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Is Catnapping Bad For Babies?

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Catnapping is a nap that lasts about 20-45 minutes or even less. Babies can find it hard to go back to sleep after catnapping. Some babies may even nap for five minutes and wake up more energized and not go back to sleep.

As any new parent will attest, there is never enough sleep. But with a fussy baby and a full schedule, it can be hard to find the time to take care of yourself and get some rest.

You will always find yourself wishing your baby would sleep longer so you can have some rest.

Is catnapping bad for babies?

Catnapping is not bad for babies. In the early days of a child’s life, they do not have a schedule and will sleep whenever they are tired.

While this can be frustrating when you need them to go down for naps or at night, it is completely normal! In fact, some babies even prefer to catnap during the day rather than sleep for longer periods.

Portrait of cute newborn baby girl, sleepin

Newborns have a disorganized sleeping pattern in their first few months of living. They only sleep when tired. There is no cause for worry if your baby has embraced catnaps, that’s okay since their sleep pattern may have been programmed that way from when they were still in the womb.

When to worry

You have to be on the lookout, especially if your newborn wakes up from sleep too soon and is inconsolable.

Have you tried feeding, rocking, and bouncing them, and they seem not to want to go back to sleep? If you have tried these and the baby is still fussy it is best to schedule an appointment with a pediatrician. Your baby could be suffering from colic or have other underlying problems.

If your newborn is checking all the developmental milestones boxes, is healthy, and wakes up happy and energized then a cat nap shouldn’t worry you.

What Causes Catnapping

If you wish to improve your baby’s sleep pattern, you have to be in the know about the causes of catnapping. Here are some of the most common reasons:

They Must Be Tired

This is a common factor that can make your baby cat nap.  When babies are overly tired, they can struggle going back to sleep. Overtiredness can therefore cause prolonged catnapping.

On the other hand, a newborn with enough wake-time isn’t ready for a more restful sleep. Even if you try to console the newborn to sleep, it may not work.

The remedy for this is quite simple. Ensure your newborn follows a sleep program to rule out this problem.

Your Baby is Hungry

When your baby is hungry, he will not sleep for very long. So, ensure that he is properly fed to alleviate the chances of catnapping.

Feeding your baby when he is tired can be difficult. To resolve this, you must ensure the baby is well-fed and is following a sleep program.

They Might Be Sick

Mother holding thermometer measuring temperature of her sick baby

You just fed the baby, and you are sure he isn’t tired but the child is still catnapping. It could be that he has underlying medical issues that need to be checked out. Sometimes babies can start catnapping when they have an ear infection or a sore throat.

If your baby has been sleeping for longer periods and suddenly starts catnapping, you should seek further medical assistance as the baby might be unwell, even with no other symptoms to display.

Uncondusive Sleeping Environment

The ambiance where the baby sleeps plays a vital role in their staying asleep for longer hours.

You should ensure the room is darker and has white noise, but don’t blast the noise too loud. It can damage the baby’s hearing.

Ways To Extend Babies Nap Time

After learning what causes short-period naps, you are in a better position to extend their nap time. Here is what you need to improve and expand their sleep cycle.

1. Start The Sleep Routine Before The Baby Overtires

Put the baby in the crib when she is drowsy but still awake. By this, the baby will learn to fall asleep on her own.

They will recognize the area as a safe place to sleep and become comfortable enough to go back to sleep again.

2. Resettling

You can quickly help your baby sleep if you don’t rush to pick him up when he cries or fusses. If the baby is just fussy and not screaming. You can let him be and let him figure it out on his own.

He can still surprise you and go back to sleep. If you go check up on the baby, try singing or humming to calm him down before you pick him up. An excellent way to do this is by offering five minutes of humming to see whether or not the baby will self-settle back to sleep.

3. Swaddling

Baby girl yawning swaddled in bed closeup

This is the best way to ensure the baby has extended sleep. Some of the key factors to look out for are the baby’s safety: Are they rolling? If your baby knows how to roll, then swaddling is not for you.

If the child is close to rolling, you can set one arm out, and T sleeps over the swaddle to limit rolling. If your baby soothes himself with a hand, you can wrap the baby with one arm out of the swaddle. You can also comfortably fit in a pacifier in the swaddle.

4. Noise

White noise and pink noise can effectively help the baby sleep for longer hours as the ambiance is just like in the womb. It helps to create a soothing and relaxing environment for the baby.

As your baby grows older, they become more alert. Such noises help in tuning them down for better sleep. You can play the noises when the baby is awake just before they need to fall asleep.

White noises are effective in masking other noises like doors closing or keys falling.

  • White noises examples: the noise made by vacuum cleaners or noise from the radio at unused frequencies.
  • Pink noises examples: Rain, birds chirping, soft background music,

Some machines like the YogaSleep white noise machine make these noises. However, if you don’t have such a machine, vacuum sound can also make efficient white noise.

For pink noises, there are many apps that have such noises or you can use Youtube. You can also download some soothing songs and play them when necessary.

5.  Be Consistent

For your baby, ensure the bedtime routine begins at the same time every day. The process should include bathing and reading bedtime stories. Consistency prepares the baby for sleep by ensuring they are relaxed.

Once the baby is relaxed, it sends a message to their brain to increase their melatonin and decrease temperature.

Baby sleeping in bed with teddy bear

Final thoughts

Catnapping is another phase of developmental milestone for a child. Teaching them to resettle when they wake up in time will help them self-settle in between their sleep cycles. In no time, they will figure out how to consolidate and sleep for longer hours.

Babies that are rocked, bounced, bottled, or breastfed to sleep are most likely prone to cat naps. As soon as they wake up, they will try to find what helped them sleep in the first place.

You can help your baby to transition quickly from a catnapper to an extended sleeper. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to get the sleeping pattern right. Some newborns are naturally light sleepers, while others sleep for longer periods of time.

Every milestone in your child’s life will come with its challenges. Various factors like brain development and adjusting to life outside the womb may make your baby have inconsistency when it comes to sleep, but with patience, love, and understanding your baby will transition to a better sleeper.