Nap lengths can vary greatly in these early months. Yes it would be great if your baby had 1.5-2 hour naps however this is not always possible. Babies under 6 months have sleep cycles somewhere between 45 minutes and 60 minutes long and 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.
If your baby sleeps for 45 minutes or more he will likely be able to stay awake for his whole wakeful window. It can be challenging to try to get some babies back to sleep if they had a restorative sleep. You can see what the average amount of time a baby can stay awake without getting overtired on this chart:
For most babies under 6 months they will be able to stay awake for 1-2 hours. It is important that babies are not awake 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 it 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 sleep consistently for shorter naps in the daytime. 20 or 30 minutes is common. 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 that 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, with babies under 6 months we want to avoid crying.
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, giggling 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 decide to do, if it is not working after 5-10 minutes or baby is crying, then end the nap and try again when you see tired signs.
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 is safe. You don’t need to worry about creating so called “bad habits” at this younger age. Any habits you wish to change can be improved when your baby is older and more capable.
The most important thing to keep in mind about daytime sleep is that babies are not awake too long and don’t get 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 4-7 naps. If your baby is sleeping for longer periods of time, you will likely still find that he needs 3-4 naps a day for babies less than 6 months.
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. So hang in there. Naps develop more consistently after 6 months of age.