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How To Get Longer Naps Using Crib Hour

Picture of a baby dressed up as a a pirate for the blog post How To Get Longer Naps with Crib Hour
Christine Brown

Christine Brown

If you’ve been Googling “how to get baby to nap longer” or “when do babies start taking longer naps”, you may have heard the term ‘crib hour’. That may be what brought you here! If so, welcome!

First off, I want to say that I know how hard it is when your little one is taking short naps! I remember before sleep training my twins, they were what I call “captain cat nappers”. It is exhausting to not get a break during the day and to try to squeeze all.the.things. into a 30 or 45 minute window!

(Please ignore the mobile and the bumpers – these weren’t safe, but I didn’t know any better back then!)

I want to give you hope that your baby doesn’t always need to be a short napper. There are things that you can do to help your little one learn to sleep longer. Below I’ll give you insight into the crib hour and how you can use it to improve your baby’s daytime sleep.

Let’s start by exploring a little bit of sleep science before we dive into everything crib hour…

Nap Sleep Science 101

Here are some interesting facts about baby sleep science and naps.

  • Short naps are extremely common with babies with sleep associations, that don’t know how to put themselves to sleep without help from a caregiver.
  • An average baby sleep cycle lasts between 30-45 minutes. 
  • If your baby consistently takes 41-minute naps, that is likely their sleep cycle length.
  • Naps that are less than an hour aren’t restorative, so even if your baby is taking many 30-45 minute naps, they will likely remain in an overtired state.
  • To ensure naps are restorative, we aim for both the morning and the afternoon naps to be at least one hour.
  • To achieve restorative naps for your little one, they need to learn to bridge one sleep cycle to the next.
  • How we teach babies to do this is through the crib hour
circular chart that outlines baby's 45 minute sleep cycles

What Is The Crib Hour?

In short, a crib hour is a sleep training technique that helps you to teach your baby or toddler how to link their sleep cycles so they can begin taking longer, more restorative naps.

If your baby wakes from a nap before the hour mark, you will give your baby time in the crib to learn to put themselves back to sleep. In time, your baby will resettle and begin taking longer naps. Hallelujah!

What Age Can I Start Using The Crib Hour?

Around 5 months, we see so many things change with sleep! Babies’ sleep and wake cycles (a.k.a. circadian rhythms) are becoming established and babies transition from 4 naps down to 3.

It’s not really until this point that we can expect to see consistently long naps on a predictable schedule. That’s why we like to begin using the crib hour around 5-6 months.

The earliest we start any sleep training is at 16 weeks, adjusted for prematurity. That means, your baby is 16 weeks from your due date, if your little one was born early. At 4 months, some babies are ready for crib hour. If you want to try this with your little one at 4 months, monitor how well it is going and if you are starting to see any progress within 4-5 days. If not, pause on crib hour and try again once your little one is closer to the 5-6 month mark.

How Do I Know My Baby Is Ready For Crib Hour?

Being able to check each of these off the checklist below is a good indicator that your baby is ready for crib hour.

Your baby is…

  • 5-6 months old
  • has independent sleep skills and they are able to fall asleep at bedtime and at naptime without any help from you. This means that you can put your baby in the crib, wide awake and they can settle themselves to sleep.
  • sleeping in a room that is optimized for sleep – cool (68-72F/20-22C), dark and there is white noise playing
  • Your baby is on a consistent daily schedule, that aligns with their sleep needs (we can help with this!)

And you are prepared to invest a solid 2+ weeks to help your baby learn to link their sleep cycles. Teaching these skills takes patience and consistency!

If your baby isn’t sleeping independently or you have no idea what schedule you should be on…

Crib Hour Nap Training

If you’re at your wit’s end and your baby is ready for crib hour, here’s what to do:

  1. After a short sleepytime routine, place your baby down for their nap, in the crib WIDE AWAKE, say your sleepytime message and leave the room. (if this sounds daunting and you are like “how?”, reach out. We can help you figure it out.)
  2. Keep an eye on the monitor to determine when your baby fell asleep and pray they stay asleep!
  3. If your baby wakes before the 60 minute mark, let your little one hang out in their crib for the remainder of the 60 minutes. Do a happy wakeup when you go in.
  4. If your baby doesn’t fall asleep at all during nap time, do a happy wake up at the end of 60 minutes and carry on with your day.

Let’s look at an example of what this could look like.

  • You put your baby down for morning nap at 8:30 am and they fell asleep at 8:45 am. 8:45 am is when the timer starts.
  • Your baby wakes from their nap at 9:30, getting 45 minutes of sleep.
  • Your little one will stay in the crib from 9:30 to 9:45 AM (until 60 minutes from when they fell asleep has passed).
  • At 9:45, scoop your little one up, do a happy wake up and carry on with your day.

Do I Check On My Baby During Crib Hour?

If your baby is happy in the crib…

Don’t intervene! You may be surprised that your little one goes back to sleep!

If your baby is unhappy in the crib…

You can choose to use your sleep training method during the crib hour, but keep in mind that too much parental presence can be stimulating during nap time. Imagine if you were trying to take a nap and your partner kept checking in! You’d be like “buzz off!”, right?

If you are comfortable giving your baby time and space for the remainder of the crib hour, this can yield faster results.

How Long Does It Take For Crib Time To Work?

Long naps may seem like a dream right now, but they can be your reality with some time, patience and consistency!

As with any sleep training method, it can take time to work. So even if you don’t see immediate results, stick with it!

Around 2 weeks is how long it can take for your little one’s naps to lengthen consistently – the drive to sleep isn’t as strong during the day so nap training takes longer than nighttime sleep training.

Nap training can result in lots of tears at first (babies hate change!) so be prepared that the early days can be challenging. Stay busy – don’t stare at the monitor. Remember, your baby can do this and you can too!

If you aren’t seeing progress within 2-3 weeks, schedule an Ask Me Anything session and let us help you troubleshoot.

Need sleep training help? We’ve got you!

If your baby is on the short nap express and you need help, we’d love to be your guide on the journey! Our team of certified sleep consultants are here to provide you with insight and a customized sleep plan, plus support if you need it! Check out our list of consultation package options here.

If you are a DIYer, check out our online baby sleep course, Transform Your Baby’s Sleep.

Transform Your Baby's Sleep Program Snapshot

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