25 Nap Time Tips: How To Help Your Baby Nap Better and Longer

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We know, parents, we know – judging by what we’re hearing from many of you in our Helpdesk, naps are high on your radar! You want to know how to make them more consistent, how to make them longer, how to make each nap as restorative as possible! In short, you want to become the Nap Jedis. And we get it! A great nap schedule is, after all, one of the keys to sleeping through the night!

bss_ebook_7napmistakes_left-transIf you’re struggling with short and inconsistent naps, you’ll definitely want to take a moment to download our free nap guide. It’s a great, easy-to-read guide that walks you through some of the most common napping mistakes we parents tend to make, and offers tips on how to solve them.

You’ll also want to keep reading this article. It lays out 25 nap time tips you can start using as early as your child’s next nap!

25 Nap Time Tips

25 Nap Time Tips You Can Put To Use Today – As Early As Your Child’s Next Nap!

  1. Don’t force a nap time schedule too soon. Most babies aren’t ready for a by-the-clock nap time schedule until around 5 months or 6 months; forcing your child onto a clock-based nap schedule before then can actually result in over tiredness, which will make overall sleep worse.
  2. Rigid or flexible nap schedule? Speaking of schedules – all nap schedules don’t look the same, and not all nap schedules work for all babies. Some babies and parents do great with a flexible, relaxed daytime schedule that works more like a rough outline of how the day will go. Other families, however, do better with a rigid schedule that is extremely predictable. And even the same baby may need different schedules at different seasons of life, so be ready to get flexible or tighten up depending on your baby’s development and needs.
  3. For newborns and young babies – watch sleep cues closely. Don’t watch the clock to determine your newborn’s next nap. Instead, watch for sleepy cues, like yawning, eye-rubbing, staring off into space, etc. If you wait until your baby is fussing, you’ve waited too long. Crying is usually a sign of overtiredness.
  4. Offer your toddler a snack or meal before nap time. Your toddler’s rapid growth and development (not to mention boundless energy!) burn a lot of calories! So be sure to offer a meal or a small snack before nap time. This will prevent your toddler from waking early from the nap, out of hunger.
  5. Offer your baby a feeding close to, but not right before, nap time. Toddlers need food fairly close to nap time, but be careful about feeding your young baby right before a nap – particularly if your baby has reflux or GERD. Feed and burp, and then make sure your child is upright for a bit, so that you avoid a mid-nap spit-up session.
  6. Create a nap time routine. Bedtime routines are great, and nap time routines are, too! Your nap time routine can simply be a shortened version of your bedtime routine. Be sure to do it consistently before each nap, as a way to set the stage for good nap time sleep.
  7. Avoid screen time right before nap time. TV and sleep do not mix! Avoid having your toddler watch TV or play on an iPad or tablet right before nap time, as it may lead to a too-short nap. End all screen time at least 30 minutes before your toddler’s nap time.
  8. Avoid too many on-the-go naps. On-the-go sleep (the kind that happens in a carseat or stroller) is less restorative than sleep that happens in the crib. Occasional on-the-go naps are fine, but the majority of your child’s naps should happen at home, or at a caregiver’s.
  9. For younger babies, work on having one or two naps a day in the crib, if you’re working towards more independent sleep. There’s no rush to work on sleep coaching with your young baby, but if you’re working on helping your baby sleep more independently, aim for the first morning nap (and possibly the first afternoon nap) happening in the crib. You can also work on laying your baby down drowsy but awake during these naps.
  10. No naps before 8 a.m. or after 6 p.m. For babies older than 3 or 4 months, a good rule of thumb is to have no early-morning or evening naps. Early-morning naps tend to reinforce early-waking habits, and evening naps tend to mess with bedtime.
  11. Wake your child from a nap that’s going too long. You don’t generally want to wake a sleeping baby(that’s especially true for newborns!), but there are times when you need to wake your child from sleep, and an extra-long nap is one of those times. If your child naps too much during the day, it will almost certainly affect night sleep.
  12. Avoid letting naps in the infant swing become a habit. It’s fine to use the swing to soothe and relax your baby – and it’s no problem if your child catches an occasional “swing nap”. But avoid letting your baby take the majority of her naps in the swing.
  13. Catnaps are normal for newborns and young babies and during a nap transition. In general, you want a nap to be around an hour (or more) in order to be restful. If your child’s naps are always 30 or 45 minutes, that’s a problem. However, short catnaps are very normal for newborns. Short naps are also common during a nap transition, such as when your child is working on dropping a nap.
  14. Know the timing and signs of nap transitions. Speaking of nap transitions – it’s a great idea to read up on when they happen and how to ease the transition for your child. Nap transitions can be tough, but the more you know, the easier they are to manage.
  15. White noise can be key to making naps last longer. All those daytime noises – dogs barking, phone ringing, traffic bustling – can make it hard for your child to sleep well. White noise is a great way to block out these sounds, and help your child sleep deeply.
  16. Make sure your nap expectations are reasonable. We find that lots of parents make the mistake of expecting too much nap sleep from their children. So what they see as nap “problems” really aren’t problems at all. Be sure to learn how much nap sleep your child really needs, and keep your expectations reasonable.
  17. Understand that nap sleep and night sleep are different. Your child may sleep well at night, but that doesn’t guarantee naps will be great. Why? Because nap sleep and night sleep are very, very different, and are handled by different parts of your child’s brain.
  18. Remember that nap training and nighttime sleep training are different. Speaking of the ways that nap sleep and night sleep differ – remember that the approaches you use to sleep train for nights and for naps may need to be different. You may need to use different sleep training methods, a different pace, etc.
  19. Find a balance between noise and silence. Creating an optimal nap environment (read: quiet and dark) can go a long way towards lengthening naps. But don’t go crazy with it! After all, depending on your living situation, daylight hours may be noisy around your house! Know that you can’t prevent every disruptive sound. And while it’s true that you probably can’t teach your baby to sleep through noise, you also can’t drop a “cone of silence” over your home at nap time, either! 😉
  20. Find a balance between light and dark. Keeping your child’s napping area dark can really help produce great naps because it’s a great way to signal to your child that it’s time to settle down and sleep. But again, don’t go crazy with it…you probably won’t have much luck in making your baby’s room pitch-black at noon on a sunny day!
  21. Don’t switch to one nap too soon (many parents do!) Many parents make the mistake of assuming that the transition from 2 naps to 1 should happen around 12 months (probably because there’s a little nap regression that happens around that time). But most babies aren’t ready to transition to 1 nap at 12 months.
  22. Establish “rest time” for your toddler, once he’s done with naps. When your toddler is ready to stop napping, you don’t have to give up your afternoon peace and quiet! Instead, try establishing a “rest hour” for your toddler.
  23. If you’re sleep training, you may want to work on nights before naps. This is not a hard-and-fast rule, of course, but some families find that it’s easier to work on nighttime sleep first, and then focus on naps once nighttime sleep has improved.
  24. When sleep training, know how long to work on a nap (and when to give up!) How long you should work on naps during sleep training will vary from child to child (and a sleep consultant can help you figure out the timing that’s best for your child), but in general, you don’t want to spend 2 hours working on one nap! 😉 Instead, work on a nap for a while, then take a break. You can try again, or – depending on your nap schedule – you may need to wait until the next nap time to try again.
  25. Take “schedule busters” in stride, but don’t let them undo your nap progress. “Schedule busters” like teething, growth spurts, illness, and sleep regressions can destroy your child’s napping habits temporarily. It’s fine to take a break from your usual napping routines to comfort your child. But be sure that you avoid creating any new napping habits you’ll have to undo later.

Don’t Endure Another Bleary-Eyed Day: Get Nap Help From A Pro!

Working on nap sleep really stumps some families (again – nap sleep is different than night sleep!). But not to worry! If naps are a nightmare in your home, we can help! Our team of expert consultants is ready to offer you compassionate, caring support that is 100% personalized to your unique situation. We will craft a Personalized Sleep Plan™ specifically for your family! And we’ll walk you through every step of the sleep coaching process in a way that matches your goal and parenting style.

Browse our list of consultation package options here.

Once you make your choice and purchase, you will immediately receive an e-mail with your Helpdesk login information. You’ll be able to login and start your Sleep History questionnaire right away – it’s that simple!

Want more information about how personalized help works? Check out our FAQ page here, and get answers.

Have nap time tips of your own? Share them below! Nap time questions?x

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16 thoughts on “25 Nap Time Tips: How To Help Your Baby Nap Better and Longer”

  1. Am I nuts hoping to get my 9 week old napping/sleeping better? TBH she sleeps ok (usually has two nice sized sleeps at night) but we have a few big issues:
    1. Sleep association of nursing/bottle to sleep
    2. Only naps/sleeps when held
    3. Wont sleep the night without me.

    I’m just not sure what I should be starting with, like, which issue to tackle first, or can I do it all together?
    We have a lovely expensive bassinet that she’s never slept more than 5 minutes in. I never thought I’d get here, but the past 3 weeks she has co slept with me in bed (with bolsters and an Owlet Monitor, but still, not what I wanted) because I hadn’t slept more than an hour at a time since she was born.
    I just feel like if I let this keep going it will become a bigger issue, but I can’t bear to have her cry… is there anything I can do?

    • Hi @MAW, thank you for writing to us and congratulations on your little one. Hang in there, it is a wild transition to a sweet baby and you’ll find your groove eventually, even if it doesn’t look like you thought it would. We would love to help though! First off, you are right that there could be long terms effects if you continued this, but you have a bit of time before you have to worry about that (usually the bad habits are tougher to get rid of around 4 months) and you can certainly start implementing things now, but know you have time and don’t have to do it all at once. 🙂 Here is a link to a free guide with tips for new parents that should help: https://www.babysleepsite.com/15-free-baby-sleep-facts-new-parents-must-know/
      If you want more information we also have an ebook all about newborn sleep through the first year. You can read more about that here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/essential-keys-to-your-newborns-sleep/
      I hope this helps! Enjoy all those sweet newborn cuddles. 🙂

  2. Nap training help needed! We did CIO for nighttime, and it took longer then we hoped, but most nights are pretty good at this point and my 9.5 month old goes down without too much fuss and sleeps through. We are finally doing nap training because we have to rock her to sleep and it’s getting too hard to put her down without waking. Trying to break the rocking sleep association so we use a modified bedtime routine with pj change and stories. It’s only been two days but she has screamed for almost the whole hour each nap. So I’m looking for any tips or advice, and also wondering that if she does make it to that hour mark should I get her up and keep her up until the next nap or do a rescue nap and try and get her down with rocking so she doesn’t become overtired. Last question is what to do if it starts impacting night sleep – pushing bed earlier or later, or throwing off her moderate success with bedtime? Thanks ladies!

    • Hey @Vanessa, I am sorry to hear you are struggling with your daughter’s naps! Here is a link to download a free ebook with some nap tips that may help: https://www.babysleepsite.com/free-baby-nap-guide/
      If you continue to have issues with her fighting you on it, you may find working with a sleep consultant can do wonders for your nap time! They can help with the schedule all around, or whatever areas you are having problems with, and then if you need any other help down the road (nap transitions, new sibling, sleep regression, etc) you already have that relationship. To learn more about our different options, you can visit our site here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-toddler-sleep-consulting-services/
      I hope this helps! Hang in there!

  3. I have tried to move my 15month old to 1 nap since doing so her nap is 30-45min all day long! I then put her back to 2-3-4 schedule thinking she was not ready and she is now doing 30min naps 2X a day which is still not enough time. She nurses to sleep and I am very anti cio any suggestions? I need her to sleep so I can work

    • @Stephanie – Thank you for reading and for sharing with us. Managing naps can definitely be a challenge but it sounds like you’re working very hard to ensure she gets enough daytime sleep. Getting the schedule right can be tricky since quality and timing of night sleep, nap timing, feeding and environment all play into getting a decent nap. We do find that most toddlers are ready for 1 nap between 15-18 months, and many, many, many times with this 2-1 nap transition, though, they will take quite some time so consistency with whatever you’re doing is key. If you’re interested in weaning her away from nursing to sleep, you can do this gently, with as few tears as possible, in an effort for longer stretches during the day as well. If you’d like more support, you should consider one of our consulting options listed here:https://www.babysleepsite.com/services One of our consultants will definitely be able to walk you through this process. Hang in there, and good luck!

  4. My almost 5 month old won’t nap longer than 30 mins and is obviously tired. What can I do to help her sleep longer? The room is dark, I have a sound machine, and I put her to sleep before putting her down (we try drowsy but awake but she just screams whenever I leave). Should I be trying to get her back to sleep when she wakes up? Or just wait for the next nap?

    • Hi @ Megan – Thank you for writing! It sounds like you’re working hard on your daughter’s naps! I would guess that she is going through the 4 month sleep regression – short naps are a very common occurrence with this regression.
      Here is a link to our recommend schedules:
      You might find this helpful to use the 4 month schedule while her naps are still short. Adding an extra nap may help, and giving her a little time to fall back to sleep/encouraging her to fall back to sleep will not hurt! Short naps often lengthen at around 6 months, so if they remain short after 1-2 months, you may want to consider working more aggressively on lengthening them at that time.

      I hope that this information helps, but if you find that it is not helping enough, please contact us!

  5. My baby who is 8 months old used to have 2 naps a day napping for anything between an hour and 2 hours for each nap. Now he will only nap for 30mins at a time. How do I change this? He falls asleep by himself in his cot. His routine is roughly, wake up between 6 and 7, nap between 8.30-9 depending on when he wakes up. Then used to nap after lunch when he had napped for a good time in the morning (max 3 hours after he woke up). Now he needs to nap sooner and I put him down for naps when he is tired as he can’t last if he has only napped for 30mins. He starts his bedtime routine at 6.15 and is asleep by 7. Usually wakes once in the night.

    • @Han – Thank you for your sharing. Your little guy sounds like, overall, he’s doing well with his sleep! Perhaps you can try to work on keeping his nap times a bit consistent and ensuring he gets 2-3 hours of awake time before attempting a nap again. Here’s a sample schedule you can use as a loose guideline – https://www.babysleepsite.com/schedules/9-month-old-baby-schedule/

      If you feel his schedule is working fine and/or you’ve given this a try, please also remember that babies go through a huge developmental leap between 8-10 months old that is widely known to disrupt naps and/or night sleep majorly for a little while. You can read more about that here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-sleep-patterns/8-9-10-month-old-baby-sleep-regression/ If that’s his case, you’ll just want to be sure not to create a long-term habit for this short-term phase as he goes through this important milestone.

      If, after a few weeks you’re still not seeing results or if you find you want more support right now, please consider one of our consultation packages, which you can read more about here: http://www.babysleepsite.com/services so that one of our consultants can work one on one with your family to get your little guy back on track with his naps!

      Hang in there, Han, and thank you again for reading and commenting!

  6. My 11 month old refuses to nap during the day. I’ve tried EvERYTHING. Crying it out he will cry the entire nap rarely ever falling asleep. I’ve tried laying down with him, and he just thinks it’s playtime. I’ve tried adjusting his nap time multiple times and still nothing works. If I give him a bottle sometimes he falls asleep on me and the second I put him down he screams bloody murder. My husband will not pay for a sleep consultant and also won’t help me with this nap issue so i am with a screaming baby alone everyday. He was never a good napper but this is by far the worst ever. I still want him to nap twice a day and we are lucky of he naps even once. He NEVER does this a bedtime ever! IaM so confused why he never does this at bedtime but when nap time comes around his a terror! I am seriously starting to go crazy! Help me please any tips besides car rides and walks in the stroller because I need a break as well and need to get all the house work done as well.

    • @ Michelle – well, bedtime and nap time sleep are handled by different parts of your little guy’s brain, so that’s likely what accounts for his ability to fall asleep well at bedtime, but his huge fuss at nap time. As for what to do about it…have you thought about picking up a Mastering Naps and Schedules bundle? It includes the e-book plus an Express Sleep Plan that would give you a step-by-step process for working through the nap issues…and it’s only $77 (and right now, it’s on sale!). You can read more about the e-book bundle here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/mastering-naps/ That might be a great, low-cost option for you.

      Thanks for commenting, Michelle – and good luck!

  7. I have a 2 year old who still naps, nursing, in my arms. I know! Tried at different points to sleep train him for naps and, while nighttime sleep training was successful, every attempt to do it during the day failed. Is it just way too late to have any hope of him ever napping in his crib? Or will we simply have to give up napping (yikes!) when I stop nursing him? Thanks!

    • @ Joanna – this is fixable! You just need to focus on nap training the same way you would for night training – you’ll want to start off by helping him learn to fall asleep independently, without you holding/nursing him. That might involve you lying next to him while he falls asleep. Then, you’ll work on transitioning to the crib, and you’ll eventually work up to the point when you are able to put him down in his crib, and then walk away.

      Does that help? Thanks so much for commenting! 🙂

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