Newborn Nap Tips
How to get your baby to take longer naps (and figure out how to nap on the go!)
“I love the newborn phase! All they do is sleep!” We remember hearing this refrain from other parents and thinking, “um...my baby did not get the memo.” If you were imagining long nap times where you could get some rest, unwind for a precious few moments, and maybe even shower… you might be struggling to cope with the reality of short, unpredictable naps.
Whether your baby only sleeps for 45, 30, or FIVE minutes at a time during naps, we can help! Here are five tips from our team of postpartum doulas that have spent thousands of hours helping newborns nap.
Optimize the sleep environment
Babies from birth to 4 weeks can usually nap pretty much anywhere, as long as they’re fed well and not too gassy. Babies older than 5 or 6 weeks usually sleep best in a dark and quiet place. Use blackout shades if it helps and use a sound machine to create soothing white noise. All of these elements will become part of your sleep routine that your baby will associate with sleeping!
Pay attention to awake windows
The goal is to find the right amount of time between naps so that your baby isn’t under-stimulated OR overstimulated during their awake window. Too short of an awake window and they won’t need a long nap. Too long of an awake window and they can get overtired; when this happens, their adrenaline kicks in which prevents them from taking a decent nap. It’s a balancing act! During the awake window and after feeding, keep your baby engaged by talking, singing, and playing. Look out for sleepy cues and yawning and then work to get the baby to sleep before the awake window passes.
Approximate awake windows - including the time to feed and burp are:
Make sure they’re getting full feeds during the day
Those little bellies fill up and get empty fast. Especially for breastfed babies, sometimes they just can’t make it to 3 hours between feeds. Look for signals that your baby is getting full feeds at each daytime feed. For breastfeeding parents, this means the breasts will feel softer after feeding and the baby will seem satisfied. (More on this topic here!) For bottle-fed babies, if they are always draining their bottle, start offering more.
Help your baby learn to fall asleep (and fall BACK to sleep) on their own
This is one of the most important elements that helps babies sleep longer during naps and at night. The “drowsy but awake” method is the key strategy you’ll want to use. We know it sounds intimidating, but some practice and patience goes a long way! This skill will serve your baby well.
For those on-the-go naps, it’s ok to go with the flow
Going out is good for you AND for your baby. As a general rule of thumb, most of their naps should be at home, but 1-2 naps on the go per day can work too! Try to give your baby a nice full feed before you leave, as they often fall asleep on the way to your destination. We recommend keeping a travel sound machine, extra pacifiers, change of clothes, lots of diapers, and feeding supplies in your bag. Sounds like a lot...but it will help you get the most out of your adventure with baby!
Routine, patience, and cutting yourself some slack are key to “success” here...even if success just means you successfully got through the day together! And despite all the expert tricks, some babies are just short nappers. Even if you have a great napper on your hands, you will still have days where everything feels off. By 4 - 6 months, most babies will start to string together longer naps more consistently. Like so many things in the newborn phase, this will pass. Keep up the great work!
Questions? Need support? New Kind is here to help!
New Kind is an easy way for new parents to get the expert support they need. We offer 1:1 consultations and a membership option with unlimited support. Our certified postpartum doulas and newborn sleep experts can help you build personalized sleep and feeding routines, get more sleep for the whole family, and answer all your questions about newborn care. You can chat with our experts on your schedule, over text, phone, and video. Try New Kind today.