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.