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Is your baby taking short naps that have him waking after only 20-30 minutes? I know that feeling. Babies and sleep can often seem be a true mystery sometimes. Let’s take a look at some reasons why your baby may not be napping well.

Handling Short Naps With Your Baby

#1 – Baby is Hungry

Super simple, but oftentimes baby wakes when they’re hungry. Make sure your baby has gotten a full feed pretty close to the time that they’re going to lay down for a nap. You don’t want baby to fall asleep to the bottle, or after drinking very little. You want baby to have a full feed close to naptime. Some babies are also known for “snacking” and this can have your baby waking early to eat.

#2 – Baby is Under or Overtired

Sounds crazy that your baby can be so tired that they won’t sleep well right? Well that’s very true and if you’re missing your baby’s sleep cues and allowing your baby to stay awake for too long of periods of time, it can cause your baby to be more fussy and hard to settle. On the flip side, if you’re baby isn’t very tired at all and you’re trying to get your baby to sleep, you’ll experience a fussy baby at naptime! It’s important to follow the appropriate awake/sleep times for your little one to have the best experience.

#3 – Teething

My daughter is actually going through this right now as I write this post! Teething definitely interferes with sleep. Since teething is painful for babies, it can often affect sleep and lead to short naps. If your baby isn’t sleeping very well, check for any new teeth!

#4 – Baby’s Age

Your baby’s age plays a big role in how well your baby sleeps. Newborns have a much shorter sleep cycle and sleep is not driven by circadian rhythm at this age and baby’s internal clock is still developing. On the flip side, if your child is older, that could lead us to #5.

#5 – Could Be Time To Drop A Nap

If your child has started refusing naps, or it seems like naps are getting shorter and shorter, it is a possibility that it could be time for your baby to drop a nap. Oftentimes nap transitions can happen at 5-6 months (drop to 3 naps), 8-9 months (drop to 2 naps) and 14-18 months (drop to 1 nap).

#6 – Baby Has A Sleep Crutch

If you’re wondering what this is, a sleep crutch is anything that your baby needs in order to fall asleep. A sleep crutch could be rocking, relying on a parent/caregiver to get them to sleep before laying down, a pacifier, nursing, motion, etc. A sleep crutch can help your baby fall asleep, but when your baby wakes after the first sleep cycle (30-45 minutes), they will look for this crutch to be able to get back to sleep. It’s important to wean your baby from certain sleep associations, although not all of them are bad.

#7 – Not Enough Activity

It’s possible that your baby isn’t napping well if there isn’t enough activity during the day to warrant the nap. Keeping your baby physically and mentally active is key to naps and even nighttime sleep. Children should be exposed to light, and have time set aside for play so that they can exert some energy and be able to rest/sleep well.

#8 – Sleep Environment

It’s important to make sure your baby’s sleep environment is consistent and conducive to sleep. The baby’s sleep environment should be quiet, dark and free of distraction. Having a white noise machine is also helpful if you’re trying to tune out other household noise!


When you spend your morning thinking you’ll get a lot accomplished when your baby takes nap only to find out that nap was short and only lasted for 20-30 minutes, it can be completely frustrating, but oftentimes, it can be something simple that fixes the problem. Take a moment and try applying what you’ve learned in this list to see if you can help your little one nap for longer!