As an infant and toddler sleep coach, I know that short naps can be a major source of frustration for parents. When your child only sleeps for 20 or 30 minutes, it can be hard to get them to go back to sleep for a longer nap. Sleep pressure has been reduced, so this makes going back to sleep so much harder!   And when they don’t nap well, they’re often more irritable and less adaptable. 

But there are a few things you can do to help your child eliminate short naps and sleep for longer periods of time. Here are three tips:

  1. Prevent Overtiredness by Shortening  Awake Windows

The first step to eliminating short naps is to prevent your child from becoming overtired. When your child is overtired, they’re more likely to have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. A child who has been awake too long is likely not going to take a nice long nap. This is because once cortisol has spiked, that cortisol is likely going to wake them up long before its time. 

To prevent overtiredness, you need to shorten your child’s awake windows. Awake windows are the periods of time between naps. If your child’s awake windows are too long, they’re more likely to become overtired. But if they’re too short, they won’t have enough time to build up the sleep pressure they need to fall asleep.

The ideal awake window for a newborn is 30-60 minutes. As your child gets older, you can gradually lengthen their awake windows all the way up to 6 hours once they are closer to 2 years old. 

  1. Have a Quick Feeding Before a Nap

If your child is really struggling to fall asleep for a nap, sometimes giving them a quick feeding before they go down can help. This works especially well for a child that has just transitioned to two naps ( right around 8 months is when babies drop the catnap and are now left with a morning and an afternoon nap)  or is going through a growth spurt. This will help them to relax, get some food in their tummy and fall asleep more easily.

A quick feeding doesn’t have to be a full meal. Just offer your child a bottle or breast for a few minutes.

  1. Teach Your Child to Initiate Sleep Independently

The best way to eliminate short naps is to teach your child to initiate sleep independently. This means that they should be able to fall asleep on their own without a lot of help from you. While all babies and toddlers are different and will go through different seasons where they may need more help, if what your currently doing isn’t feeling sustainable this is a good indicator that it’s time to make a change.

One way to teach your child to initiate sleep independently is to wean your child off of their preferred method of going to sleep. You can add in a non-preferred method with the preferred method and then slowly start to eliminate the preferred method over the course of days or weeks depending on how attached your child is to this way of going to sleep.  This can be done slowly to keep resistance to a minimum and allow your child to adapt. 

  1. Contact Naps

     If you have a child who is on a sleep deficit and they simply cannot sleep because they are so overtired, then a day of contact naps or even one good contact nap can help significantly with lowering cortisol and eliminating the sleep debt so by bedtime your child is going to bed rested. Bedtime can be a good time to work on weaning off of sleep props and it’s certainly easier to do if your child is going to bed at an age-appropriate bedtime and is not overtired from a day of short naps! Many times I recommend using the catnap to do a contact nap to ensure the baby gets that nap at the end of the day. This allows you to get some cuddle time in and your baby to get some good rest!


Eliminating short naps can be a challenge, but it’s definitely possible. By following these tips, you can help your child to get the restorative sleep they need and make your life a little easier.

If your baby is still struggling to go to sleep independently and you feel like you need some extra help or just have more questions, reach out to me! I’m here to help as you navigate laying a healthy sleep foundation for your baby.

10 Simple Ways to Get Your Baby to Sleep Better Tonight

These tips are simple, easy to implement, and created to help your baby slowly step into a healthy, secure relationship with sleep!

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