Short Naps & Newborns
Mama- Please let me tell you this: you are not a failure, and you are not alone. Your sweet little one is a baby NOT a clock. Very few people experience a “perfect newborn daytime schedule.”
Occasionally, I’ll meet a family who has a newborn taking four beautiful two-hour naps each and every day.
That “perfect day” would look like this:
|7:00am||Awake and Eat|
|8:00-10:00am||Nap (2 hours)|
|11:00-1:00pm||Nap (2 hours)|
|2:00-4:00pm||Nap (2 hours)|
|5:00-7:00pm||Nap (2 hours)|
Did you notice that each and every nap in the above schedule was exactly two hours long? This is unrealistic for most newborns; developmentally, babies typically BEGIN to have more consistent and consolidated naps at about 5 months of age.
Did you know that 20-120 minute naps are NORMAL and DEVELOPMENTALLY APPROPRIATE for newborns? Yes, this is absolutely normal! Those short naps (that you despise) are incredibly common in the first few months of your baby’s life. I know, I know…it really wreaks havoc on that perfect eat/play/sleep routine that all the books seem to be bragging about.
So, what in the world are parents supposed to do in the meantime? Well, all those “secrets” are available when you take my newborn class, but here’s a hint: nighttime sleep is typically conquered prior to daytime sleep. So…work on your baby putting himself to sleep at bedtime and consolidating nighttime sleep first. (If you took the online newborn sleep class, please revisit tips 5 and 7. You’ll be amazed to see these babies fall asleep on their own in a bassinet with no crying involved. These tips will also help you get longer stretches of night sleep.)
During the day, keep practicing the eat/play/sleep method and attempt a nap after 60-90 minutes of awake time. Be sure to offer feedings every 2-3 hours according to his hunger cues. This will pay off in the long run, but don’t allow imperfect naps to cause you any stress.
Remember: Always offer naps, but it’s your baby’s job to take them. (Did you catch that? You OFFER naps, but it’s your baby’s job to TAKE the nap. You cannot force an infant to fall asleep or stick to a perfect schedule.)
Let’s take a look at how this could play out:
|6:30am||Awake and Eat|
|7:30am-8:15am||Nap (45 mins in bassinet)|
|8:15am||Awake and Play|
|9:15am||Change Diaper and Swaddle (See how we added a tiny activity to break up eating and sleeping?)|
|9:20am-11:10am||Nap (110 mins in bassinet – Unexpected gloriously-long nap. Mom got to enjoy a hot shower AND a nap of her own!)|
|12:15pm-12:35pm||SHORT NAP (20 mins- Mom tried for 15 minutes to get him back to sleep. It wasn’t happening.)|
|1:50pm-3:00pm||Naps (70 mins- Fell asleep on mama while eating because he had been up since 12:35. That’s okay! NO GUILT! Mom can enjoy those baby snuggles!)|
|4:15pm||Change Diaper and Swaddle (He fell asleep while Mom was swaddling him. That’s okay!)|
|4:20pm-4:45pm 5:20pm||Nap (60 minutes- 25 minutes in the bassinet, awoke, and Mom placed him in the Rock N Play; he slept another 35 minutes)|
|5:20pm||Eat (Cluster Feed: Notice, it has been less than 2 hours since the last feeding, but he showed hunger cues. Cluster feedings are common this time of evening.)|
|6:15pm-6:45pm||Nap (30 minutes- Fell asleep in bouncy seat)|
|7:35pm||Bath, Jammies, Sing, Swaddle|
Did you see how that schedule was perfectly imperfect?
Mom was making sure that feedings were offered every 2-3 hours according to the baby’s hunger cues, and she did her best to break up eating and sleeping. She offered naps. Sometimes they were long. Sometimes they were short.
Did you also notice that there were times when she picked up the baby and attempted to stretch that nap longer by snuggling, rocking, or baby-wearing?
Feel free to try this! It will not create a “bad habit!” Try for up to 15 minutes to get him back to sleep. If he does, great. If not, it’s okay for nap time to be over.
Here is another sample. Notice that this mom is using the same principles: offer feedings every 2-3 hours according to hunger cues, break up eating and sleeping when possible, and offer a nap after 60-90 minutes of awake time.
|6:15am||Awake and Eat|
|7:15am –7:30 8:15am||Nap (60 minutes- Baby put herself to sleep in the crib. Awoke after 15 minutes, mom replaces pacifier and rocks baby back to sleep.)|
|8:15am||Play (It has been 2 hours since the last feeding, but baby isn’t showing hunger cues. Mom actually finds that baby eats best closer to the 3 hour mark during this time of day.)|
|9:35am-11:00am||Nap (85 minutes-Baby falls asleep on Mom. Notice it’s been 80 minutes that baby has been awake. She swaddles her and baby is still sound asleep. No guilt. Later we’ll try to break up the eat/sleep. Mom holds baby for 25 minutes then lays her down in crib. Mom jumps in the shower.)|
|11:00am||Awake and Play|
|11:30am||Eat (Mom feeds baby early as she has plans to meet a friend for lunch. Baby not showing big-time hunger cues, but still eats well.)|
|12:00pm-12:15pm||Nap (15 minutes- Darn! A really short nap. Baby falls asleep in car seat and wakes up when taken out of the car.)|
|12:15pm-1:15pm||Play (held at restaurant by friend, plays in car seat)|
|1:15pm-2:30pm||Nap (75 minutes- Baby fell asleep in car seat. Mom went for a quick Target trip as she had 2 items on her list. Left with 14 items. Baby slept the entire time.)|
|3:45pm-4:30pm||Nap (45 minutes- Baby put herself to sleep in the crib! Watch the newborn class to learn how.)|
|4:30pm||Eat (Baby showing true hunger cues and desiring a cluster feeding.)|
|5:50pm- 6:00-6:40pm||Nap (50 minutes- Baby naps for 10 minutes in crib. Mom
|6:40pm||Eat (Baby is a bit fussy and desiring cluster feeding.)|
|7:40pm-8:15pm||Nap (35 minutes- Daddy wears baby in a wrap, and baby dozes while parents are cleaning up kitchen from dinner.)|
|8:15pm||Awake and Play|
|8:45pm||Bedtime Routine: Bath, diaper, jammies|
|9:30pm||Swaddled and put down for the night. (Parents decided no dream feed.)|
The eat/play/sleep routine is fabulous, but short naps are VERY common with newborns. It’s okay. In fact, it’s more than OK; it’s PERFECT!
Newborn babies are so young that many call this first 3 months the “fourth trimester.” One day may seem like sleep perfection, but the next day can look entirely different. This doesn’t mean that anything has gone wrong; it simply means that your baby is a newborn. Growth spurts, brain development, and all of the important things your baby is doing on the inside
If your baby is between 13-20 weeks, we have help for you as well! “Navigating Months 3 & 4” is a 50-page guide that will help you deal with both nights and naps as you walk through this tricky developmental phase. (PLEASE NOTE: If your baby is 12 weeks or younger, you’ll want to take the newborn class first! The information applies far beyond that
If your baby is older than 5 months and is still struggling with naps, my first question is this: “how are nights going?” If your baby isn’t yet sleeping through the night, this is the place to start. Please know that help is available for both naps and nights in our online class “ABC’s of Sleep.” This class is a 14-night plan that will help you conquer both nights and naps!
New Mama, I hope this blog sets your mind at ease. You are not a failure, and the length of your baby’s nap is no reflection on YOU. If no one has told you yet today… YOU ARE AMAZING! You got this!
I’m a mom of four, neonatal nurse, and wife of a pediatrician. My passion is teaching parents how to help their babies sleep with the science of a nurse and the heart of a mama so they can reclaim the joy of parenthood.