As a mum, you can’t get a lot done in 25 minutes. I know this because 25 minutes used to be my baby’s regular nap length. If your baby is anything like mine, then nap time gives you a choice; do you indulge in that cup of tea or do you crack on with that pile of laundry? But what if I told you there was a better way? What if I showed you How To Get Your Baby To Nap For More Than 25 Minutes (in 10 easy steps)? I used these super simple steps with both my daughters and their naps increased from 25 minutes to 2 hours.
Read on to find out how.
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Mum friends are GREAT!
Being part of a mum community, in whatever form that takes, is crucial to your survival, and ability to thrive, as a mum. Whether it’s your first time in the mum camp, or you’re raising a family of Von Trapps, you need these relationships with other mums in your life, like you need water in the desert.
Friendship with other mums is such a refuge as you navigate the murky waters of motherhood.
Only another mum:
- Will understand that any plans made are only ever written in pencil. They are subject to last minutes cancellation if the bubonic plague hits, which it frequently does
- Won’t get [too] frustrated if you’re running late (again), because, well, stuff happens
- Doesn’t mind if your house is a mess and your hair is dirty when they come round
- Shares your slightly fluid approach to time keeping
- Is totally sympathetic about how tired you are! She won’t expect any conversations about quantum physics to take place over a cuppa. Phew!
- Understands your fundamental need for adult conversation and cake, and can meet these needs whilst your children play together
I love hanging out with my mum friends, and I’m pretty impressed by them. I’m constantly learning loads from them and picking up new and better ways of doing things with my girls. I’m sure that below the surface they’re winging it, just like me. But they do a great job of making motherhood appear easy, like they’re taking it all in their stride.
See related posted: Winging in through motherhood.
Stumbling upon a parallel universe
Take baby naps for example. I’ve seen mum friends feed their new baby and then put said baby down for a nap. Where the baby has then promptly fallen asleep. Just. Like. That. I wouldn’t have believed this was possible if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. More than once.
The first few times I witnessed this extraordinary occurrence, I thought I had stumbled upon a parallel universe in which babies love sleep, and putting them down for naps was super easy and stress free. This was a far cry from my experience and I wanted to transfer to that universe immediately. But gradually I began to realise that this experience was quite common. It turns out some baby’s are actually really good sleepers! I know, who knew right?
If you’re shaking your head in disbelief right now, very aware that this isn’t your experience AT ALL, you’re not alone. It wasn’t mine either!
Didn’t get the ‘sleep memo’
If you do any research on the matter, you’ll be informed in no uncertain terms that babies like sleep. Not only do they like it, they need it. Without needing to do too much digging, you can easily find recommended sleep schedules for babies, all suggesting that your baby should be having 3 to 4 naps per day, each lasting around 1.5 hours, and each involving the baby sleeping independently of you. If this doesn’t sound like a pipe dream, I don’t know what does!
How amazing does that sound!? Unfortunately, neither of my babies got the memo about sleep being a ‘normal’ part of their young lives. For starters, neither Zoe or Sophia would nap in the Moses basket, ‘next to me’ cribb, or cot. At all.
As a newborn, Zoe used to nap in one of two places: either this amazing ‘Mother’s Cuddle’ sling, or the pram. The sling was great because it meant I could be hands free and get on with a few jobs whilst she napped. It was also nice to have her snuggled up next to me, comforted by my heartbeat and warmth, and upright which helped with her reflux. When she got a bit bigger, I would take her for two hour walks in the pram every afternoon. This was the only way she would go to sleep and have a decent length nap. The good news is that I lost a lot of my baby weight during this season of daily walks!
Sophia was also a big fan of sleeping whilst being carried. Although with her, we used this BABYBJÖRN Baby Carrier, because she was a summer baby and she would have been too hot in the wrap.
Yearning for freedom
When Zoe was a baby, I used to yearn for the days when I would be able to put her down in a cot and leave her to nap for a couple of hours at a time. Other mums made it look so easy, I wanted easy for a change. When Sophia was born, I realised how quickly the baby season would fly by, so I wasn’t in such a hurry to get her napping independently of me. This doesn’t mean I didn’t want her to sleep in her cot rather than in the sling, but I made a conscious decision to live in the moment, and enjoy the snuggles while the season lasted.
See related post: 4 Things “mum-of-two” me wishes she could say to “mum-of-one” me.
In both cases, I guess somewhere around 5 or 6 months old, they finally started accepting the cot as an acceptable place to sleep during the daytime.
But before the sting of the high five I exchanged with my hubby had worn off, they were awake again.
Hello 25 minute naps!
25 Minutes! That’s only 1,500 seconds! That’s barely enough time to make a cup of tea and sit down on the sofa! Let alone actually do anything productive during the super short nap time.
When this became established as the norm for Zoe’s naps, I decided that I needed to take some action. 25 minute naps were not good for the her, or for me. So I did some research, and after implementing a few things, Zoe’s naps increased from 25 minutes to 2 hours.* When history later repeated itself with Sophia, I followed the exact same 10 steps, and saw the same results.
*Obviously, their naps are not EXACTLY 2 hours EVERY single day. They fluctuated between 1 and a half hours and 2 hours and a quarter hours. But 2 hours is an average.
How to Get Your Baby To Nap For More Than 25 Minutes (in 10 easy steps)
Here are the exact steps I took to encourage my girls to nap for longer:
1) Use a sleep tracker app to keep a record of when the baby sleeps.
(I used this ‘Baby Tracker – Activity Log’ app with both of my girls. It’s free to download on your phone from either the App Store or the Play Store).
Then simply record the start and end time of each nap. Simple.
I also found this baby monitor essential for being able to pinpoint the exact moment the girls fell asleep. I found that the more precise I could be in determining the time, and length of her naps, the better.
See related post: 25 Essential items to make life easier for every new mum
It’s also worth keeping a separate log of when your baby is showing sleep cues. Definitely in the early days as a new mum with Zoe, I missed most of these cues and generally just thought she was hungry all the time. So I kept feeding her, rather than trying to put her down for a nap. In hindsight, a lot of these were sleep cues, and I was missing them, meaning she was constantly falling asleep mid-feed, not having a full feed, not transferring to a cot etc.
It was a vicious circle.
By tracking when she was tired each day, I quickly noticed that she was ready for a nap about 2-2.5 hours after she woke up in the morning. Being able to identify and respond to her sleep cues made a huge difference.
Mom Junction wrote this great piece: 10 Best Sleep Cues For Your Baby that is worth a read if you’re not sure how to identify your baby’s sleep cues.
I would just add ‘staring’ as a major sleep cue for me. Both my girls would stare vacantly into space when they were tired. And this was one of the most obvious ways of them communicating they were ready to sleep.
2) Look for patterns with the naps
The aforementioned app includes charts which makes it very easy to see patterns emerging, even after only a few days worth of data. Although obviously the longer you record this sleep data, the more accurate and therefore useful, this information becomes. It stops being just a snapshot, and starts being a true reflection of the norm. Whatever that is for your baby. I would recommend recording this information for a minimum of 3 days to see some patterns emerging.
After tracking her sleep for a week or so, it quickly became obvious that Sophia was ready for her first nap at roughly 9am. Or about 2-2.5 hours after she woke up. And that she generally napped for only 20-30 minutes.
Your baby will almost definitely be different, but hopefully you’ll see some kind of pattern.
3) Have a consistent sleep routine
Whether you love or hate the idea of routines, they can be very useful for letting your baby know it’s time to go to sleep. If you consistently do the same thing prior to putting baby down for a nap, you’re giving your baby advanced warning that it’s time to go to sleep, and these all help the baby to fall asleep.
Both my girls had the same sleep routine. It’s very simple:
- Change nappy
- Put on her Grobag Baby Sleeping Bag, (or try a SwaddleMe Pod if your baby is still very young)
- Read a story
- Close curtains
- Sing a song
- Put baby down in cot with comforter (if over 6 months)
It’s also worth noting that Sophia gets two extra steps to her sleep routine. Both have made a HUGE difference to her sleep, both during the daytime and at night. After doing the above schedule, I also do these two things:
- Put dummy in
- Turn white noise machine on
As a little aside, we love books in this house. Both my girls have been book lovers from a very early age. Here are a few of our favourite books that are consistently used as part of their sleep routine (and beyond):
4) Put your baby down awake
Ultimately, you want your baby to be able to settle herself if she wakes during her nap. This isn’t a sleep training post! Don’t worry, I’m not about to tell you to leave your baby to cry until she falls asleep. (Although it’s worth noting that there are a lot of sleep training methods that DO NOT require your baby being left to cry on their own!)
At some point, (maybe it’s an age thing, or maybe it’s simply that I was better able to pinpoint exactly when she was tired by recognising her cues, and then followed the same schedule every day), when I put her down awake, BUT SLEEPY, she would fall asleep. There are always exceptions of course and I don’t pretend that what is true for one baby is true for every baby. Both I do think similar principals apply.
With Zoe, at first I used to stay with her every time I put her in the cot until she fell asleep. Gradually I was able to reduce how much I assisted with her falling asleep until I could simply do the routine, put her down and leave. And it didn’t take as long to get to this point as I had thought it might. With Sophia, the dummy and white noise both made this much more straightforward.
5) Creep back into baby’s room about 5 minutes before the baby is due to wake up.
From what you have learnt in steps 1 and 2, you should have an idea of how long your baby generally naps for. For Zoe and Sophia, they both settled very quickly into the 25 minute nap routine.
Once I knew that her usual nap time was about 25 mins, I would start the sleep timer as soon as she fell asleep. Then about 5 minutes before she would normally wake up, so after she’d been sleeping about 20 mins, I crept back into her room.
If your baby is a very light sleeper, or you have a creaky door or floorboards that might wake your baby up, you might consider staying in the room after you put her down. This way, when it gets to the 20 minute point of her nap, you’re already in the room, and no creeping with be required. With Zoe, I spent a week sitting on the bed next to her cot reading while she slept, that way I was always ready for step 6 when it came.
More than one child to think about?
This sounds great when you only have one child, and your whole life revolves around them, but what are you meant to do when you have a toddler to look after as well? This is a question I asked myself a lot because nothing I seemed to read about baby sleep, suggested anything about how to implement any of these brilliant ideas when there are other little people to look after.
I can only tell you what I did to entertain Zoe whilst I focused on encouraging longer naps for Sophia. Maybe something will work for you, maybe it won’t. But if you keep trying, I’m sure you’ll find something that does. And remember, it’s only short term.
I tried these 3 things:
- Bought a few toys up for Zoe to play with outside Sophia’s bedroom door. These have to be quiet toys.
- Wait until I had a few consecutive days of hubby being around, so that he can look after the toddler while I concentrated on Sophia’s naps (or it could be a friend or family member)
- Use TV as a temporary babysitter
Short term pain, long term gain
The toys outside the room didn’t really work well. But the second two things did. I don’t really like to use the TV as a babysitter for Zoe, but I knew it would only be very temporary, and I was happy to let her watch one of her Winnie The Pooh DVDs so that I could help Sophia to nap longer. Knowing that in the long run, everyone would be happier, and Zoe would get a lot more of my undivided attention once Sophia was sleeping longer than 25 minutes at a time.
As a cheeky side note, I’m super careful about what I let Zoe watch. Not only is she a very sensitive little girl, but even things that appear quite innocent and are rated “U”, can have surprises which are not suitable for her to watch. This Winnie The Pooh DVD Collection was given to us a gift. It contains 5 films, all about an hour long. And they are all lovely. My husband and I have seen all of them, and they are perfect for Zoe to watch without us as well. So these films were my go to viewing for Zoe whilst I was needing to give Sophia a little more direct help with her nap times. Everyone was happy.
6) Watch sleeping baby like a hawk
So your baby has fallen asleep in the cot, and you’ve managed to successfully creep back into the bedroom roughly 5 minutes before she normally wakes up. Then what?
Then you sit and wait. And watch your baby.
You are watching for anything that indicates your baby is about to wake up. And these can be tiny things, so you have to watch very closely. It could be:
- A sigh
- The tiniest movement
- A cute little noise
- Something changing on the facial expression
It could be anything, and it’ll probably be something small, so you have to watch your baby like a hawk until you see it.
7) When your baby stirs, settle her back to sleep
As soon (!!) as you see your baby doing any of the above things, or something completely different but which you recognise is a stirring, you need to act. Whatever you would normally do to soothe your baby, help her settle and go to sleep you need to do this. For me, this meant putting my hand on her tummy and making ssssshing noises.
The logic behind this is that babies (like adults) transition between sleep cycles. If your baby is constantly waking up after the same length of time each nap, it probably suggests this is the point at which they move from one sleep cycle to the next. Only instead of transitioning to the next cycle, they wake up. By watching for clues of transitioning, you can then intervene before they wake up, and soothe and settle them which helps them to make the transition to the next (often deeper) sleep cycle.
I would then continue to stroke her tummy and make ssshing noises until I could see that she’d drifted back off to sleep. Then I took my hand off. Hurrah!!
Don’t start celebrating just yet though, you’re not done!
8) Continue to watch baby like a hawk
Once your baby has fallen back to sleep, you need to continue to watch her sleep. It’s quite likely that she may stir again, and you need to be watching and ready to settle her if she does.
You then need to repeat steps 6-8 until she has had the desired length nap.
9) Repeat steps 4-9 over the next few days
You then simply need to repeat this process every day until your baby sleeps for a decent length nap without intervention from you.
The first couple of times I didn’t assist with the transition, I was still in the bedroom watching like a hawk. When I saw her stirring, my hand hovered over her tummy, holding my breath, and waited to see if I needed to intervene. But then she transitioned herself into the next sleep cycle without me doing anything. After a couple of days, I didn’t bother to creep into her room anymore, I just kept an eye on the monitor to see how she was doing. And then after that, I just left her to it and got on with life.
10) And relax
And that’s it. Welcome to the world of babies who nap! It’s awesome. Now all you need to do is put the kettle on, sit down and enjoy a nice hot cup of tea. Or have a nap. Or read a book. Or put a load of washing on. Or all of the above. The possibilities suddenly seem endless right? You have a new freedom that you haven’t known since your baby arrived on the scene, and it’s up to you how you spend it. Make it count.
Or if you have more than one child at home, make yourself a nice cup of tea in your favourite ‘child friendly’ cup and go and play with your other kid/s.
And that’s all there is to it. How to Get Your Baby To Nap For More Than 25 Minutes (in 10 easy steps). Pretty simple right?
Do you feel like supermum now?
Some Bonus Tips
There are a few little bonus tips I learnt on my own journey to consistently longer nap times.
Once the baby is awake, it’s probably too late to settle her
If during steps 7 or 8 your baby doesn’t re-settle when you intervene maybe try a different way of settling her. But if this doesn’t work either, just leave it for that nap. In my experience, once my baby has woken up fully, it’s too late to settle her back to sleep. The whole point of these steps is that you need to settle the baby while they’re transitioning between sleep cycles. Once they’re awake, it’s probably too late.
Perseverance pays off
The first time I followed these steps with Sophia, we only got to step 7 and she wouldn’t resettle. Maybe I wasn’t watching her closely enough and I missed her cues that she was about to wake up. Anyway, I left it for that nap and tried again with the next one.
The second time I tried (a few days later), she slept for 1 hour 18 mins in total. I resettled her at 23 mins and then again at about 35 mins. And that was it. I continued to watch her like a hawk but she didn’t stir again until she’d been sleeping 1 hours 18 minutes and then I decided to let her wake up. This felt like a humongous step forward after her previous 25 minute naps.
A dummy is helpful for good sleep, but not essential
It took about 8 days for Zoe to start having naps that were a minimum of 1 and a half hours, with absolutely no intervention from me. With Sophia it only took about 4 days for her to go from 25 minutes to 2 hour naps. Every day! The introduction of a dummy made all the difference.
Zoe would never take a dummy and I wasn’t a huge fan anyway. If I had known when Zoe was a baby that a dummy would be such a game changer in the sleep department, I may have persevered. But truth be told, she didn’t need one in the end anyway. Maybe it took a few more days to get there, but she still got there. And stayed there.
Routine, routine, routine
There are two things I do consistently that I think help when it comes to nap times, both in terms of when her naps are due, and how to get her to settle easily.
- I aim to make sure she’s awake by 7am each day. Obviously, sometimes she’s awake before then, but if she’s not awake, I gently wake her. This is because her two naps are pretty regular now at 9am and 1pm, and I think that having a regular wake up time helps with having a regular naptimes.
- I always follow exactly the same sleep routine before I put her down for a nap. Even if we’re out and about, I try to read her a story, sing her a song etc.
Timing is important
I didn’t start intervening to lengthen Sophia’s naps until she was 7 months old. I don’t know, therefore, how these steps would work on a younger baby. It’s quite possible that if I had tried earlier, she would have napped better much sooner.
Or maybe she wouldn’t have been developmentally ready if I’d tried sooner. I honestly don’t know. If I ever decide to take the leap and have a third baby, I’d probably try lengthening the naps a little sooner than 7 months. I’ll let you know how it goes if I get that far.
Enjoy the longer naps
So there you have it. How to Get Your Baby To Nap For More Than 25 Minutes (in 10 easy steps). What do you think? For me, this has had a huge impact. When Sophia was only having short naps, I had the constant dilemma of decided whether to play with Zoe while it was just the two of us, or clear up the kitchen after breakfast and try to get on top of my day a little. I know Zoe should always come first, but I HATE living in mess.
Now I no longer have to make that decision. I can spend 20-30 mins doing a few jobs while Zoe happily plays by herself, and then I can sit down and spend another hour and a half playing with her. I love quality time with my Zoe and this has massively increased since Sophia’s naps improved.
The guilt I felt those first few days that I left Zoe with Winnie the Pooh as her babysitter, faded very quickly once I was able to give her huge chunks of my undivided attention. She has definitely benefited from some quality mum time. And I have been treasuring our special times together just as much!
Have you been struggling with your little one/s having consistently short naps? Maybe you’ve found something else that works. I would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.