Baby Suddenly Taking Short Naps (10 Reasons And How to Fix It)

If you’re a first-time parent and you’ve found yourself wondering why your baby is suddenly taking short naps, you’re not alone. 

This is a common concern among parents, and it can leave you feeling puzzled and quite sleep-deprived. I know I was! 

There’s a multitude of reasons why your baby is suddenly taking short naps and we will explain that in this article. 

Plus also provides you practical solutions on how to address each.

But let’s answer first the question how long exactly is a short nap vs. a long nap?

Short Naps vs. Long Naps

Short naps, typically lasting around 30 to 45 minutes, can sometimes be a cause for concern. 

Long naps, on the other hand, are usually around 1.5 to 2 hours. 

While every baby is different, long naps are generally more restorative and beneficial for your child’s development.

When Is A Short Nap a Problem?

A short nap becomes a problem when it consistently disrupts your baby’s sleep routine and prevents them from getting the deep, restorative daytime sleep they need. 

Baby Suddenly Taking Short Naps: Reasons And Solutions

Baby is 4 months or Younger

Babies under the age of 4 months often have shorter sleep cycles and may struggle to connect them, leading to shorter naps. 

Their sleep patterns are still developing, and it’s common for them to take shorter, more frequent naps at this age.

How To Help A Younger Baby Take Longer Naps

If your baby is 3 months, 4 months, or even 2 weeks old and they’re suddenly taking short naps, it might be because they are waking up after one sleep cycle. 

Babies’ sleep cycles are shorter, and they sometimes struggle to connect them. 

To help, try sticking to a consistent bedtime routine, and keep a lookout for the baby’s wake window.

You can also try soothing them back to sleep when they wake up, and gradually introduce them to longer nap times.

Ready for Nap Transitions (Drop One Nap)

As babies grow, they naturally drop one of their daytime naps to adjust to longer wake times. This transition can temporarily disrupt their nap routine, causing shorter naps. It’s crucial to follow their cues and adapt their schedule accordingly during these transitions.

General Nap Transitions Timeline

Nap transitions are a common reason for a baby taking short naps. 

As your baby grows, they will naturally drop naps to accommodate longer wake times. Here’s a rough guideline:

Transition from 5 to 4 Naps (Around 3 Months): At around 3 months of age, many babies start transitioning from taking 5 short naps to 4 slightly longer naps during the day. This change is often accompanied by longer wake periods between naps.

Transition from 4 to 3 Naps (Around 5 Months): By about 4 months, some babies further consolidate their naps, moving from 4 shorter naps to 3 more substantial naps. These naps become more predictable in length and timing.

Transition from 3 to 2 Naps (Around 8 Months): At around 8 months, many babies drop down to just 2 naps per day. This transition typically results in longer morning and afternoon naps and a more extended wake period in between.

Transition from 2 to 1 Nap (Between 14 to 18 Months): Between 14 to 18 months, most toddlers drop down to a single afternoon nap. This nap becomes more substantial and usually occurs after lunch, lasting 1-3 hours. This marks a significant shift in their sleep schedule.

How Do I Nap Transition?

Navigating nap transitions can be challenging but once you’ve gotten past that mental hurdle, all you really need to do is to adjust their nap schedule while paying close attention to sleep cues, staying consistent with nap routines, and sleep environments, and just being patient and managing your expectations.

Developmental Baby Sleep Regression

Sleep regressions are periods when a baby’s sleep patterns temporarily regress, often occurring around 4 months, 8 months, and 18 months. 

During these phases, babies may take shorter naps due to changes in their sleep cycles and routines. I’m just glad they’re not a monthly sleep regression thing because I don’t know what we’ll all do if that happens.

But I digress.

When Do Sleep Regressions Happen?

Developmental sleep regressions can cause your child to take shorter naps. 

They typically occur around 4 months, 8 months, and 18 months. 

These phases can be challenging, but they are temporary. Consistency in your routines and soothing techniques can help your baby adjust.

How Do I Manage Sleep Regressions?

During these periods, ensure your baby is well-rested during the day, stick to their bedtime routine, and offer comfort and reassurance when they wake up at night or from short naps.

And when things are getting tougher, always remind yourself that your baby is having a hard time – they’re not giving you a hard time.

Baby Is Overtired or Undertired

Babies who are either too overtired or not tired enough can struggle to take longer naps. 

Finding the right balance in their wake windows and ensuring they are well-rested can help extend their nap duration.

How To Help an Overtired or Undertired Baby

One common reason for short naps is that your baby’s awake windows are too long or too short. 

Adjust their nap schedule to find the sweet spot that works for them, especially if they’re undertired.

Always keep a look out for the appropriate wake windows and if your baby is overtired, limit any stimulation to help them relax and sleep.

So you have to keep the room as dark as possible, use a blackout curtain if needed, play a white noise machine, swaddle them, etc.

A well-rested baby is more likely to take longer naps.

Sleep Prop or Sleep Association

If your baby relies on sleep props or associations, such as being rocked to sleep, being nursed, or using a pacifier, they may wake up when these props are no longer present, leading to shorter naps. 

How To Help Baby Fall Asleep on Their Own

Gradually weaning them off these associations can promote longer, independent naps.

For eg., you can reduce the amount of rocking each night, you can remove the pacifier once they’re asleep, and for nursing, you can feed them at the start of their bedtime routine.

Not Sleeping Well At Night

Nighttime sleep disturbances can spill over into daytime naps. 

If your baby isn’t sleeping well at night, they may be more inclined to take shorter naps during the day. 

Addressing nighttime sleep issues can indirectly improve nap duration.

How To Make Baby Sleep Longer At Night

Sometimes, a baby suddenly taking short naps can be linked to nighttime sleep issues. 

Ensure that your baby gets sufficient sleep at night, as sleep deprivation can lead to shorter naps during the day.

Stay consistent with your bedtime routine, look out carefully for baby’s tired signals, try out a sleep training technique like the Shush Pat Method, change their routine to an Eat-Play-Sleep routine, or get some of the best baby sleep products to help them sleep at night.

Baby Is Hungry

Hunger is a common reason for shorter naps. 

How To Prevent Baby From Waking Up Quickly After a Nap

If your baby is waking up from short naps because they’re hungry, make sure they are well-fed before naptime. A full tummy can contribute to longer, more restful naps.

Baby Is Sick

When a baby is unwell, teething and such, discomfort and disrupted sleep can result in shorter naps. 

Providing comfort, following your pediatrician’s advice, and monitoring their health can help them recover and return to longer naps.

How To Make a Sick Baby Nap Longer

For times like this, you just ride out – stay patient, comfort your child, follow your pediatrician’s advice, and just until your kid recovers to try out a new nap technique.

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety can be a leading factor in a baby suddenly taking short naps. 

How To Make An Anxious Baby Take Longer Naps

Gradual exposure to short periods of separation and providing reassurance can help them adapt and extend their nap duration.

For eg., you can play “separation games,” like peek-a-boo to teach your baby about object permanence.

For older babies, play hide and seek.

You can assure by giving them extra attention and connection, to help them adjust to you not being there all the time.

And try not to sneak away when your baby is falling asleep. Let them see you leave and assure them that you will come back when they call you.

Nursery Room Isn’t Conducive To Sleep

An unsuitable sleep environment in the nursery, such as excessive light or noise, can lead to shorter naps. 

How to Create An Ideal Sleeping Environment for Baby

Creating an ideal sleeping environment, including a dark and quiet room, can contribute to longer and more restful naps for your baby.

Make sure that the room is not too cold nor too hot, swaddle them especially if they still have the Moro reflex, and use a white noise machine to lull your baby to sleep.

More Tips To Get Your Baby To Take Longer Naps

  • Avoid screen time before naps

Limiting exposure to screens before naptime is crucial as the blue light emitted from devices can interfere with your baby’s ability to fall asleep. 

Opt for soothing activities like reading a book to wind down before naps.

  • Create a naptime routine to signal sleep time

Establishing a consistent naptime routine helps signal to your baby that it’s time to sleep. 

This could include activities such as dimming the lights, singing a lullaby, or cuddling, creating a calming and predictable environment conducive to longer naps.

  • Try the crib-hour sleep training method

The crib-hour nap training method involves leaving your baby in the crib for a designated period, even if they initially wake up from a short nap. 

This technique encourages self-soothing and can lead to extended nap durations over time.

  • Watch baby’s wake windows and adjust nap schedule accordingly

Paying attention to your baby’s natural wake windows is essential. 

Adjusting their nap schedule to coincide with their optimal sleep times can help them take longer, more restful naps.

  • Help your baby get used to their sleeping environment gradually

If your baby is unfamiliar with their sleeping environment, they may have difficulty settling down for longer naps. Gradually introduce them to their crib or bassinet during awake times, allowing them to become more comfortable with their sleep space.

Related Article: Reasons Why Baby Hates Crib And How To Get Them To Sleep In It

  • Experiment with the wake-to-sleep method

The wake-to-sleep method involves gently rousing your baby from a very light sleep state before it fully wakes up. 

This technique can help them transition to another sleep cycle, potentially lengthening their nap.

  • Do assisted naps if your baby struggles to nap independently

Some babies may need extra support to nap well, especially if they’re too young.

Assisted naps involve using methods like babywearing or gentle rocking to help your baby fall asleep. 

While it’s essential to promote independent sleep, occasional assisted naps can be useful during challenging periods.

When Do Babies’ Naps Get Longer?

Babies’ nap durations tend to naturally lengthen as they grow and develop. Here’s a general timeline of when you can expect your baby’s naps to get longer:

Newborns (0-2 Months)

Newborns sleep a lot, but their naps are typically shorter, ranging from 30 minutes to 2 hours. They have a natural tendency to sleep, wake, and eat frequently, so shorter naps are normal during this stage.

2-4 Months

Around the 2- to 4-month mark, you may start to see some progress in nap lengthening. Naps can extend to 12 hours, but they may still vary in duration.

4-6 Months

By 4 to 6 months of age, many babies begin to consolidate their naps, resulting in longer, more predictable nap times. You might see 2 to 3 naps during the day, each lasting around 1-2 hours.

6-12 Months

Babies in this age range typically take 1 to 2 naps a day, with the morning and early afternoon naps being longer, often lasting 1 to 2 hours or more. Naps tend to become more consistent.

12-18 Months

As your baby approaches their first birthday, they might transition to 1 to 2 naps a day. These naps can range from 1-3 hours in total, depending on your child’s needs and schedule.

18-24 Months and Beyond

Beyond 18 months, most children transition to a single afternoon nap, usually lasting 1-3 hours. Eventually, they may outgrow their need for a daytime nap altogether, typically around 3-5 years of age.

It’s important to remember that every baby is unique, and these timelines are rough guidelines. 

Some babies may have longer or shorter naps than what’s typical for their age group. 

How Much Sleep Should My Baby Be Getting?

The amount of sleep your baby needs varies with age. 

As a general guideline, newborns require about 14-17 hours of sleep per day, while older babies may need 12-15 hours.

What If My Baby Won’t Nap?

If your baby refuses to nap, try adjusting their sleep schedule, creating a comfortable sleep environment, and being consistent with your routines. 

Or just wait until they’re a few weeks older or they’ve reached a milestone.

Sometimes, it takes time for babies to establish a nap routine.

Should I Help Resettle My Baby After A Short Nap?

Yes, helping your baby resettle after a short nap can be beneficial. 

Comfort them, use gentle techniques, and offer soothing activities to extend their nap.

You can also try crib hour training, to help get a little bit more sleep.

How To Cope If Baby Keeps Taking Short Naps

Maintain patience, stay consistent with routines, and consult with your pediatrician if your baby continues to take short naps. 

Sometimes, seeking professional guidance is essential.

If you’re getting extremely sleep-deprived and you need a break, ask help from your spouse, parents, and in-laws or friends to look after your baby. 

Reddit Advice on Baby Suddenly Taking Short Naps

I’ve always loved joining online parenting groups and asking for advice so here are some more tips from a few parenting Reddit communities that can help with a baby suddenly taking short naps:

Learn more about wake windows

Go out for walks, get daylight, and keep the baby active during wake windows.

Check their age and the developmental milestones that come with it and stretch out wake windows accordingly

Brace yourselves for the sleep regressions and just expect to not get as much sleep as much as your baby.

Ride it out

Remember that every baby is unique, so it’s worth exploring various strategies and finding what works best for your little ones.

FAQ on Baby Takes Short Naps

Why is my baby only taking 30-minute naps?

A baby that’s only taking 30-minute naps might be experiencing overtiredness, sleep regressions, being sick, or needing a more conducive sleep environment.

Why does my baby only take 45-minute naps?

Your baby only takes 45-minute naps for the same reason as why they take 30-minute naps. Investigate your baby’s sleep patterns and routines to determine the cause.

What to do if a baby keeps taking short naps?

If your baby keeps taking short naps, kindly refer to the solutions mentioned in this article to address the specific issue. Patience and consistency are key.

How do I help my baby nap more?

You can help your baby nap more by adjusting their nap schedule, staying consistent with sleeping routines, and following the tips and solutions in this article.

Do I sleep train during naps?

Yes, you can sleep train during naps. You can use gentle sleep training methods, but consult your pediatrician and choose an approach that aligns with your parenting style.

My baby is a light napper – is that common among babies?

Yes, some babies are naturally light nappers. Creating a conducive sleep environment and following a consistent routine can help.

Should I swaddle my baby for daytime naps?

Yes, you can swaddle your baby for daytime naps but take note to stop doing it as your baby grows. Always prioritize safety during sleep.

Is cat napping bad for babies?

While short naps are common, it’s ideal for babies to have longer naps for proper restorative sleep. Encourage longer naps for overall well-being.

Will a baby grow out of short naps?

Yes, many babies will grow out of short naps and naturally transition to longer naps as their sleep patterns mature.

Is it okay to let my baby cry after a short nap?

It’s important to comfort your baby when they wake up from short naps. Gradual methods of encouraging longer naps are generally recommended over letting your baby cry it out.

Baby Suddenly Taking Short Naps: Takeaway

I hope this comprehensive guide on why baby suddenly take short naps has provided you with valuable insights and practical solutions. 

Remember that every child is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. 

Be patient, stay consistent, and cherish those precious moments with your little one, whether they’re taking short naps or long ones.