Brave Little Baby

Struggling with short naps, HELP!

Naps are essential for babies, and you already know that…. But it may feel like you’re wasting your time trying to help your child extend their naps only to have them take another short one, which is so frustrating, right?! 

This may be your only chance to take a break, and we all know how important it is to take a few moments for ourselves, and you are doing your absolute best here to try and get some rest for your baby too…….. 

What exactly is a catnap? 

Catnaps, also known as short-duration naps, naps that last less than an hour. 

Why do babies continue to take catnaps after putting in so much effort? 


Begin with newborn infants. They have a natural tendency to take short naps, particularly during the phase (6–8 weeks). Their naps will begin to lengthen around the age of 12 weeks. Hang in there and try your best and if all else fails, baby wear.

Check out our simple truth about newborn sleep course

As your baby grows older, their brains and bodies mature as well, and their naps become more predictable. 

At 5-6 months, you can start to establish a rhythm and observe how naps naturally lengthen as they are developmentally ready.

Nonetheless, not all babies begin taking longer naps; for some, this can be a serious issue, and here’s why: 

  • Short naps prevent babies from falling into those restorative deep sleep cycles. Which makes them feel refreshed and helps them maintain a sense of balance throughout the day. 
  • Night wakings can be caused by short naps, which can lead to more short naps, and so on. It’s a never-ending snowball effect. 

Why does my baby take such short naps? 

There are several reasons for this, and here are a few that we know are to blame:

  1. Circadian rhythm, sleep pressure and hormones
  1. Dependence on unsustainable sleep associations 
  1. Nap transitions
  1. Sleep coaching
  1. Nutritional implications 

Let’s take a closer look at them one by one: 

  1. Circadian rhythm, sleep pressure, hormones and development

Circadian rhythms are 24-hour biological processes. They are part of our body’s internal clock and drive our sleep patterns. Since light and darkness influence circadian rhythm, we tend to sleep in dark situations. Cortisol keeps your baby awake during the day, enabling other hormones to take over as the body prepares for sleep. The hormone adrenaline can also disrupt sleep, so too much excitement late at night can impact capacity to sleep. The homeostatic process(Sleep Pressure) is the desire to sleep that is affected by the amount of time spent awake. In opposition to the homeostatic desire to sleep, the circadian process sends stimulatory signals to arousal networks to encourage wakefulness.

Here it is explained in a more understandable way:

Melatonin, a sleep hormone, aids your child’s ability to fall and stay asleep. Cortisol, on the other hand, aids your child’s ability to stay awake when they are overtired. We need a good balance and watch our babies for their sleepy cues.

Babies only start taking longer naps when they are developmentally ready around 5-6 months or when you have begun to encourage them to consolidate naps with sleep coaching. 

When babies go through developmental stages,like sitting, starting to crawl, emotional development ect then they often have short naps or refuse to nap. More information can be found in our sleep regression blogs.  4 Month sleep regression, 8/9 Month sleep regression, 12 Month sleep regression, 18 Month sleep regression and lastly the 2 year sleep regression.

  1. Dependence on unsustainable  sleep  associations 

Let’s be honest, we all wake up throughout the night; no one sleeps through; we go through partial wakeups, turn around, fix our cushy, and sleep happily on, but we’ve learned how to fall asleep again. 

If your child is accustomed to falling asleep in a particular manner and with a particular association that they do not have in their control they will fully awaken after one sleep cycle and will require that association to fall asleep again. This could include rocking, bouncing on a ball, walking around, holding the baby in your arms, not being able to find a dummy, falling asleep while breast-feeding and so on. This is where they need us of course.

Note:Please keep in mind that we prefer to work with or change these associations only if they are no longer beneficial to you we are not implying that these are bad in anyway

Brave Little Baby
  1. Nap transitions

Your child may be ready to stop napping at certain ages, and a shorter nap may be one of the signs. 

Things to keep an eye out for: 

  • Longer waking hours 
  • Protests naps and makes falling asleep much more difficult. 
  • Sometimes the baby flatly refuses to take a nap. 
  • Early-morning awakenings 
Tip: Maintain an age-appropriate awake window and routine for your baby so that they are tired enough and the sleep pressure is high enough for them to fall and stay asleep! 

Visit our free routine generator. 

  1. Sleep coaching

Your baby will become accustomed to a full night’s sleep during sleep coaching, which may be the best sleep he or she has ever had! So, while they adjust to all of this sleep, it will be perfectly normal for them to take shorter naps during the day!

  1. Nutritional implications 

Check that your baby isn’t dozing off while feeding before a nap. This can cause them to relieve some of their sleep pressure before taking a nap, causing them to either struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep for a longer period of time. Making sure our babies get enough to eat will help them sleep longer and more soundly. 

I understand all of the reasons, so what can I do to encourage my baby to take longer naps? 

  • Encourage healthy sleep cues, and remember to unwind before each nap.
  • Set up a nap routine that lasts about 10-15 minutes to help them prepare for sleep. 
  • Maintain your consistency and stick to a plan, or purchase our routines bundle to assist you in navigating these. 
  • A dark room 10/10 is required for children who have difficulty sleeping; sleeping during the day is more difficult because it is daylight! 
  • Whitenoise machine at 60-65 DB loudness; remember to keep it continuous and it should not stop for the duration of the nap. 
  • Have the proper temperature. If possible, keep the temperature between 18 and 22 degrees and dress the baby accordingly
  • Don’t rush to your baby’s rescue first listen to see if they won’t settle in a minute or two and continue sleeping
  • If not then try your best to resettle them back to sleep.

So, if, despite your best efforts, naps simply do not want to get longer, take a break and try again in a week or two. 

Still having trouble with short naps? Give us a chance to assist you in resolving the issue.

Leave a Comment

Chat Now
Scan the code

Welcome to Brave Little Baby. Have any questions about our services, products or courses?

We're here to help. Let's chat... 😀

Zanda, Lindi & Carla x