Anyone have days like this? Tell me if you do!
Your sweet baby has been sleeping all night long and gets up in the morning after a solid night of sleep. You feed her, change her, play with her for a bit, take her for a little walk outside, then rock her and put her gently into her crib for her morning nap.
And then, 30 minutes later, she wakes up fussy and still tired and, despite your pleading, bargaining, and efforts, just won’t sleep longer.
After trying for what seems like ages to get baby back to sleep, you finally give in, and hope she’ll be more tired when the next nap rolls around. Unfortunately, the next nap seems to be from the same playbook and baby continues to be cranky for the rest of the day.
Sleep, like food, is one of those elements where baby will tell us whether or not they want to cooperate, so there’s no sense trying to force the issue. If they’re not sleeping, just leaving them in their room usually won’t fix things.
Here’s what’s going on, and how to fix it.
Babies, just like the rest of us, sleep in cycles. We start off in a light state of sleep where we’re easily woken up, then gradually fall into a deeper stage where even loud noises or movement might not be able to wake us. This deep sleep, incidentally, is the good stuff we’re looking for. This really great, restful sleep is where our brains and bodies do all of the maintenance work that leaves us feeling refreshed, rested and feeling good when we sleep long enough.
Once we’ve come to the end of the deep-sleep cycle, we slowly start coming back to the light stage again, and typically we wake up for a few seconds and then drift off again, and the whole thing starts again.
In adults, our sleep cycles usually last about an hour and a half. In babies, it can be as little as 30 minutes depending on their age. So baby is waking up after only 30 minutes is completely natural.
“But,” you’re wondering, “Shouldn’t baby be sleeping at least an hour for a nap?” Well, that’s partially true. What’s actually happening is that babies who ‘sleep longer’ are actually connecting their sleep cycles. The only difference between their baby and your baby is…that they’ve learned how to fall back to sleep on their own.
Simple, right? That really is the heart of the issue. Once your baby can fall asleep without help, they’ll start stringing together those sleep cycles like an absolute champ. That’s going to make your baby a whole lot happier and, on the slightly selfish side, leave you with some time to do whatever you like. (Or replace “whatever you like” with a chance to have baby nap without you having to hold her every time she naps and at least be able to get a drink of water with 2 hands and catch up on mommy-related tasks for work or around the house (you get the idea).
So remember back at the start of that scenario, there you were, getting ready to put baby down for her nap, gently rocking her and then transferring her to the crib.
This is the critical point where changes should be made. If you’re rocking your baby to sleep and praying the transfer goes well, you have just made yourself a sleep crutch.
Sleep crutches are basically anything to you have to do to get your baby to fall asleep. Pacifiers are the most common example, but there are many others, including feeding, rocking, singing, bouncing, snuggling, and car rides.
Now I’m not saying you shouldn’t rock your baby, or sing to her, or read her stories, or love her like crazy. You absolutely should. Oh yes, you should…just not to the point where she falls asleep.
When it comes to bedtime, whatever time of the day that might be, baby should be awake when you put her down in her crib so she puts herself to sleep.
Some other pointers for extending baby’s nap time…
● Keep the bedroom as dark as possible. Install blackout curtains or if you’re in a pinch, use painter’s tape to tape a blanket over the window. It doesn’t have to be pretty; it just has to be functional.
● White noise machines are useful if baby tends to wake up due to the neighbor’s barking dog, the random delivery guy ringing the doorbell, or any other noise that might startle them out of their nap. Just make sure it’s not too close to their ears and not too loud. 50 dB is the recommended limit, which means you should be able to talk over it.
If you’re running into trouble applying these suggestions, give me a call and set up a free, 15 minute evaluation call. We’ll talk through your situation and I’ll offer any assistance I can.
Planning to sleep a little longer this Sunday morning?
It’s time to spring the clocks forward for the annual move to daylight savings time. Have no fear! I’ll tell you exactly what to do to adjust your baby or child’s schedule in 3 simple steps.
1. First, leave your clock alone Saturday night. Wake up Sunday morning at your usual time, have your coffee, then go around your house and change your clocks that didn’t change automatically.
2. Gradually move your child’s bedtime and nap times starting Sunday night.
Children who no longer nap: If your child normally goes to bed at 7:00pm, put him/her to bed at 7:30pm on Sunday night. Do this for 3 nights, then on the 4th night put him to bed at 7:00pm or whatever is normal bedtime for your child.
Toddlers (12 months and older)- Start with naps on Sunday and put your child down for their first nap 30 minutes later than normal on the first night of the time change. If your child usually naps at 9:30am, naptime on Sunday is now 10:00am. Do the same with the afternoon nap if there normally is one. For bedtime on Sunday, if your kiddo’s normal bedtime is 7:00pm, you would put him down at 7:30pm. Do this for 3 nights and then on the 4th night, put him to bed at 7:00pm. Within a week, you’re back to your child’s regular bedtime.
Infants (6-12 months with a predictable bedtime)- If bedtime is normally 7:00pm, move bedtime 15 minutes earlier each night until you reach the normal time. On Sunday night, you would put baby down at 7:45pm, the second night 7:30pm, and so on. In four nights you should be back to 7:00pm. If their bedtime is not predictable (0-6 months old) simply jump to the new time Sunday night.
3. Make sure your child’s room is as dark as possible. Install blackout curtains if you don’t already have them. Your child may wake up too early with the sun rising so early now in the morning and may struggle to fall asleep while it is still light outside. Even with the extra hours of daylight, your child sleep needs the same amount of sleep. It may take children and babies a bit more time to fall asleep or not seem to be as tired as usual, which is normal. It usually takes about a week for children and babies to completely adjust to daylight savings time and some children may take up to 3 weeks to adjust. Be patient and consistent, and your child will be sleeping in no time!
If you have any questions about how the time change will affect your child or about your child’s sleep, please send me an email at email@example.com