Why Your Baby Only Naps 30 Minutes & What To Do

Why Your Baby Only Naps 30 Minutes & What To Do

You've been up all night tending to your little party animal who simply refused to snooze. From a snuggly feeding and infant massage to singing sweet lullabies and turning on the white noise machine, you tried pretty much everything to help your fussy tot summon the sandman. But, despite your great efforts, neither you nor your child got a wink of sleep. 

Frustrated and undeniably exhausted, you pour yourself a cup of java in the morning after feeding your sweet pea. Although you're super sleepy and running on fumes, you've got a baby to take care of and can't hibernate under the covers of your warm bed just yet. Thankfully, though, nap time is right around the corner. 

That said, there's still one teensy-weensy problem — your little buddy is a proud member of the short naps club, often snoozing for no more than 30 minutes per nap. In other words, if you thought you'd get in at least a one to two-hour siesta while your baby napped, you thought wrong.   

The bane of every parent's existence, short naps, and babies are a lot like water and oil — they simply don't mix. Of course, young infants may be perfectly fine with frequent, short naps, but once they reach that six-month mark, babies can often transform into little Tasmanian devils if only napping 30 minutes or less at a time. Why? We'll tell you. 

In this post, we're diving into the infamous short nap to uncover why napping for 30 minutes (or less) is so popular amongst babies. We'll also go over a few trips and tricks on how to help your little buddy nap for longer stretches of time so that way you can finally catch some quality zzzs, too! 

But First, How Long Should Babies Nap Anyway?

Before we dive into the many potential culprits behind your tiny tot's inability to snooze for more than thirty minutes, let's first explore what a healthy nap looks like for babies. 

Although it can certainly be frustrating if your sweet baby is under six months of age and takes short naps — worry not, as this is perfectly normal. In the first few months of a baby's life, normal naps last anywhere between 20 and 120 minutes, meaning it is developmentally appropriate to have irregular snoozes at this time.

You see, short naps often happen in young tots because their sleep cycles last about 20 to 50 minutes. When your little buddy wakes from one sleep cycle, they may struggle to transition into the next sleep cycle — this is known as the 45-minute intruder. 

Thankfully, by the time babies reach six months old, they are often much better equipped to connect sleep cycles for naps, giving you those longer 60 minute-plus siestas you've been dreaming of. 

That being said, it's important to keep in mind that all babies are different, and some may be perfectly fine getting less or more sleep than what's recommended. If you're concerned or have questions about your little one's sleep, consult your pediatrician. 

So, how much shut-eye do kids need? Here's what the experts from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend:

  • Newborns (0-3 months): 14 to 17 hours of sleep (including naps) 
  • Infants (4-12 months): 12 to 16 hours of sleep (including naps)
  • Toddlers (1-2 years): 11 to 14 hours of sleep (including naps)
  • Pre-school (3 to 6 years): 10 to 13 hours of sleep (including naps)
  • School-age (6 to 12): 9 to 12 hours of sleep

Reasons Why Babies Take Short Naps

As mentioned, short naps are developmentally appropriate for babies less than six months of age. At this time in a little one's life, there is no consistency in sleep rhythms — which is why you may see a 20-minute cat-nap followed by a two-hour siesta. Or you may see several short naps in a row. 

Just set the stage for great sleep and keep your tot well-rested. Although the spontaneity of your newborn's sleep patterns may drive you a bit crazy, this phase will soon pass. 

If your little buddy is at least six months old and still struggling to catch zzzs for more than 30 minutes, these factors listed below could be to blame:

Sleep Associations

Probably the biggest culprit behind short naps in babies over six months, sleep associations are any action, cue, or behavior that helps your little one fall asleep. 

For example, a feed-to-sleep association is when a baby associates the process of falling asleep with eating and will be required to eat every time they wake in order to get back to sleep. This means that if your snoozy infant stirs after a single sleep cycle during naptime, they will cry until they are fed rather than drift back to sleep independently.

If your little buddy is dealing with a sleep association, then it may be time to consider sleep training to teach them the skill of sleep independence. There are a number of different sleep coaching techniques, such as Ferberizing and Cry-It-Out (CIO). 

You can also try "no-cry" methods if you'd prefer to take a gentler approach. 

Once you find what works best for you and your little one, be sure to stick with the technique, and sooner or later, short naps should be a thing of the past. 

Overtiredness

When babies are awake for too long and go past their ideal sleep window, they tend to get overtired. This is because their tiny bodies try to compensate for missing that window with stimulating hormones (such as cortisol and adrenaline), causing them to become extra cranky and, in turn, making it much harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. 

To prevent overtiredness, keep an eye on your little one's sleep cues. If they are rubbing their eyes, yawning, fussing, and looking dazed — it's time for sleep. Keeping your babe up past their sleep window will lead to nothing but trouble. 

Remember, when it comes to babies, sleep begets sleep!   

Environmental

If your little buddy doesn't have a sleep association and isn't overtired, their short naps could be due to an environment that's not conducive to quality sleep. Whether it's sunshine peeking through the blinds or the neighbor's dog barking, there are many environmental factors that can ruin naptime. 

Set the stage for sweet dreams by making sure the nursery is dark, cool, and cozy. Here are a few tips to promote a snoozy sleep space:

  • Invest in blackout curtains 
  • Use a white noise machine
  • Keep the temperature between 68 to 72 degrees 

In addition to a snoozy sleep environment, it's also important to have a consistent bedtime routine that signals to your tiny tot that it's time to wind down and hit the hay. 

Your pre-sleep ritual doesn't have to be anything elaborate — just pick a few snoozy activities and be sure to do them regularly before bedtime.

Here's an example of a good bedtime routine:

A good naptime routine is typically a shortened version of the bedtime routine. So, no need to go through all the steps. Just pick a few of the bedtime routine activities and do them before putting your baby down for a nap to signal that it's time to snooze. 

A Final Word

While afternoon siestas are optional for adults, they are absolutely necessary for growing babies. However, not all babies like to snooze for more than 30 minutes, which isn't restorative by any means. To support healthy development, tiny tots over six months of age should be taking naps that are an hour to two hours long. 

If your sweet baby only naps for 30 minutes, it could be due to a number of things, such as a sleep association or overtiredness. An environment that isn't conducive to sleep could also be to blame. If you're having trouble identifying what's causing your little one to take short naps, be sure to reach out to your pediatrician, who can help. 

At Little Yawn Collective, we're here to help make bedtime a breeze. Check us out today and discover safe, effective, melatonin-free solutions for your little buddy tomorrow. 



Sources:    

AAP endorses new recommendations on sleep times | AAP News | American Academy of Pediatrics

How Can I Tell When My Baby Is Tired? | Cleveland Clinic

Baby sleep: what to expect at 2-12 months | Raising Children Network

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