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  • Sharne Dolich

"How to Manage Infant Catnaps: A Guide for Exhausted Parents"

Updated: Mar 18

👶😴 Is your little one taking short naps, leaving you feeling frazzled and exhausted?

Don't worry, you're not alone! Combatting infant short naps, also known as cat napping, can be a challenge, but understanding why it happens can help you find solutions. Here's why your baby might be cat napping and some tips to extend those precious nap times:

1️⃣ Understanding Sleep Cycles: Babies, like adults, have sleep cycles that consist of light sleep and deep sleep stages. Cat napping often occurs when a baby doesn't transition successfully through these sleep cycles, causing them to wake prematurely. You will likely have noticed that your baby wakes after 30-50mins. This is because infant sleep cycles are only 30-50mins in length, and when they are assisted to fall asleep, they often wake at the end of the sleep cycle because they no longer have that assistance.

2️⃣ Teach Self-Soothing: Helping your baby learn to self-soothe can aid in extending nap times. Encouraging the use of a lovey, instead of cuddles, patting and/or a pacifier will help them transition through sleep cycles on their own.

3️⃣ Create a Soothing Sleep Environment: Make sure your baby's nap space is comfortable, quiet, and dark. Once your baby is past the newborn stage, they know the difference between day and night, so a dark room will make a huge difference to their sleep length. The darkness also naturally increases the production of melatonin (our sleep hormone) which helps babies sleep longer. Keep in mind, a consistent sleep environment can signal to your baby that it's time to relax and rest.

4️⃣ Stick to a Consistent Schedule: Establishing a predictable nap schedule can help regulate your baby's sleep patterns. Aim for regular nap times each day, and be patient as your little one adjusts. Be careful to use age appropriate 'awake window's' so baby is going to bed at the ideal time for their age (so they are not under or over tired).

*Note: for a baby who happily self settles, but has started to cat nap, the MOST common reason for this is going to bed too early. Extending their 'awake time' to build more sleep pressure often solves the issue.

5️⃣ Watch for Sleepy Cues: Look for signs that your baby is getting tired, such as rubbing their eyes, yawning, and becoming a little fussy. Catching these cues can help you get them down for a nap before they become overtired. Keep in mind, just one or two yawns alone is often seen as baby is approaching their tiredness, BUT, putting them down at this point is often too early and can cause them to fight going off to sleep OR cat nap.

6️⃣ Implement a Calming Pre-Nap Routine/'Steps to bed time': Create a calming pre-nap routine to help your baby wind down before sleep. This could include activities like reading a book, putting on a sleeping bag (or swaddle) gentle rocking, and/or singing a lullaby. Be sure to put baby down awake, so they know they are going to sleep in their bed.

7️⃣ Encourage Longer Naps: If your baby wakes up after a short nap, try to gently encourage them to go back to sleep by patting their back or offering a pacifier. Sometimes, a little extra comfort can help them settle back down for a longer snooze.

Remember, every baby is different, so it may take some trial and error to find the strategies that work best for your little one. Be patient with yourself and your baby as you navigate the journey of nap time! 💤 If you feel you have tired all of these and are still struggling, reach out, we are here to help! 👶😴

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