Ah, the dreaded baby catnap. If you are going through this currently, or have in the past you know what I mean.
Those naps where your baby is barely dozing instead of falling into a good deep sleep. While not all catnapping is bad, disturbed sleeping habits can cause a cranky and restless baby.
We all know how vital sleep is for humans, in fact 1/3 of our lives are spent sleeping.
In this blog, we will be chatting about what cat naps are, how cat naps affect your baby’s development, tips on encouraging longer naps and more! Keep scrolling!
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What is Considered Catnapping and How Long is a Catnap?
Babies spend a significant amount of time sleeping, especially if they are younger babies. It is normal for a baby to take several naps per day and those make up the total sleep time.
Catnaps are when babies sleep for very short periods of time. A nap is considered a “catnap” when it is short in duration and no more than 30-45 minutes.
Is Catnapping a Problem?
Newborns and younger babies are known for taking shorter naps. Short naps are a good way for them to get a burst of energy.
Catnaps are not necessarily a problem. The problem occurs when the baby’s catnaps start interfering with their night sleep that can become a problem.
If your baby is sleeping well at night you probably won’t be too concerned. However, what tends to happen is that the short catnaps do not allow for the baby to get rested. Then, this in turn affects their nighttime sleep because they are over tired.
The cycle of being overtired is hard to break, but you can do it!
Does Catnapping Affect Baby’s Development?
If your baby is not getting enough sleep or quality sleep, their development can be hindered. Sleep is so important for baby’s growth and brain development.
If your baby is tired constantly they may not be up for learning, moving and growing!
8 Reasons Why Your Baby May Be Catnapping
While these may not be all of the reasons your baby could be catnapping, there are a lot of possibilities that I have listed! And, your baby may be catnapping for a combination of reasons!
If your baby is ill, they may start catnapping. This is because during a sickness, your baby needs sleep to overcome the illness they are fighting.
During this time, you may notice a fever, crankiness, loss of appetite, lethargy, etc. If these symptoms persist, make sure to contact your pediatrician.
If your baby is uncomfortable during their naptime, they will likely take short naps or not take a nap at all.
I feel like babies are the Goldie Locks of sleeping conditions. This is probably due to the fact that they are easily over stimulated.
If it is too loud, bright, hot or cold your baby is likely not going to take a good nap. If you are dealing with a chronic catnapper, you might evaluate their sleeping situation.
Inconsistent Sleep Schedule
Babies thrive on a schedule. Let me say it again, babies thrive on a schedule!
Don’t get me wrong, your schedule doesn’t have to be by the minute. You can have a relatively loose schedule, but being consistent is going to help you and your baby get into a routine.
With my babies, I liked to do the same routine before naps and bedtime. This helps your baby to know what is coming next and not fight sleep as much.
If you aren’t familiar with REM sleep it stands for Rapid Eye Movement sleep. Babies have a lot more REM sleep than older children and adults because REM sleep helps brain development, behavior and comprehension of the world around them.
REM sleep is a much lighter form of sleep, and it is easier to be awoken during REM sleep. Making sure that your baby has something like white or brown noise can help this!
Inconsistent Feeding Schedule
For the most part, babies tend to eat on a schedule. When catnapping starts to occur, it could be that they are falling asleep while eating, then dozing and waking up hungry thus creating catnapping.
When feeding, try to make sure that they are eating while awake. This can be difficult sometimes, especially in the newborn and young baby stages where they are sleepy.
To make sure they are awake try these things:
- Remove any blankets that may be making them super warm. While you don’t want your baby to be cold, removing the blanket can take away the extra warmth that makes them sleepy.
- Feed with the lights on instead of it being dark.
- Tickle their toes/feet
- Talk to them
Teething is for the birds! During teething, your baby is uncomfortable and irritable creating exhaustion and restlessness.
When your baby is tired from teething, they might fall asleep while they are somewhat comfortable and then be woken up by pain or discomfort.
Going Through A Leap
Developmental leaps can definitely be a reason for catnapping babies! These developmental leaps are a time when your baby is learning new things rapidly and trying to take everything in, which often leads to overstimulation.
My babies always had trouble with catnaps during leaps, and ultimately were restless at night as well.
If your baby has FOMO (fear of missing out) like mine did, this could be a reason that they are catnapping. I see that this happens when babies have older siblings that they are trying to keep up with and never want to miss out on anything!
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10 Tips To Encourage Your Catnapping Baby To Take Longer Naps
Hopefully you were able to identify a cause of why your baby has taken to catnapping. Now, we can talk about ways to encourage your catnapping baby to take longer naps.
And all the mama’s said amen!
White noise is a great way to help your baby drift off into a deeper sleep. White noise helps to cancel out noises from outside, crazy siblings, doorbells, etc!
We know that babies wake very easily during their REM sleep cycles, and we also know that babies have lots more REM sleep than adults. Adding in white noise can help to block out those startling sounds while your baby is in REM sleep.
Lots of white noise machines also have a heartbeat setting, that mimics what they would’ve heard inside the womb.
Some babies love swaddles and some babies hate them, but if your baby is having trouble falling into a deep sleep they are worth a try! And who doesn’t love a cute baby burrito?!
Swaddling helps to reduce the natural startle reflex that all babies have. Not only does swaddling mimic the womb, but also mimics your touch and they learn how to self soothe.
Sleep suits are similar to swaddles, but allow for more independence of the arms and legs. Sleep suits provide warmth, while also adding a bit of weight to the baby’s body to prevent startling.
Sleep suits are a relatively new item and are becoming increasingly popular!
Black Out Curtains
In our home, we love blackout curtains for all bedrooms especially the nursery! Blackout curtains are different from regular curtains in that they block out a majority of the light coming in from outside and help to muffle noise from outside as well.
A bonus is that they have tons of patterns and prints to match your nursery/bedroom style!
If your baby is partial to contact naps, baby wearing might be a good solution for you! Baby wearing allows for you baby to still have your comfort, while you have the ability to move around and get things done.
I love baby wraps because they are light weight and breathable in the summer time. Structured baby carriers are nice because you don’t have to deal with all of the fabric of a wrap.
Both carriers are great options and my babies didn’t mind either way.
Fans are great for airflow and white noise. Having a fan going in the room also reduces the risk of SIDS by 72%! This is because they are less likely to overheat.
I know that I cannot sleep without a fan, because the air gets stagnant. The constant airflow is great to keep fresh air circulating and your baby cool.
Having a comfortable sleeping place for your baby is important. Baby mattresses are typically harder than toddler mattresses to prevent the baby from getting suck when they are unable to role.
That being said, some baby mattresses are super uncomfortable and may be the reason your baby is restless and catnapping.
Babies love being near their parent’s because they are comforted by your presence and unique scent. It’s no wonder that as soon as you get your baby laid down they are stirring shortly after.
To combat this, you can place a shirt or jacket near their crib/bassinet so they can still smell you. Be careful not to place the item close to their face due to risk of suffocation.
Babies instinctively are soothed by suckling. Pacifiers can be a great alternative to you being your baby’s pacifier.
Suckling reminds your baby of the womb, where they were comforted constantly. Suckling is actually one of the 5 womb sensations that help to soothe and calm your baby.
Here are a list of the 5 womb sensations that help soothe and calm:
- Side/Stomach Position
Taking your baby from the swaddle straight to pajamas doesn’t always go over well. Having something like a sleep sack in between the swaddle and pajamas is great for transitioning.
I love the idea of sleep sacks for babies that do not like swaddles. They still have comfort similar to a swaddle, with more freedom.
If your baby is a catnapping prince or princess, you may consider trying a sleep sack.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Catnapping Babies
You might have lots of burning questions about catnapping babies. I have addressed the most popular below, but you can always comment with more questions!
What age does catnapping begin?
Catnapping happens often from the 8 week old mark. This is due to the maternal melatonin officially being out of the body and they baby starting to make their own.
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When will my baby outgrow catnaps?
As your baby matures, the REM sleep cycles that they go through will become less thus resulting in fewer instances where they have lighter sleep.
Your baby will eventually outgrow catnaps!
How can I prevent my baby from catnapping? And should I even try to stop it?
You can help prevent catnaps by following the tips that we have listed above. A few catnaps here and there aren’t bad, however if you notice that they are recurringly taking catnaps I would address it.
When should I worry about catnapping?
Generally most people start to worry about catnapping when their baby’s nighttime sleep is effected. I would recommend addressing the catnapping before it gets to that point.
This can be hard, especially if the cat naps are due to illness or teething, but it is worth a try! When catnapping starts effecting night time sleep, it is often because your baby is overtired, and is difficult to stop the cycle.
What do I do if none of the tips to encourage longer sleep work?
I would definitely consult your pediatrician if none of the tips to encourage longer sleep work. There may be an underlying condition that you aren’t aware of or they may have a resource for baby sleep consultants!
Is Catnapping Normal for Babies?
Catnapping can be normal for babies, yes. A catnap here and there definitely won’t hurt.
Catnapping becomes a problem when it starts to affect nighttime sleep and that can bleed over into developmental delays.
I hope that you were able to identify a few reasons that your baby has taken to catnapping, and a few tips to use to combat those catnaps!
What are your best tips to combat those dreaded catnaps? Let me know in the comments below!