Here’s What to Do
In my years as a Certified Sleep Consultant, I hear it all the time from families:
“My baby will only sleep 30 minutes.” (Or “My baby will only sleep 45 or 60 minutes.”)
It’s as if the little one has an internal clock that goes off after a certain amount of time. The problem is that it’s not the right time for Baby to stick to her sleep schedule. Or it’s simply not enough sleep for her to rest and to grow.
Want expert and compassionate baby Sleep advice?
There’s a Reason Your Baby Wakes Up Too Soon
I’m sure this goes without saying, but the easiest way to solve a problem is to know why it’s happening. Until you get to the core of why your baby will only sleep for short periods, no traditional sleep advice will help.
In past generations, advice such as “let him cry it out” or “get him really tired beforehand by playing with him” were used by families around the world no matter what was causing Baby’s sleeplessness.
But what I’ve found working with my own daughter as a baby, and with thousands of families, is that once you know what’s going on, you’ll have a better handle on what to do.
Here are a the main reasons your infant may only be sleeping 30, 45 or 60 minutes at a time:
Reason #1: Your Baby Isn’t Infant Sleep Trained
Sleep training is an absolute must for infants that just can’t seem to settle down. And most importantly, you need the right sleep training for your baby.
I’m sure you knew I was going to bring up sleep training. After all, it’s my specialty.
But there’s more to it than that. No matter what you do in order to rearrange your child’s sleep schedule, you’re using sleep training, whether you know it or not. The problem is when parents use the wrong methods.
I’ll discuss a few of the very best ways to help your baby soothe herself to sleep and stay that way for more than 30 or 45 minutes in “How to Lengthen Your Infant’s Sleep Times” below.
Reason #2: She is Sick
If your baby has colic or is coming down with the sniffles, she may not be able to stay asleep. I’m sure you’ve had the experience of being stuffed up or uncomfortable and waking up at night. It’s the same for your little one.
If your baby’s sleep times were longer than 30 to 60 minutes in the past (and she’s older than 4 weeks), make sure to rule out a physical issue.
Reason #3: Your Baby is Lonely
Babies can get lonely too. If you’ve had an unusual day when you haven’t paid as much attention to your little guy or girl as much as usual, she may simply want more of your time.
I never recommend going off an established sleep schedule. Instead, tack on an extra 10 minutes or so at most, or start earlier, with her bedtime routine. Or if you realize you’ve been distracted all day, find an extra half hour to play with or read to your baby.
Reason #4: You’re on Vacation (or Have Just Moved)
A new location can be disorienting to a baby. Remember the last time you moved, and you stayed awake staring at the ceiling at bedtime, listening to every little creak in the new house? Your baby does, too.
Although a fresh start may have you thinking about a whole new nursery theme for your little one, it may be in your best interest and hers to keep things as much as possible the way they were in your old home. Set up the nursery the way it was previously, at least for now. You can make big changes later, when the house is familiar to her.
How to Lengthen Your Baby’s Sleep Times
If your baby is only sleeping an hour at a time, or even worse, 30 minutes, they’re not just tiring you out. They’re depriving themselves of very important sleep time in order to grow and develop new skills.
In order to lengthen your baby’s sleep time, identify what the problem is, using my suggestions above. It will make it easier for you to pinpoint the Dos and Don’ts below to try:
- Lay Baby down at specific times during the day for her naps.
- Lay Baby down at a specific time for bedtime.
- Darken your child’s room for sleep times by pulling the shades or closing the curtains.
- If possible, darken any other areas of the house hour baby is in about half an hour before sleep times. (Close the curtains in the living room and put on a low-watt light, for example.)
- Put Baby down before she is fully asleep. This is important. The goal is for her to learn to self-soothe.
- Use white noise. Make sure you choose a white noise machine that’s approved by experts in order to protect Baby’s sensitive hearing.
- Put Baby down for naps and bedtime once she’s fully asleep. She will fall asleep cuddling and wake up somewhere else, which can be startling.
- Repeatedly call out “Don’t worry, Mommy/Daddy/Grandpa is right here” repeatedly to a crying baby without picking her up. This will only confuse her and keep her stimulated.
- Let her “cry it out.” (I explain why here.)
- Let her cry when she’s sick or may be in pain.
- Get angry and shout. I know how easy it is to feel overtired and frustrated. There were many times I had to take deep breaths when my baby was little, and I had not yet discovered my infant sleep method (that changed everything). But if possible, never, never raise your voice to your baby because she won’t sleep. It could mean rebuilding trust and starting all over again, and it could damage both of you. If you’re feeling extra frustrated, put Baby in a safe place and leave the room for a minute or two.
I know how frustrating it can be if your baby only sleeps 30, 45 or 60 minutes (or just a few short minutes). And I know that even when you follow all the “rules” of infant sleep training, you can sometimes get stuck.