Catnapping – Baby Sleep Magic

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This is by far one of the most talked about problem in babies. Cat napping…

Whilst it is totally normal for young babies to wake after just one sleep cycle or less, this can become a habit in later months. Catnapping can become more of an issue beyond three to four months of age when the lack of sleep during the day causes frequent night waking’s, an overall grumpy baby, and exhausted parents.

So what is a cat nap? Technically anything under 45 minutes is classed as a cat nap.

From three months onwards, your baby becomes ready for some consistency with routine, longer awake windows, and lengthier naps. It is not uncommon, however, for catnapping to continue well up to five to six months + of age.

Below are some tips for combatting the catnap (for babies 3 months +):

Room Environment:

By having a dark room and using white noise plays a key part in optimising the room environment. It is proven to improve sleep and lengthen nap times as it drowns out external noises like dogs barking, other siblings, household noise, etc.

Warmth/ Temperature:

Keeping your child’s room temperature consistent between 19-22 degrees Celsius and dressing your baby in suitable clothing/layers is imperative for a longer nap. Blankets are not suitable for babies and toddlers, so either swaddle your baby or use sleeping bags. Not only it is safer, it is also easier to keep the temperature consistent as you know they will not be kicking off the blankets.

Timing is key:

Catnapping can be an indication of an awake time which is too long (over-tired), or too short (under-tired), so try changing the nap time by 15-30 minutes earlier or later (over at least three days) to see if this makes a difference.

Offer a top-up:

Make sure your baby is NOT hungry before a nap or is not due for a feed 30 minutes after falling asleep. I often advise to offer a top-up feed before a nap, to rule out hunger as a cause for catnapping. For babies that don't experience reflux, I recommend offering your baby a top up 15-20 minutes before nap occurs and ensure your little one is engaged with you the whole time to avoid a power nap from happening.

Wind downtime:

Ensure the focus remains on winding down and not over-stimulating. I recommend that you start preparing your baby for a sleep 5-10 minutes before nap time.

Below is an example of what a Nap Routine might look like:

Ensure the room is set for “nap time” and have the room dark and white noise already on.

Change nappy Read book/cuddle (if desired)

Place your baby in their sleeping bag or swaddle

Place your child in the cot awake

Self-Settling:

Attempt to put your baby to bed drowsy, but awake, to encourage self-settling.

If your baby has been patted, fed, or rocked to sleep they will require the same process multiple times over in order for them to fall back to sleep so working on self soothing will help improve sleep and lengthen nap time.

Additional tip:

Get out in the sunshine in the afternoon as this will help with melatonin production which is the sleep hormone.

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