Updated: Oct 24, 2020
One question I am asked a lot is.. how do I get my baby to sleep longer during the day? Quite often parents are chasing the elusive 2hr hour nap in the middle of the day as this is the nap they know their little one will keep for a couple of years.
If you’re struggling with a serial catnapper, the good news is that if you follow my preferred routine, by about 5 months you only need to worry about resettling for just one nap a day - midday. This can be a huge relief for parents who feel like they spend most of their days trying to settle and keep their baby asleep.
Following age appropriate wake windows is one of the fundamentals of good sleep. Young babies can become overtired very easily. An over tired baby will struggle to fall asleep and stay asleep as their cortisol and adrenalin levels rise.
Watching your baby’s tired signs and making sure they aren’t awake too long before their lunch nap will help them sleep longer.
Be mindful not to overcompensate by putting them down too early. If they are under tired and haven’t been given enough wake time to build sleep pressure, they simply won’t be tired enough to have a nice long nap.
2. Expectations around sleep needs
Our babies only need a certain amount of sleep over a 24hr period. If we allow them to have a long morning nap, we can’t expect them to have a long nap in the middle of the day as well. For the first 8 months your little one's sleep needs rapidly change, and their ability to tolerate more awake time during the day gradually increases. Review your routine every few weeks so you can adjust the timing and length of naps where needed.
To promote a 2hr midday nap, you may find you need to wake them up from their morning nap. A long morning nap will reduce your baby’s drive for sleep, so they may need a little longer awake time before the next nap to build enough sleep pressure for them to sleep longer than just one sleep cycle. But remember, if they’ve already had the majority of their total day’s sleep requirements in the morning, we can’t expect them to have two long naps in the same day.
If you really struggle with the idea of waking your baby from their morning nap, a longish morning nap can still work as long as their second nap is still the longest of the day.
This Feed and Sleep routines (3 weeks -3 years) is perfect for balancing out day sleep to nail the 2hr midday nap.
3. Sleep associations
In order to achieve a 2hr nap, your baby is going to need to be able to link sleep cycles. Daytime sleep cycles only last about 45 minutes. If your baby relies on you or any other sleep association, they will struggle to consolidate their sleep on their own. If your baby is fed, patted, rocked or held to sleep, when they rouse between sleep cycles, they will require those same conditions to be recreated in order to go back to sleep. To help your baby fall asleep independently, gradually remove the amount of assistance you provide while they fall asleep and introduce positive sleep associations like a dark room, white noise and a sleeping bag.
4. Consistent Resettling
Once you know you have the timing right and your baby’s sleep environment is set up for success, you need to allow them the chance to practice resettling. Resettling partway through a nap is a different skill to self-settling at the beginning of a nap. If your baby is only sleeping one sleep cycle, give them the opportunity to go back to sleep before rushing in to get them up.
As with everything, consistency is key! It takes time, be patient. It may take a few weeks, keep note of progress so you can see the improvements. Once your baby is nailing that midday nap, you’ll be surprised how much you can do in just 2hrs!
One on one consultations and downloadable sleep guides are all available online x