Catnapping is by far one of the most talked-about problems in baby sleep patterns. The catnapping, while it’s totally normal for young babies to sleep just one sleep cycle or less this can become a habit in later months. Catnapping can become more of a baby sleep issue beyond 3 – 4 months; when the lack of sleep during the day causes frequent night wakings, and overall grumpy baby, and exhausted parents! From 3 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 5 – 6 months of age!
Keep reading for our baby sleep expert Chantal Murphy’s top tips for combatting the catnap!
Top Tips For Combatting The Catnap (3 Months and Onward):
- Ensure the room is dark: The absence of light sends a critical signal to a child’s body that it is time to rest, it also triggers the sleepy hormone melatonin. So darkness is essential.
- White noise: It plays a key part in optimizing the environment. White noise is very soothing for a baby & toddler, it is proven to improve sleep and lengthen nap times. It drowns out external noises like dogs barking, other siblings, household noise, etc. The louder the better – similar to the sound of the water running in the shower!
- Warmth/temperature: Keeping the room temperature consistent between 19-22 degrees celsius and dressing your baby in suitable clothing/layers is imperative for a long nap. Babies and toddlers can’t use blankets so steer clear of them and either swaddle your baby or use sleeping bags. Not only it is safer, but it’s also easier to keep the temperature consistent as you know they won’t 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. Also, for a catnapping baby’s over 3 months, it is important to watch as closely as you can to the scheduled age-appropriate awake time in between naps; otherwise, your baby will likely continue the catnapping habit.
- Offer a top-up: Make sure your baby is NOT hungry before a nap or isn’t due for a feed 30mins after falling asleep – I often advise to offer a “top-up” feed before a nap, to rule out hunger as a cause for catnapping. It may only be 60mls of formula or 5-6mins on the breast. This is not an opportunity for your little one to drift off for a power nap. Keep it strictly business – 15-20mins before nap time offer your little one a feed in the living room with the TV on blinds open. Ensure you keep bub awake. Once you have offered the top-up give it 5-10mins before taking him in for his nap.
- Self-Settling: Always put your baby to sleep drowsy, but awake to encourage self-settling (avoid feeding, rocking, patting, holding to sleep) If your baby is being fed, or you are patting to sleep, when they reach light sleep at the end of each sleep cycle, instead of your little one just drifting through onto the next cycle independently, they wake looking for that same prop that got them off to sleep initially.
Once your baby has reached 3 months of age you can try re-settling when your baby wakes after 30-45minutes. I recommend attempting resettling for up to 10-15min with your chosen settling technique.
- Swaddle babies who are not yet rolling in their cot, and tuck them in tight.
- Get out in the sunshine in the early afternoon; this will help with melatonin production – the sleepy hormone.
- A good indication if your baby needs more than a catnap, as if they wake after one sleep cycle and are crying, generally unhappy and/or unable to get through to their next nap time without becoming increasingly fussy and overtired.
- Try for as many naps in his cot or bassinet as possible. However, life goes on and if you have to go out you can follow the 80/20 rule (80% nap at home 20% on the go) or plan trips around their wake window.
While you’re here, check out our baby sleep expert Chantal Murphy’s guide to why your baby cries.