appropriate when dropping a nap?
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