Updated: Jul 28
One question I am asked a lot is.. how do I get my baby to sleep longer during the day? Quite often parents are chasing the elusive 2hr hour nap in the middle of the day as this is the nap they know their little one will keep for a couple of years.
If you’re struggling with a serial catnapper, the good news is that if you follow my preferred routine, by 5 months you only need to worry about resettling for just one nap a day - midday. This can be a huge relief for parents who feel like they spend most of their days trying to settle and keep their baby asleep.
Following age appropriate wake windows is one of the fundamentals of good sleep. Young babies can become overtired very easily. An over tired baby will struggle to fall asleep and stay asleep as their cortisol and adrenalin levels rise.
Watching your baby’s tired signs and making sure they aren’t awake too long before their lunch nap will help them sleep longer.
Be mindful not to overcompensate by putting them down too early. If they are under tired and haven’t been given enough wake time to build sleep pressure, they simply won’t be tired enough to have a nice long nap.
2. Expectations around sleep needs
Our babies only need a certain amount of sleep over a 24hr period. If we allow them to have a long morning nap, we can’t expect them to have a long nap in the middle of the day as well. For the first 8 months your little one's sleep needs rapidly change, and their ability to tolerate more awake time during the day gradually increases. Review your routine every few weeks so you can adjust the timing and length of naps where needed.
To promote a 2hr midday nap, you may find you need to wake them up from their morning nap. A long morning nap will reduce your baby’s sleep pressure, so they may need a little longer awake time before the next nap to build enough pressure for them to sleep longer than just one sleep cycle. But remember, if they’ve already had the majority of their total day’s sleep requirements in the morning, we can’t expect them to have another long nap later in the day.
Check out my Feed and Sleep routines (3 weeks -3 years) for the perfect balance of day sleep to nail the 2hr midday nap.
3. Sleep associations
In order to achieve a 2hr nap, your baby is going to need to be able to link sleep cycles. Daytime sleep cycles only last about 45 minutes. If your baby relies on you or any other inconsistent sleep association, they will struggle to consolidate their sleep on their own. If your baby is fed, patted, rocked or held to sleep, when they rouse between sleep cycles, they will require these same conditions to go back to sleep. To help your baby fall asleep independently, gradually remove the amount of assistance you provide while they fall asleep and introduce positive sleep associations like a dark room, white noise and a sleeping bag.
4. Consistent Resettling
Once you know you have the timing right and your baby’s sleep environment is set up for success, you need to allow them the chance to practice resettling. Resettling is a different skill to self-settling at the beginning of a nap. If your baby is only sleeping one sleep cycle, try resettling for at least 40 minutes (for babies 4 months +). If you can be consistent with your settling/resettling method and timing, your little one will learn that this is time for sleep and they will start to sleep longer on their own.
As with anything, it takes time. Be patient and consistent. It may take a few weeks, but you will see small improvements each day. Once your baby is nailing that midday nap, you’ll be surprised how much you can do in just 2hrs!