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Short Naps: Why They Happen & What to Do

A few weeks ago, Owen started taking really really short naps. It came as a total shock to me because he’d usually nap 1.5 hours easily! It was like clock work. I’d hear a peep, look at the clock and sure enough, it was an hour and a half, sometimes right on the dot!

Suddenly the peeps were coming at 30, 45 and 55 minutes. And, he wasn’t going back to bed either. For a while, I felt lucky if he slept longer than an hour. Even if we made it to the hour mark, he’d wake up about 10 minutes later.

It was so frustrating because I knew he was tired! He was crankier and fussier than normal because he wasn’t getting as much rest, and it was mentally and physically exhausting for me too.

I wasn’t able to get anything done or have any quiet time to myself, which made me extra tired!

I asked you guys for tips on Instagram so thank you so much for all of your tips! I got a lot of requests for what to do when your baby takes these short naps, so I figured sharing here could be helpful for anyone else going through the same thing!

I’m clearly no pro, but here’s what all of you guys suggested, so thank you!

Why Baby is Waking Early from Naps

1. Wake Time Too Short

As our babies get older, their wake times extend too. It’s tough to know exactly when though. It seems like Owen can easily go two hours one day and the next day is tired and rubbing his eyes after an hour.

Putting a baby to bed before they’re too tired can result in them waking up shortly after being put down. I try to look for sleepy cues like yawning, rubbing eyes and Owen makes this funny low growly noise when he’s tired. As soon as any of those happen, I scoop him up, change his diaper and put him to bed before he hits the fussy stage.

Reader Solution: If you suspect your baby is ready to extend their wake time, try putting them down 15 minutes later! Being a little bit sleepier can definitely make their naps longer!

2. Wake Time Too Long

The opposite of the above! If a baby’s wake time is too long and they’re overtired, it can make it harder for them to fall and stay asleep. Avoid over-stimulating them, especially in the latter half of wake time. TVs and electronic screens can be really stimulating, so I try to avoid that, but Rob usually has sports on during the weekend, so we keep the volume low so Owen doesn’t get too distracted.

Reader Solution: If you have a set schedule, put them down at that time, regardless of whether or not they seem sleepy. When I do this, Owen usually crashes quickly and quietly!

3. Developmental Leaps

Depending on the age of your baby, this could be a major reason why their sleep patterns suddenly change. Especially if your baby was a great sleeper and napper and suddenly isn’t! This is what happened to us when Owen hit 5 months, and someone suggested I check my Wonder Weeks app to see if he was in a leap. Sure enough, he was! The signs included waking early, sleeping poorly and eating less—which he was doing all of!

They can also be very needy and more anxious at this leap because they start to be able to understand the distance between things. When I leave him in his crib, I always tell him that I’ll see him after he wakes up! Of course, he doesn’t fully understand, but when I come back after nap time every time, I think it starts to just become routine and feels safer to him.

Reader Solution: Give it time! Plenty of you guys responded saying that your 4.5-5.5 month old baby went through the same thing about this time and it lasted a few weeks and then they went back to normal! So, for now, we’re not worrying about it and just letting him sleep when he wants!

4. Sleep Regression

The dreaded four month sleep regression! Owen didn’t have any sleep issues at 4 months, but apparently it can happen anytime between 4-5 months. Again, it’s a developmental thing that they should outgrow!

Reader Solution: They might not sleep great for a while, but keeping your schedule strict can help get their little bodies into a rhythm. So, stick with it and they’ll eventually fall back into place!

5. They Need More Calories

I found that this happened a lot when I was breastfeeding. I never knew exactly how much Owen was getting and he’d often fall asleep on the boob before taking a full feeding. I’d put him down and he’d wake up 30 minutes later crying because he was still hungry. Now I only pump and bottle feed so it’s easier for me to make sure that he’s getting a full feeding every time. That definitely helped him get in a better sleeping routine when we was little.

At 5 and a half months, we’re getting to the point where we’ll start introducing solids! I’m hoping that getting more food in that little belly will keep him full longer and encourage longer naps as he gets older.

Reader Solution: Several people said that after 4-5 months, they added a little rice cereal to their baby’s formula or breastmilk at night to help. Starting solids also helped for a lot of people! Just know that babies shouldn’t have any solids before 4 months, and a lot of resources suggest that you wait til 6 months. Check with your doctor for their recommendations for your baby!

6. Room Not Dark Enough

This was something I hadn’t considered, but a lot of you mamas asked if his room was completely dark. Spoiler, it wasn’t! There’s a transom window above his bed and we didn’t have black out curtains. I ended up covering the window with cardboard and switched out the curtain for a darker one until I buy a blackout one at our new home.

I can’t be 100% sure, but I think it’s easier for him to put himself back to sleep when it’s really dark because he thinks it’s night time!

Reader Solution: Make it completely dark! Sounds crazy, but you guys said it really helps!

7. Other Tips

A bunch of you also said that as long as your baby wasn’t crying like something was wrong, to leave them in their crib for the rest of their nap. Eventually they started to learn that nap time is quiet time and most learned to put themselves back to sleep!

Owen does this a lot! He’ll sit in his crib and talk to himself, or just wiggle around. As long as he’s not screaming, I let him be! Nap time is my down time and I don’t like cutting it short, haha!

Did your baby go through a phase where they took short naps? What tips do you have for fixing or easing the short nap problem?

P.S. This is somewhat off topic, but oh well—I’ve been getting lots of DMs on Instagram for Owen’s products and I’m starting to post them in the LikeToKnow.it app! Just download it and search for ‘thefoxandshe’, hit follow and you’ll get all my shoppable posts, including stuff I don’t post on Instagram. Also, there’s no algorithm, so you’ll always see everything that I post! I just shared the details of his activity center that he’s obsessed with here!

BTW, how we got Owen to sleep through the night, and tips for traveling with a baby.