Skip to the content

Short Naps

One of the trickiest parts about baby/toddler sleep is navigating those darn naps, am I right?! As a stay at home parent that also works, I rely on consistent and lengthy naps during the day so that I can get a few things checked off of my to-do list. So, when those naps are not going as planned, this mama tends to get a little flustered.

Navigating naps can be tricky because there are so many factors that play into a well-oiled nap schedule. How long should a nap last? How many naps should my baby or toddler be taking? How much time should be between each nap? Why is my baby only taking short naps?

First let’s address how many naps and how much sleep your baby should be getting during the day. One of the biggest factors that helps determine how much sleep your child needs is his/her age. Here is a breakdown of naps and sleep needs based on a child’s age:

Babies ages 0-3 months need about 16-18 hours of sleep per day. They usually need about 4-5 naps occurring during the day around 6-8 hours of napping and usually need to nap about every 45 minutes to 1.5 hours.

Babies ages 3-6 months need about 14-15 hours of sleep per day, with about 3 naps a day around 3-5 hours of napping and typically need to nap about every 1.5 to 3 hours.

Babies ages 6-12 months need about 12-14 hours of sleep per day with 2 naps during the day around 2-3 hours of napping, usually need to nap about every 3 to 4 hours. At this age most babies can start to handle more of a set nap time and bedtime schedule.

Toddlers ages 1-3 years need about 11-14 hours of sleep per day with one nap during the day. around 1.5 to 3 hours of napping and, usually need to sleep about every 4-6 hours.

Toddlers ages 3-9 years need about 10-12 hours and usually have stopped napping. It is common for children to stop napping between the ages of 2 ½ and 3 ½. For some children it is a little sooner and for some it is a little later.

Now that we know how many naps and how much sleep your child should be getting, let’s talk about why he/she might not be getting enough daytime sleep due to short naps.

I don’t know about you, but I always like a good acronym to help me remember things, so here is one that can help you determine what might be causing those short naps. S.H.O.R.T. N.A.P.S.

Sleep Environment-Make sure your child’s sleep space is dark and cool. (I am talking cave-like environment). The darker the better, and I like to recommend keeping the temperature between 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, if you live in a noisy household or on a busy street, it is helpful to have white noise on while baby sleeps as well to drown out outside noises.

Hungry- When laying a baby down you want to make sure he/she is comfortable and is not going down at the end of a feed window. I like to recommend a SLEEP-FEED-PLAY schedule, but if you feel like your baby needs a feed before nap time, make sure to offer it to her at least 20- 30 minutes before she is going down for a nap.

Overtired or Under tired-You want to make sure you are using the correct awake window for your baby. An awake window that is too long, will more than likely make your baby overtired, making it difficult for her to get to sleep and stay asleep. An awake window that is too short between sleep periods, doesn’t allow your baby’s sleep pressure to build enough, usually resulting in it taking longer for baby to get to sleep and extend sleep.

Routine-Does your baby have a consistent nap routine before going down for each sleep period? The steps in the nap time routine help signal to your baby that sleep is coming and prepares her body for sleep.

Transition-If your baby was having good naps and then all of sudden he is fighting naps or naps have shorten, it might be time for a nap transition. When a baby drops a nap during a nap transition, you typically need to move bedtime up by 30-60 minutes for a few weeks while their body adjusts to the new schedule. Be patient. These transitions take a few weeks to work out.

Night sleep-If your baby struggles with night time sleep, then he more than likely will continue to struggle with naps. If you need help getting your baby’s night sleep on track please reach out to us! We would love to help.

Associations-A sleep association is anything external that helps your baby get to sleep. It can be an object such as a pacifier, bottle, swaddle, etc. or it can be an action such as feeding, bouncing, rocking, ect. If your baby is getting drowsy using any of these things, there can continue to be a lingering sleep association which might be contributing to short naps.

Predictable schedule: Does your baby have a predictable nap schedule each day? Are his naps in his crib most of the time or are a lot of naps on the go? I like to stick to an 80/20 rule, meaning 80% of the time baby’s naps are in his room in his own crib, while the other 20% of naps can be on the go. If those percentages are swapped, you might need to adjust your schedule so that he is sleeping in his crib more often.

Self-soothe: Self-soothing is key to getting your baby to take longer naps. When a baby transitions from one sleep cycle to the next her body wakes up, and in order to get back to sleep she has to have the ability to self-soothe. If she does not have this skill, she will continue to have short naps.

Hopefully this checklist has provided some insight on why your little one might be struggling with short naps, and how you can work on lengthening them! If you need any help with your child's sleep please reach out to us!

About the author

Amanda Medley

Why didn’t we try this sooner?! As we speak he is sound asleep in his crib – and has been since 7:15 pm.

Karianne Wanggaard

Sleep Well Sleep Specialists

Don't go through another night of bad sleep.

Contact us to schedule your FREE 15-minute sleep evaluation!

Working with Shannon, I went from 2-3 wake ups every night to 1 or 0. She aligned the plan with my preferred sleep cycle. She was always coaching, never judging. Shannon was great, I have referred MANY people to her! That's the best testament to her work that I can give.

Light window Image

Get Sleep Solutions Today

Don't waste another night not getting sleep. Contact us today and we help guide you to get your family sleeping through the night.