When your baby starts going through a sleep regression, naps may be short and agonizing. Maybe your baby wakes up after 20-40 minutes crying and you resort to contact napping to get your baby a few more Zzzzs. Or, if you have an older baby, naps can’t be extended no matter what you try. In this case, you may just have a cranky, tired baby on your hands because they didn’t get as much sleep as their body wanted. It’s frustrating, I know!
The importance of naps in infant sleep patterns
All babies need naps. If they’re under 12 weeks, they should be having 3-5 hours of day sleep, broken up into 3-5 naps. From 12-16 weeks, they should get a minimum of 3 hours of day sleep, broken into 3-4 naps. By 6 months, your baby might be ready for 2 naps, ideally for 2-3 hours daily. Naps are a vital part of your baby’s basic needs and restful naps will make your baby so much happier! If you’re going through a sleep regression though, naps may end after 20-40 minutes. If your baby is already sleep trained, this is just an annoying phase that will pass. If they haven’t been sleep trained yet, then it’s time to consider teaching your baby the skills for independent, restful sleep!
Sleep regression and disrupted nap patterns
Your newborn was probably much sleepier and able to go longer stretches at night by 8 weeks, napping for up to 2.5 hours at a time. But a sleep regression usually coincides with a big developmental leap, making naps more challenging. Maybe your baby was napping for 1.5-2 hours at 8-12 weeks but suddenly wakes after 20-30 minutes right after they turned 12 weeks. That is the beginning of the 4-month sleep regression. Unfortunately, if you haven’t already, you will probably see more night waking as well.
How sleep regressions impact nap duration and frequency
If your baby recently started taking 30-minute naps, and you’re losing your mind trying to figure out why, it’s probably a normal developmental growth period when your baby is becoming more alert and aware of the world around them. This is also known as a sleep regression, starting at around 12 weeks. But sleep regressions can happen later, too. Sometimes at 6 or 8 months, your baby may go through another sleep regression that happens during a big developmental leap like when they’re learning to crawl or stand. Much depends on when you sleep train your baby. If you’re still “helping” your baby to sleep, or putting them down almost asleep, then they’re not yet trained to sleep independently. If they know how to sleep independently without your help night or day then they are sleep trained and shouldn’t go through major sleep regressions at 6 and 8 months through developmental leaps. But, you may still face those dreaded 30-minute naps. In other words, even though your baby is properly sleep trained, they could simply go through a nap regression. Maybe this is because they’re working on a huge developmental phase like rolling or crawling or walking. If this is the case your baby may temporarily need an extra nap to make it to a 7 pm bedtime.
Establishing a consistent nap schedule
If your baby is under 6 months, you’re probably going to have an easier time following “wake windows” vs a clock schedule. For example, if your baby is 12 weeks old, 75-90 minutes may be their ideal wake window. Or if your baby is 4-6 months, they can probably do a 2-3 hour wake window. For a 6 month-old on a 7pm-7am sleep schedule, that would mean you should aim at getting your baby down for a nap 2 hours after they wake up in the morning, and maybe 2-2.5 hours after the 2nd and 3rd naps. After 6 months when your baby can stay awake for longer stretches, you can switch to “clock” times naps, i.e. nap at 9:30/10am and 1:30/2pm. But if your baby is taking 30 minute naps, you may have to increase the number of naps they take just to get enough day sleep.
Creating a restful environment for napping
Your nursery should be a restful environment, with blackout shades to keep the sunlight out for naps. Always mimic your bedtime routine and do a slightly shorter version of your bedtime routine for naps. Walk your baby through a predictable routine including dimming the lights, closing the blinds, reading a book or 3, turning out the lights, and saying good night to all the things in the room. Make it clear that it’s nap time so your baby knows what to expect, and give them enough time to transition from playtime to nap time!
Seeking professional help for persistent nap regression
Chances are if you’re facing a nap regression, you’re also experiencing more struggles getting your little one down, and increased night wakings. This is your baby’s way of telling you that something isn’t working for them and they’re ready for a change. If you’re ready for professional help teaching your baby to go down easier, nap longer, and sleep through the night, reach out to us for a complimentary call to assess your needs and explore how we can help!
Ready to sleep again?