Naptime Problems, Solved

Answers and info from Naptime Problems, Solved, a Spright workshop held Sept. 13, 2016, with sleep consultant Deb Jimenez

Hi, Deb!

I’m excited to be here on Spright today. I’m a sleep consultant and postpartum doula from the Greater Puget Sound Area (Tacoma/Seattle) and I’m also a mom of two.

What can I do if my baby just refuses to nap but isn't fussy about it? He can sit in his crib talking to himself for a full hour and not sleep and eventually I get so worried he'll get overtired, I pick him up and instantly he falls asleep in my arms. But of course wakes up again if I put him back in the crib...any tips?

I'd look at nap timing. Sounds Iike maybe your baby isn't ready for a nap then wears himself out and passes out when you give up on the nap! Smart kiddo!! Make sure it's been an adequate time before laying him down and he's about a 6-7 on the sleep scale when you lay him down (0=fully awake, 10=fully asleep).

Try swaddling and laying his feet down on the crib mattress first to avoid activating the Moro reflex (startle reflex)

What is a good point of reference for how much my 10 week old son should be napping during the day? Some days he falls asleep after every bottle, other days (like today) he is awake almost all day with 2 little 20 min naps that didn't coincide with feeding. He's currently eating 3-5 oz every 3-4 hours.

When you get naps that are 30 minutes or less, that's a cat nap and not restorative for your baby. That means you missed their sleep window to get them to sleep before getting overtired and overstimulated. Best thing to do in that scenario is get them back to sleep as soon as possible and as much as possible, plus an early bedtime!

Here’s a handy chart for sleep needs based on age

My son is 4.5 months old. He seems to have settled on a 4 naps/day routine and at night he'll wake once or twice for a feeding. I figured that over time he'd naturally start to nap longer and take fewer naps. However, recently his daytime naps have gotten shorter - about 50 minutes on average, and he seems to need them more frequently. About every 1.5 hours or so. Growth spurt? Should I roll with it or can I somehow train him to have longer naps but maybe fewer?

Anything over 40-50 minutes is a win in my book! I say go with it! Usually around 4 months is when their sleep patterns can get disrupted then fall into this nice pattern of long, consistent, and consolidated naps. Could be the long naps are coming around the corner for you since night time is going so well.

You can try after his 50 minute nap to get him back to sleep, but it really depends if you want to put in the extra work!

I've been basing naps off of awake time, which for us is about 50-60 min for my 13 week old. Does awake time vary throughout the day? I find that she goes down much easier in the morning but struggles in the afternoon and wondering if I may be putting her down too quickly in the afternoon.

Basing naps off awake time is a great method. It's best to follow your baby's tired signals, and a normal range of awake time is anywhere between 45-90 minutes.

It is very common for your baby to get tired as the day progresses which means it harder and harder to get them down for nap. I wouldn't worry too much about it and just do your best for those naps!

My 3-month-old daughter only sleeps 30-45 minutes for each nap. Occasionally she does 2 hrs, but only in the rock n play or ergo. I try to settle her back to sleep when they are short, but it's only worked once. Are 45 min naps ok? Is there something I should do to get them longer (and therefore less of them throughout the day? We are at 5!) and My son is about 3 months corrected (he was 7 weeks early). He's started to take 45 min naps and can become super grumpy as the day goes on. How do I extend his naps, as he's happier when he's had longer naps? I'm trying to put him down sleepy but not asleep a few times a day and have him in the crib for at least the first nap of the day, usually the first two. He sleeps pretty well at night. Usually one 5 hour stretch then a 3 hour.

At three months, things are still pretty inconsistent and that's normal. A good restorative nap would be 40-50 minutes and anything less would be considered a cat nap. I'd stick with what you're doing. After the 4-month sleep change, I’d expect that those naps will become more consistent and consolidate!

For both of you, make sure your babies aren’t overtired throughout the day. Typically 90-120 minutes is all they can handle of awake time at this age!

We sleep trained my nearly 6 month old a few weeks ago and she is doing well at night, but still really struggling with naps. If we let her cry, she will fall asleep within 10 minutes and sleep for at least an hour. But they sooth her to sleep at daycare and I feel like every weekend we are starting from scratch on nap training. At the same time, I understand that daycare may not be able to let a baby cry or fuss for that long. Any tips on nap training when a baby is in daycare?

First, I'd ask your daycare about the schedule they're on and see if you can get any improvements there. Typically I find daycares don't nap kid enough and with some education, you will have all those babies happier with more sleep!

But besides that, keep in mind it can take up to 3 weeks for their naps to settle down from doing sleep training. So even though nighttime is better, naps can still take some time. Keep being consistent with your method and making sure your nap timing is good, then things should settle down soon! Great job!

My son typically goes down for a nap about 90-120 minutes after he wakes up from the last one, but can seem overtired as the day goes on. Is there something I could be doing differently?

That's very common and not something to worry too much about. Just keep trying to get him down for a nap before he gets overtired. This isn't always possible but try your best! Your son might be getting more tired as the day goes, on so his awake time may get shorter and shorter. If naps fall apart toward the end of the day, adjust his bedtime earlier to compensate. This will make bedtime easier and night time sleep better too! And a 6pm bedtime for little ones under 1 year old is not that uncommon! Sometimes we have to give them that early bedtime to keep them well rested if those naps don't happen so well toward the end of the day. I think you're doing a great job — keep up the good work!

I have a really hard time getting my 3 month old daughter to take her last 2 naps, especially the very last nap of the day. I end up having to put her in the ergo to get her to sleep. The first 2 naps of the day are in the crib and then we try to get out of the house. Could that be messing it up? Any advice to get later naps in the day? I feel like we are always racing against the clock between awake time and bedtime for the last nap.

That is a very common problem and I don't think it's associated with you leaving the house. Leaving the house is good for them and for you! But yes, it can turn into a race against the clock to get your little one to bed before getting overtired from the day.

For that last nap of the day, it’s totally acceptable to have that be a motion nap or a nap where you’re holding your baby. That third nap is essential at this age to get them the rest they need before bedtime. I actually often recommend motion or a car ride for that last nap! You're on the right track and remember this is only a short period of time in your baby's life. They soon will be keeping you up late and you'll wonder when they can go to bed earlier!

What's a general ballpark for a 11 week old of hours they need to sleep? I read somewhere they should sleep 15 out of 24 hours between night and naps. He's happier when he does sleep and less overtired. Should this be whenever and however I can get him to sleep or more of a routine?

I am a huge fan of routine and consistency. The sooner you get on a good routine, the sooner your baby can pick up on the pattern and become more comfortable with it! If you're in a place to be able to give more consistency around naps and bedtime, do it!

I was advised to try to gradually push awake times so I’d be going for 1.5 hours awake, 1.5 hours napping. I'm hesitant to try this since we're already struggling with overtiredness in the afternoon. Will this start to naturally happen around the 4 month mark?

I am a big believer in more sleep begets more sleep. So keeping your child well rested and not overtired is KEY! If your baby is sleeping well at night, then keep following their lead on naps. They know when they're tired — the clock doesn't know — so trust your instinct there. You're right that around 4 months naps will start to consolidate as their brain changes to adult sleeping patterns. Sometimes you'll get a sleep regression at that time but it will all sort out in a few weeks!

Should I expect each nap to last around the same amount of time? The first 2 morning naps are usually well over an hour, sometimes closer to 2. We can't get that in the afternoon. Normal?

It is normal for the first nap to be easier, longer and better. It's just our nature as babies get tired throughout the day for naps to get harder and shorter. Things will even out!

If the nap is less than 45 minutes or what is considered a cat nap, should we try to get them to sleep longer? Mine average 35, not really 40-50. She wakes up from most of them crying but letting her try to settle for 5 or so minutes doesn't seem to work and yesterday she refused the 4th nap.

The best route is to stay on top of sleepiness for those short naps — BUT, if baby can be settled back down to nap easily after a catnap, probably that's the best route. If not, get them up and try again for a nap when they show sleepy cues again (sometimes 20-30 minutes later because they didn't get enough rest).

For help with identifying sleepy cues, here’s a good resource

Is 5.5/6 months too early to transition to two naps? My daughter has pretty consistently been refusing her last nap of the day for the past week. Usually the other two are 1 hr+ but the last one has to take place in the car or my arms to happen, and it's usually just a half hour or so. Should I be pushing it more or just letting it go if the other two naps seem decent?

It's not typical to drop that last nap until closer to 8-9 months so I'd keep it around for a bit. A 30-40 minute nap for the last one is totally fine at this age. Make sure bedtime isn't too late and you should be good to go. When she is ready to drop it, make sure to make bedtime earlier to ensure she's not overtired for bed.

When it is transition time, you'll find they will fight and/or refuse the last nap of the day more and more often. Some days they will need the nap, some days they are fine with an early bedtime. The transition takes about a month from start to finish.

We have a 7 month old who we sleep trained for nights at 5.5 months. He's great at night in the crib for 11 hours. He's on a regular nap schedule but we use the swing for basically every nap. Yikes! It's just so easy. He's going to grow out of it soon. Any advice for trying to get him to nap in the crib?

I would make the transition out of the swing for naps soon. Seven months is pretty big and strong to be in a swing safely so if you feel comfortable following the same training method you used for night for naps, do it! It shouldn't take more than 1-4 days for him to adjust.

If you're feeling a little nervous about it, you can try this. First thing is to move the swing into the room with the crib. Then after he's adjusted to that change (1-3 days), if you're still using motion for the nap, slowly start backing off the motion. Use less and less speed, and after he's asleep, try to stop the motion. As soon as he's adjusted to that change, the big day is here! Do the nap routine just as you did before and lay him in the crib. Expect some upset but he will adjust within a few days. This is when you'd use the same sleep training method you used for nights as that has worked and he is familiar to it! He will catch on quickly since he's been through the training before!

I have a 10 week old and have heard conflicting things on starting a sleep schedule. That said, we're traveling a lot in the next 3 months - how do we keep him from hating his crib even more than he already does?

At 10 weeks there isn't going to be much of a predictable schedule so I wouldn't worry too much about it! One thing that can help is waking your baby at a consistent time in the morning, sometime between 6-7:30am to set their circadian rhythm. The rest of the day will vary depending on naps.

And as for traveling, it's probably best to just go with the flow, follow your baby's cues for naps and bedtime, then once things have settled down and you'll be home consistently, address the sleeping in their crib. No sense in forcing it, then having to start over when you get home!
If you’ve got a baby who’s refusing the crib, I promise — there’s always hope! Maybe go play in your baby’s room and even his crib throughout the day to get him comfortable in there before you try to change up the nap situation. You want him to feel comfortable and sleepy when he enters the room during the day. Maybe you can get him to nap in the ergo, while he's in his room? Just try some things to help him feel comfortable first! And just know making any changes to his routine will cause some upset, so be prepared and have a plan and follow that plan consistently