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.
I was looking at my calendar this week and I can't believe it's almost August. Our summer has been so much fun with plenty of days at the pool, working on projects at home and of course, an upcoming trip to the beach! I love waking up early to get in a quick run on the boardwalk before stopping at a cool little coffee shop to have breakfast.
What trips do you have planned for the remainder of the summer? Anywhere fun?
And while I'm on vacation, I'm looking forward to early bedtimes for my daughter because she is guaranteed to be exhausted from all the beach time and fun. Will she sleep all night...you bet!
Some parents worry that they'll get even less sleep when they're on vacation, but that doesn't have to be the case. In fact, it should be the opposite--you and your child should get MORE sleep while you're on vacation. That's the whole point of vacation, right?
One of the things you shouldn’t have to worry about is how you’ll sleep when you’re staying somewhere other than your home. Because…face it…you’ll need the sleep and so will your children.
Whether you’re only going for a quick weekend trip or staying at a beach condo for the week, your child can continue to sleep as well as they do at home.
Here are a few tips to help ease the craziness of sleeping away from home with your child.
Tip #1 – Make your child’s sleeping area feel like home as much as possible. Bring along your child’s lovey, sleep sack and white noise machine, if you use one. Make the environment as close to home as possible to help ease your child’s anxiety of being in a new place.
Bonus points for you if the room your child is staying in has good room darkening curtains. For a quick solution, throw a blanket over the curtain rod to make the room darker!
Tip #2 -- Separate your sleeping spaces as much as possible. If you’re staying in a hotel room with a separate bedroom, there’s nothing wrong with your child sleeping in the bedroom so you can continue to watch TV and go to bed when you're ready. If you have to share a room with your child, make sure they have their own sleeping space, such as a portable crib or cots for toddlers already sleeping in a big kid bed. If you’re worried about lugging the portable crib along with your luggage and your child’s car seat, ask to borrow one at your destination. Grandparents have friends with grandchildren, maybe your sister who’s driving in can bring her extra portable crib, or check in the area for rental companies that will supply cribs to your hotel.
(I've seen kids sleep in some odd places in an effort to make their space dark so don't think it hasn't been tried.)
Tip #3 – Don’t skip naps. Make sure your child is getting the recommended amount of naps they need. Finding times for naps can be tough when you’re on the go from sun up to sun down and yes, sometimes they may be in the car seat or stroller. Nap times may be a bit off and that's fine, as long as your child is not overtired when it is time for bed.
It’s easy for family and friends to want to pass the baby around and keep playing until baby is screaming from being overtired. If you know it’s time for a nap, it’s ok to put baby down to sleep. And if your cousin wants to keep baby awake to play longer, ask if she wants to play with a happy baby or a screaming, overtired baby…I think you’ll know the answer.
I hope you have a good time on your vacation!
With a few adjustments, you’ll all sleep comfortably no matter where you are…ok...so the fold-out couch at Grandma's might not be your comfy mattress at home, but it’ll do for a short-term stay.
And if your baby or child isn’t sleeping well now, contact me at www.sleepsolutionsbychristine.com and let’s chat about your situation. We can work together to have restful nights now, and learn more ways to make sleep on vacation much for enjoyable for your whole family!
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Interested in learning more about me or how I can help your child sleep all night? Contact me today and learn how I help families get the sleep they need. I work with clients all over the world as well as the Washington DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia areas, in person. Just click on the button below to send me a contact request. You will be contacted promptly so we can get your family sleeping as soon as possible.