If I had £1 for every time I’m asked how to extend LO’s naps – I truly would be sunning myself in Barbados! Picture the scene – golden beach, azure blue sea gently lapping the shore, a soft sea breeze taking the edge off the heat from a golden sun.
That’s pretty much what you need to visualize to calm yourself when LO wakes up cranky from a short nap! There is nothing more frustrating than knowing LO needs more sleep – but just won’t!
To be honest there are some babies who seem to thrive on short naps. If LO wakes after 30-45 mins and appears refreshed this isn’t a problem. Longer naps often “happen” when baby hit’s the 4-6 month mark without any parental intervention. Short naps however, can appear at any age and stage depending on what’s happening cognitively, physically and emotionally.
Let’s look at some of the main reasons for short naps;
1. It’s perfectly normal for babies under 3-4 months to have frequent short naps. Some darlings may have predictable naps by 6 weeks and other’s nearer 5 months. We all know that small babies may change their routines from one day to the next. Adapting to your baby’s needs is one of the sharp learning curves you go through when you become a parent.
2. Once baby is over 3 months (and you feel ready) start thinking about “the way” baby is put to sleep for a nap. Of course – it’s perfectly normal for baby to fall asleep on the breast/bottle at this stage BUT BEWARE! By the time baby hit’s 5 months the “falling to sleep sucking” MAY mean that baby needs to suck to return to sleep in between sleep cycles. Try getting baby to nap without falling to sleep sucking by going for a buggy ride. Once the nap in the buggy is established you are more likely to have success with LO napping in their cot.
3. Sort naps may be due to LO being awake too long. Once LO is overtired it really is true they will have more difficulty drifting to sleep. Be aware of LO’s average awake time by age – although you will probably know this by simply observing them. http://www.savvytotsleep.com/all-categories/average-sleep-awake-times-age
4.Over-stimulation can prevent some LO’s from being able to switch off. More sensitive LO’s really do need a mini “wind down” before every nap in a darkened room. Over-stimulation can kick back from the previous 24 hours. So – if you’ve had a fun day out visiting the rellies on Sunday it may mean Monday is short nap day.
5. I very often find that parents intervene too quickly when baby wakes after a short nap. DO give LO the opportunity to go back to sleep. It’s true to say however, that if LO has been awake for longer than 15-20 mins – it’s unlikely they will continue napping.
6. Some LO’s have trouble transitioning from light to deep sleep – particularly if baby has been colicky, had reflux or dairy intolerance. These babies will need all your help to extend short naps. TRY sitting by the cot before you know baby wakes and as they stir do anything you can to soothe them back to sleep again. It’s trial and error as to what your baby will respond to. Some may respond to the cot mobile being turned on. Other’s to a little patting, head stroking or a little pressure from your hand on their tummy. BUT don’t hover by the cot! Sometimes it’s actually a parent being present that stimulates LO awake! You will know your LO and be the best judge as to which method you use.
7. During developmental phases such as “pull to stand” naps may be totally disrupted or even refused! Practicing a new found skill is all absorbing for LO and naps are way down on their agenda.
I think THE most important thing to remember is that short naps aren’t life threatening – just a pain for you! Particularly if LO is cranky until bedtime. Some LO’s but by no means all, do need parental help to create a healthy nap routine. When LO is between 4-6 months devoting a quiet week or two to teaching happy napping will pay off. As with any sleep teaching CONSISTENCY of approach will win through in the end. In the meantime and at the risk of sounding patronizing, try and nap when LO naps!