Tell me if this scenario sounds familiar…
Your baby wakes up in the morning after a solid night’s sleep. You feed, change diaper, play for a little bit, a little walk outside, then rock to sleep and put baby gently into the crib for the morning nap.
And then, 30 minutes later, baby wakes up fussy and irritable and refuses to go back to sleep.
So after half an hour of trying to put baby back down, you finally give in, hope for a better afternoon nap only to have the exact same scenario play out again. By then your baby is a cranky ball of unhappiness for the rest of the day.
So here’s what’s going on, and how to fix it.
Babies, just like the rest of us, sleep in cycles. We start off in a light state where we’re easily woken up, then gradually fall into a deeper stage where even loud noises or movement might not be able to rouse us. This, incidentally, is the good stuff. This is the really rejuvenative, restful sleep where our brains and bodies do all of the maintenance work that leaves us refreshed, clear-headed and energetic when we get enough.
Once we’ve come to the end of the deep-sleep cycle, we slowly start coming back to the light stage again, and typically we wake up for a few seconds and then drift off again, and the whole thing starts again.
In adults, one of those cycles typically takes about an hour and a half. In babies, it can be as little as 30 minutes .
So the fact that your baby is waking up after only 30 minutes is actually completely natural. In fact, if baby wasn’t waking up regularly, that might be cause for concern.
“But,” you’re thinking, “I have friends whose babies nap for two or three hours at a time.”
The only difference between their baby and your baby is…
They’ve learned how to fall back to sleep on their own.
That’s it. That really is the heart of the issue. Once your baby can fall asleep without help, they’ll start stringing together those sleep cycles like an absolute champ. That’s going to make your baby a whole lot happier and, leave you with hours at a time to do whatever you need to. (Even if it’s just sitting around scrolling through Instagram- not judging here!)
So ok, remember back at the start of that scenario, there you were, getting ready to put baby down for a nap, gently rocking to sleep and then putting baby down in the crib after they’ve fallen asleep on you.
Stop. Right. There.
That’s where you need to make some changes. Because in this scenario, you are acting as what we in the sleep business refer to as a “sleep prop.”
Sleep props are basically anything that your baby uses to make the transition from awake to asleep. Pacifiers are the most common example, but there are many others, including feeding, rocking, singing, bouncing, snuggling, and car rides.
Now I’m not saying you shouldn’t rock your baby, or sing, or read stories, or love your baby like crazy. You absolutely should. Just not to the point where you bring them to fall asleep.
A bit confused? Let’s compare it to food. You grocery shop for your baby, you prepare his ‘meals’ you might even spoon feed him but you don’t actually swoller the food for him! Sleep is no different. Just like swallowing, falling asleep independently is a skill that you baby needs to develop.
When it comes to bedtime, you can assist your baby with a good routine (bath, pajamas, story) but you have to put your baby down in the crib, while he’s still awake, and let your baby fall asleep on his own. How do I do this without letting my baby cry you wonder? This is where a sleep consultant comes in handy 😉
Yes there might be a little bit of protest for a day or two, but for the majority of my clients, the results start to materialize in about two or three days.
Think about that. Two or three days, and you and your little one could be enjoying the extraordinary benefits of proper sleep. It will result in a happier, healthier, more energetic baby and you’ll BOTH sleep better at night!
Some other pointers for extending baby’s nap time…
- ● Keep the bedroom as dark as possible. Buy some blackout blinds if the sun is getting in, or if you’re on a budget, tape some black garbage bags over the windows. It doesn’t have to be pretty, it just has to be functional.
- ● White noise machines are useful if baby tends to wake up due to the neighbor’s barking dog, the inconsiderate delivery guy ringing the doorbell, or any other noise that might startle them out of their nap. Just make sure it’s not too close to their ears and not too loud. 50 dB is the recommended limit.
- ● If you’re running into trouble applying these suggestions, set up a free 15 minute consultation with me. The solution might be simpler than it appears, and most of my clients see a dramatic improvement super quickly.
And as always..I’m here to help you navigate these ‘puzzle pieces!