Is your baby a Chronic Catnapper?
You put your baby down for a nap, just finished cleaning up the kitchen, about to sit down, kick your feet up and like clock work your baby is awake after only 30-45 minutes. Mama if this is you and you have a chronic catnapper on your hands, I just want to start by saying I feel your pain! Short naps can become a frustrating cycle for parents and also leave your baby feeling miserable and tired.
Before we get into why this is happening, let me explain why 45 minutes. Babies have a 4 phase sleep cycle that can last about 40-50 minutes. Some of that sleep might happen in your arms (let’s be honest, sometimes ALL) and these phases consist of Non REM sleep (Non Rapid Eye Movement) and REM ( Rapid Eye movement) sleep. Here’s what’s happening when you’re little one is cycling through sleep.
As your baby approaches lighter sleep at the end of their cycle, they may wake start another cycle immediately, wake briefly and go back to sleep or awaken fully resulting in the dreaded cat nap. Now that you are aware of this, let me explain some reasons your baby may not be connecting their sleep cycles.
- Sleep Environment– Your baby has slept for one cycle and has now opened their eyes and notices they’re in a different place than when they fell asleep, it’s bright or there’s noise outside. I’d wake up too! Can you blame them? Let’s avoid making your baby confused or curious and more interested in going back to sleep to finish off a solid nap. To do this, they should be falling asleep in their crib. Make the room as dark as possible. On a scale of 1-10 darkness, I’m talking about 10. We all sleep better in darkness. Also use a sound machine or white noise app to soothe your baby and reduce the risk of external noises causing a wake up. These things will help your baby to naturally start that next sleep cycle and drift back to sleep.
- Timing– Are you offering naps too soon or after too long? Babies have awake windows based on their age. This is the amount of time your baby can handle staying awake at a time. After which ‘sleep pressure’ builds and they feel tired for their next nap. This is important to know since offering a nap before your baby is tired will naturally result in your baby fighting his nap and not sleeping for long. While waiting too long to offer a nap results in an overtired baby, which makes it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep
- Naptime routine– Sounds excessive but totally worth it! 5-10 minutes in their room with the same steps every single time allows your baby to recognize that sleep is coming and start winding down from the business of their day. Lights off, white noise, lullabies, cuddles is all you need to succeed!
- Sleep Props– This is probably one the THE biggest culprit of a cat nap. A sleep prop is anything that your baby uses to fall asleep, eg; rocking, pacifier or feeding. If your baby is falling asleep at the start of their nap with any of these props, then naturally they will need that ‘prop’ to help them get back to sleep. Sometimes these props work just fine and they get to sleep/ back to sleep just fine and sometimes they stop working and that’s when you know you need to work on your little one’s independent sleep skills.
These are the 4 main culprits when it comes to a cap napper.
If you’ve assessed these 4 points and your child is usually a great sleeper who was taking great naps but suddenly is not, then consider things like sleep regressions, developmental leaps or time to transition naps. We will leave that for another post. In the meantime mama, know that you are not alone in the journey and if you need help teaching your little one independent sleep skills. We are here to help!
Victoria Thompson is a Certified Sleep Consultant with The Dream Team.
If you’d like to chat with her about getting your little one to sleep better, schedule a free 15 minute call to get started!