Ahhh catnapping, oh so normal but extremely frustrating and confusing for any parent. Whether it is your first time or you are a seasoned campaigner, baby sleep just doesn’t seem to get easier.

When your little one came into this world, they were an amazing sleeper! You thought you’d found the Holy Grail. But you’re now 12-weeks into the world of parenthood, and your baby has been catnapping for weeks. You’re just over here thinking “what happened”.

It’s nap time. You put your little bundle down to sleep (which in itself can be time consuming). 40mins later they wake, seemingly happy. So, you think to yourself “okay you’ve had your rest, up you get”. Only for your baby to become tired, irritable and fussy 30mins later. Thus, the vicious cycle of short naps starts.

Does this sound like you?

If it does don’t despair! There are hundreds of other parents dealing with catnapping as you read this. But it’s not a hopeless case. There are steps you can take to help your little one through this stage.

So, what is catnapping?

A catnap is essentially a short nap. In babies’ catnaps are usually shorter than 45mins.

This occurs when your babies sleep begins to mature between 6-12 weeks. They start to develop and regulate their own melatonin (sleep hormone) and also develop more defined sleep cycles, which last 40-45mins.

Catnapping occurs when a baby is unable to link their sleep cycles together independently. If they are unable to quickly fall back to sleep on their own, they will need your intervention to provide a sleep association to get them back to sleep.

Common sleep associations include:

  • Rocking
  • bouncing
  • Feeding (breast/bottle)
  • Dummy
  • Patting
  • Singing

While there is absolutely nothing wrong with providing your baby with hands on comfort. It is also important to help them to learn to connect their sleep cycles so they are able to sleep more restoratively.

Why is napping so important anyway?

Babies need to nap because sleeping is a largely important part of life, which helps promote healthy growth and development.

  • A baby who naps well during the day will tolerate longer periods of happy awake time
  • Longer periods of happy awake time results in your baby having more time to develop and practice new skills
  • Sleep helps with the development of memory
  • A long restorative nap in the middle of the day allows baby to consolidate their morning learnings
  • Great day sleep usually culminates in improved night sleep
  • Happy baby= happy parents

Okay, well how do I get my baby sleeping longer in the day?

There are several things that you can do to help your baby overcome catnapping.

Setting up a great sleep environment is a really important start. Check out my blog on sleep environment here.

Basically, you want to:

  1. Keep the room really dark
  2. Remove any stimulating mobiles or light displays
  3. Have white noise playing continuously
  4. Aside from white noise, keep the room quiet 
  5. Swaddle your baby (if under 6 months and not yet rolling)
  6. Ensure the room is a comfortable temperature and that your baby isn’t over/ under-dressed

A good nap routine is also really important if you are wanting to negate catnapping in babies over 4 months.

The ability to connect sleep cycles is actually heavily reliant on your baby not being overtired or under tired when being put down to bed. It is really hard to get the balance right by looking for tired cues alone. If you are needing some help creating the perfect routine for your individual baby then click here to view Dream to Grow’s packages and pricing!

Sometimes just giving your baby a chance to fall back to sleep on their own can yield great results. So, if your baby wakes prematurely from their nap, don’t go running in if they aren’t upset. Give them some time to go back to sleep.

Learning the skill of self-settling is also really helpful in overcoming catnapping. From four months of age, you can introduce some gentle sleep training techniques to help your baby to sleep. If you are unsure where to start, Dream to Grow can provide you all the tools you need to get your little one on track without using the “cry it out” method.

If you are wanting some more information on how Dream to Grow can help you and your little one. Please check out our list of services here. Alternatively, get in contact to book your free 15-minute tele-consult today!

Despite it all, remember that this parenting gig is tough. You are doing a wonderful Job.