Does your 11-week-old fall asleep for naps like a dream, only to wake up after 45 minutes? This is completely normal for a baby this age. Nap lengths can vary greatly in these early months. Yes, it would be great if your baby had 1.5 to 2 hour naps, however this is not always possible. A baby’s sleep cycle is somewhere between 45 and 60 minutes long. If your baby sleeps for 45 minutes or more, he will likely be able to stay awake for his whole wakeful window. (See the sidebar for more information about your baby’s Wakeful Window.)
When your baby wakes up after a complete sleep cycle it may be hard for him to fall back to sleep right away because he may be well rested. Most babies under 6 months will be able to stay awake for 1-2 hours at a time. It is important that babies are not awake for too long so they don’t get overtired, which can make it more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep for the next time.
If your baby sleeps less than 45 minutes, it is often worth a 5-10 minute try to get him back to sleep. If that doesn’t work, then get your baby up and watch him so you can put him down when he shows tired signs. This may be less than 1 hour if he only had a shorter nap.
Many babies will consistently have shorter naps in the daytime. 20 or 30 minutes is not uncommon. These babies will need more naps in the daytime, and it can be challenging for families to schedule around them. Sometimes we can lengthen at least a few naps in the day, which can help. If your baby has reflux, short naps can be common and may not lengthen until the reflux is under control or your baby is older.
There are several approaches you can take to try to extend naps.
Whatever you choose, at this younger age we want to avoid crying.
Soothe Back to Sleep
You can simply try to catch your baby as soon as he wakes or starts to wake and try to comfort him back to sleep. This may involve: shushing, patting, or even picking him up and feeding him back to sleep. If your baby wakes consistently after 20 or 30 minutes, you might want to set your alarm and go in just before that time so you can encourage him to fall back to sleep before he fully wakes, which will be easier. Whatever you do, if it is not working after 5-10 minutes or your baby is crying, then end the nap and try again when you see tired signs.
Get Naps In When You Can
Many families will find that babies will nap well in a vibrating chair, swing, infant carrier or while lying on a flat safe surface beside Mom or Dad. If this is the case then you might want to try this either for 1 or 2 naps, or for all of them if it works for you and it’s safe. You don’t need to worry about creating negative sleep associations at this young age, however you may want to try to have your baby nap in his bed once a day as this need may change over time.
Avoid Over tiredness
The most important thing to keep in mind about daytime sleep is that we don’t want babies staying awake too long and getting overtired. This can impact baby’s ability to fall asleep and sleep quality and length both in the day and the night. So if your baby is consistently taking short naps then you will find that he may need more naps in the day, often as many as 4-7 naps. If your baby is sleeping for longer periods of time, you will likely still find that he only needs 3-4 naps a day under 6 months old.
You may find that you can lengthen out short naps with a bit of work, however if you can’t at this time, you will likely be able to as your baby gets older. Babies under 3 months especially can often thrive quite nicely on short power naps and it is often their parents that have a more challenging time.
How Can I Get My Newborn to Nap More Than 45 Minutes?