Published on May 24th, 2021
You gave your baby a bath, tucked him in, said goodnight, and nearly fell asleep on the floor yourself after begging—er, singing—him to sleep with several encores of his favorite lullaby. Finally, your baby has drifted off to dreamland. Time for that well-deserved parent TLC (TV, loungewear, and chocolate, that is).
But for some parents, this relaxation time is disrupted by a baby who’s wide awake and ready to play again well before his scheduled wake-up time.
If you can relate to these short-lived sleep sessions, then let’s review how to get your baby to sleep longer at night, as well as during nap times.
How to Get Baby to Sleep Longer
Babies are naturally gifted sleepers. They can clock up to 17 hours of sleep a day without even batting an eye (or in this case, opening one). But babies are also extremely particular when it comes to their sleep requirements. When they’re not comfortable, they’ll let you know by crying, fussing, or refusing to sleep altogether. To help your little one fall asleep and stay asleep longer, consider the following sleep-lengthening tips.
#1 Make Time for Nap Time
As counterintuitive as it sounds, babies who are overtired from a lack of sufficient sleep actually have more trouble falling and staying asleep. This is because lack of sleep can cause your baby to become stressed, and when stressed, bodies produce an excess amount of cortisol. Normally, we produce this hormone when it’s time to wake up and start the day, but when stressed, our cortisol production goes into overdrive, preparing us for a “fight or flight” response.
To prevent having an overtired baby, develop a daytime nap schedule that complements his body’s natural rhythms. This means watching for signs of tiredness, such as yawning and rubbing his eyes, so you can get him to his crib and coax him into sleep. With a sufficient number of naps throughout the day, you can help your infant sleep throughout the night.
#2 But Not Too Much Nap Time
Just as not getting enough sleep can negatively impact your baby’s sleep habits, getting too much sleep can lead to a baby who doesn’t sleep through the night.
When creating your baby’s nap schedule, keep the following baby nap timelines in mind:
- Birth–6 weeks – At this stage, babies will sleep approximately 14–17 hours in a 24-hour period. This means during the day, your baby will likely clock around 6–7 naps, each lasting anywhere from 20 minutes to 3 hours depending on genetic factors, such as his ideal sleep duration, as well as his nutritional needs (in other words, when his tummy starts grumbling for its next meal).
- 2–3 months – Babies between 2–3 months will still need an impressive 14–17 hours of sleep, but their 3–4 naps a day shouldn’t last longer than 2 hours each.
- 4–6 months – As your baby’s sleep needs lessen to about 12–16 hours a day, you can also reduce her naps to between 2–3 a day, each lasting between 1–2 hours.
- 7–12 months – At this stage, your baby will continue to sleep between 12–16 hours in a 24-hour period. However, because she’ll be sleeping longer through the night, she should only need two naps during the day—one in the morning, and one in the afternoon.
It’s important to keep in mind that babies over six weeks shouldn’t nap for longer than 2 hours at a time to prevent midnight or early morning wake ups.
#3 Make the Most Out of Wake Hours
If you’re wondering how to get baby to sleep longer at night, the solution may lie in what he does during the day. Try packing your baby’s schedule with new and exciting activities that will challenge his mind, tire his body, and use up all that boundless baby energy.
Daytime activities include:
- Peek-a-boo – Keep it classic by hiding your face behind your hands and surprising your little one with your comforting smile. Or switch it up by placing a toy beneath a blanket or basket and seeing if your baby can find where it went.
- Reading – Reading to your baby from books with images he can point to or pop-outs he can interact with is both engaging and entertaining.
- Singing – From The Wheels on the Bus to The Itsy Bitsy Spider, the vast catalogue of baby songs means you can try out a new tune every day. Plus, when you incorporate hand motions into your sing-a-longs, you can help your baby develop his fine motor skills.
- Making music – Shake a rattle, clap your hands, or bang on a makeshift drum. As your baby taps into his inner Phil Collins, he’ll learn to differentiate between various sounds and build his understanding of cause and effect.
- Dancing – Rocking, bouncing, and swaying to the beat is not only fun for your baby—one study found that recognizing rhythmic patterns in music can help babies learn to process speech sounds down the road.
#4 Wait for Drowsy, Not Dreaming
While it may be tempting to let your baby fall asleep during a car or stroller ride around the neighborhood, ensuring your baby falls asleep in her crib is a crucial factor in lengthening your baby’s nap times.
Sleep on this: If your baby falls asleep in her car seat, sling, or in your arms, there’s a risk of waking her when you move her to her crib. That means you’ll have to start your “Please Go to Sleep” song and dance routine from the top.
Plus, the more often your baby falls asleep in her crib, the faster she’ll learn to associate her crib as a place meant for sleeping, and the less reliant she’ll be on your arms.
#5 Establish a Consistent Pre-Sleep Routine
A pre-sleep routine can help signal to your baby when it’s time to settle down for a nap or bedtime, especially if this routine is consistent. This is because babies learn from repetition. When you precede daytime naps or your baby’s bedtime with the same routine, your baby’s brain learns to associate this routine with sleep – sleep association. Because these routines consist of calming activities, they naturally decrease your baby’s production of cortisol, lulling him into a restful slumber.
One study found that sticking to the same bedtime routine reduced instances of nighttime sleep wake ups in as little as two weeks.
For best results, start your pre-sleep routine about 30–60 minutes before your baby’s scheduled nap or bedtime. Your routine can include:
- Giving your baby a warm bath
- Reading a story
- Singing a lullaby
- Rocking your baby
- Massaging your baby gently
- Relaxing your baby with soft music
#6 Try a Dream Feeding
Before your little one develops their baby circadian rhythm (which happens around 3–6 months), their sleep schedules revolve around their second favorite thing—food. If your little one is waking up from sleep too early due to hunger, you can help her sleep longer by introducing a midnight snack into her newborn sleep schedule.
The secret to a successful middle of the nighttime feeding (also termed “dream feeding”) is to maintain a sense of calm. This means keeping the lights turned off (or dimmed) and avoiding interacting with your baby too much. Otherwise, she may confuse her midnight snack for an early bird special.
#7 Consider Using Overnight Diapers
Overnight diapers are the luxury en suite bathroom you never knew your bougie baby needed (until now). Unlike regular diapers, which may not last through the night, overnight diapers are specifically designed to keep your baby feeling comfy and dry for up to 12 hours with multiple layers of absorbent material and additional leak guards. When your baby doesn’t wake from a midnight bathroom break, he won’t cry to be changed, and everyone can snooze a little longer.
Although overnight diapers typically cost more than regular diapers, you can’t put a price on snagging those extra Zs.
#8 Make Baby’s Room Feel like Mom’s Womb
If your baby won’t sleep remember that your baby’s sleep environment is extremely influential in his ability to sleep longer during nap time and throughout the night. While you may have chosen a mid-century modern or rustic chic look for the interior of your home, your baby prefers a more minimalist style. You know, like the minimalism of Mom’s womb.
To achieve this look and feel:
- Invest in blackout curtains – When sunlight seeps into your baby’s room, he may struggle to continue sleeping as his brain starts brewing its morning cup of cortisol. Until someone invents tiny baby sleep masks, the next best option is blackout curtains to keep light from waking your baby too early.
- Use a sound machine – Whether it’s the neighborhood children playing outside, the dog barking next door, or you rustling through a bag of Cheetos, noises can easily disrupt your baby’s sleep.With a sound machine, you can cover these potentially disturbing sounds with white noise.
Fun fact: white noise actually resembles the sounds your baby heard when he was in Mom’s womb!
- Set the perfect temperature – Like an infant Goldilocks, your newborn baby prefers to sleep in a room that isn’t too hot, but also not too cold. Research has found that the temperature that’s just right for your baby is between 68 degrees and 72 degrees Fahrenheit.
Find Answers to the Rest of Your Baby Sleep Questions with SneakPeek Traits
When it comes to sleep, your baby can be fussy about what she needs to catch those Zs. You may even wish you could peek into your baby’s mind to find out her unique sleep preferences. With SneakPeek Traits, you can do the next best thing—peek into her DNA.
SneakPeek Traits is an easy-to-use, at-home test that provides scientifically validated information about your baby’s:
- Sleep chronotype
- Sleep latency
- Sleep efficiency
- And sleep duration
With SneakPeek Traits, you can create your baby’s sleep schedule tailored specifically to their genetic predispositions, guaranteeing the type of baby sleep habits that dreams are made of.
For a better night’s sleep for both you and your baby, choose SneakPeek Traits.
What to Expect. Getting Baby on a Sleep Schedule. https://www.whattoexpect.com/first-year/baby-sleep-schedule.aspx
Sleep.org. Tested Tips to Help Your Baby Sleep Longer. https://www.sleep.org/get-your-baby-sleeping-longer/
University of Washington. Music improves baby brain responses to music and speech. https://www.washington.edu/news/2016/04/25/music-improves-baby-brain-responses-to-music-and-speech/
National Library of Medicine. A nightly bedtime routine: impact on sleep in young children and maternal mood. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19480226/
BBC News. Babies given solid food sooner sleep better. https://www.bbc.com/news/health-44723638#:~:text=Babies%20given%20solid%20food%20plus,according%20to%20a%20new%20study.
Healthline Parenthood. What Is the Best Room Temperature for Baby? https://www.healthline.com/health/baby/room-temperature-for-baby
The Baby Sleep Site. Newborn Sleep Schedules By Week, Newborn Sleep Patterns, and Tips for Better Sleep! https://www.babysleepsite.com/newborns/newborn-sleep-schedules-by-week/
Healthline Parenthood. What to look for in overnight diapers. https://www.healthline.com/health/parenting/best-overnight-diapers#what-to-look-for