You’ve heard the term “sleep when your baby sleeps.” This is great advice, except what if your baby’s nap is too short to take a nap yourself or to get anything else done, for that matter. Let’s say you’ve rocked your baby for 15 minutes straight, and he’s completely asleep in your arms. 

It’s nap time, and your baby is asleep in your arms, so you gently put him in the crib and leave the room quietly. You think you have an hour or two to yourself while your baby sleeps. You can finally take a nap, do a load of laundry, and maybe even take a shower! However, you hear your baby crying when you’re about to step into the bathroom. You check your watch, and it’s only been 30 minutes. What happened?

Let’s break it down. A baby’s sleep cycle is about 35 to 45 minutes long. An adult’s sleep cycle is about 90 minutes long. When your baby gets to the end of a sleep cycle, they often have a brief wakeup. If your baby is dependent on you (such as rocking or breastfeeding) or an object (such as a pacifier), when they get to the end of the sleep cycle and wake up, they will look for the same thing to fall back asleep.

As a baby, maybe even as an adult, if you suddenly wake up in a different place or bed than where you fell asleep, you’ll probably be confused and wake up too! This is why your baby is taking short naps. They rely on sleep props to fall asleep, and when the prop is no longer there during the end of the sleep cycle, they can’t go back to sleep on their own.

The problem with a short nap is that the baby is not tired enough to go back to sleep on their own, but the nap is also not long enough for your child to fully recharge and rest. So you’ll end up with an overtired, cranky baby. This isn’t great news for you and the baby.

These are why it’s crucial to teach a baby to fall asleep independently, both at night and during nap time. It’s important that your baby doesn’t rely on a bottle or rocking or anything else to fall asleep. To have longer naps, your baby must learn to sleep in a crib and fall asleep independently. 

If you’ve been battling short naps for months, you might feel like independent sleep is impossible. It’s not! It does take time, effort, and patience, but you will get there. 

You may also need help from a sleep consultant, but we assure you it will be worth it in the end. When you’re able to teach your baby how to nap on their own, those short naps will stretch into one to two-hour naps, maybe even longer. Not only will you have your much-needed alone time, but you’ll also have a well-rested and refreshed baby.