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Help! My Baby is Taking 30-Minute Disaster Naps

A mom named Jenny wrote in about her baby, who is taking “disaster naps”—naps less than 45 minutes. She writes:

“My daughter is 12 months old and I’m trying to teach her how to fall asleep and stay asleep on her own. She does pretty well at night. She goes to sleep easily and can sleep through the night for 11-1/2 hours.” Wow! Good job Jenny and daughter!

“We’re struggling with the naps because I went to get her when she woke up in her crib. I nursed her and let her keep sleeping on me for several months, she now seems conditioned to wake up after 20 to 30 minutes. What can I do to help her reprogram her brain to stay asleep or at least go back to sleep? She’ll fall asleep for her nap after only a few minutes of crying and my feeling is that if she sleeps for less than 45 minutes, that’s not enough. What do you suggest to solve this baby sleep problem? Do I get her to sleep longer? If she was on my lap, she’d sleep one to two hours. We have been at this at earnest for nine days now. Any advice would be most appreciated. Jenny”

disaster naps

Nap Coaching Isn’t Easy

Nap coaching is definitely the hardest part of sleep coaching. You and your daughter have done a great job! Look at how much she has learned in just nine days. She is sleeping through the night! And just so you know, naps take on average two to three weeks to fall in to place.

Want to read more about naps?
Read: Naps, Naps, and Naps! When, Why, and How to Get Your Baby to Nap

Usually, the first nap is the easiest and the second nap is the hardest. So, you are right where I would think you would be at this stage. You’ve gotten her sleeping through the night and you’re struggling with naps. And catnapping is tough, especially if she has been catnapping for a year!

Is your child resisting naps?

Get answers to your top naptime questions with our free guide!

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How Do I Avoid Disaster Naps?

Remember the rules about catnapping that are outlined in detail in  “Good Night, Sleep Tight”. You put her in awake for her nap. And when she wakes up under 45 minutes, you’re absolutely right, that isn’t a complete nap.

Disaster naps happen!
Read: Naps Are Too Short? It’s Time to Nap Coach My Baby!

I would go in, reassure her, “it’s okay, sweetie,” give her a little pat, a little reassurance and then depending on whether you’re staying in the room or leaving and doing checks, I would do that.  I would really try for an hour if you can. If not, try at least a half an hour to see if you can get her back to sleep. If she doesn’t go back to sleep, you do dramatic wake up, get her out and then you’re going to have to try for the next nap again. That could be 45 minutes later because she hasn’t had a really good nap. It is true that while you’re nap coaching, you’re kind of tied to the house!

Wondering about your baby’s ideal schedule?
Read: Sample Schedules: Sleep and Naps From 6 Months to Preschool

It Will Get Better!

Don’t lose hope. Know that this is the hardest time and you have to keep going. It does get better. The morning naps are going to fall into place first and then that little stubborn afternoon nap will fall into place, especially if you’re consistent.

For more details on nap coaching, see  “Good Night, Sleep Tight”.