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Do you have a Catnapper?
Do you ever say to yourself “help! I have a catnapper”. A cat napper can cause their parents much frustration! Do you feel like you put baby down for a nap and then in what seems like 5 minutes, they are awake up again? Ok! Maybe it’s more like 20 to 45 minutes but it doesn’t seem like enough sleep!
Don’t worry – you are not alone and it is a common and normal issue for babies to take a cat nap. A cat nap is when your baby continually takes short naps (between 20-40 minutes) and doesn’t string together two naps into one longer sleep cycle.
It is quite normal for babies up to 6 months of age to take “cat naps” so do not be too concerned. Babies take a while to figure out their circadian rhythm (their internal body clock). This is not dissimilar to babies discerning between night and day, it just takes time. So long as your baby eventually learns the skills to self settle, it should improve over time.
A cat nap equals one sleep cycle or around 30-45 minutes at a time. Ideally the goal is to stretch baby onto a longer one. Some babies may even sleep a little shorter than this.
Cat napping can peak around 4-6 months but should start to improve by 7 months. If not, it could mean that it is no longer a biological necessity, but more of an association of habit. You can help a cat napper by addressing the following issues.
Unfortunately when baby becomes unwell, they may wake more often than usual or find it more difficult to initiate sleep. If you think your baby may have an underlying health issue that could be affecting their sleep, always go with your gut feeling and get it checked out by a health care professional first and then deal with sleep second.
Developmental Changes causing Catnapper
When baby is going through a big growth spurt or developmental period, it can often coincide with a sleep regression. You may have heard of the saying “wonder week” where your baby may take huge developmental leaps in a short period. All this stimulation in their brain can play havoc with their sleep cycles. So maybe try writing a diary tracking your little one’s sleep to see if this is a sudden change or a long term issue. For further information, read our blog on “Sleep Regression”.
Teething can be a “developmental” issue as well and can cause interruptions to sleep if baby is uncomfortable but this too shall pass.
Is the dummy helping or hindering your child’s sleep? Many parents use the dummy as a stop gap measure but sometimes it can create a bigger issue. If baby is waking and wondering where the dummy went, then it is highly unlikely that they don’t know how to self-settle without it. If you are finding that your baby cannot get to sleep without the dummy, then it might be time to try putting baby to bed without it. Many babies can eventually learn to get to sleep without the dummy. Read more about “How to Get Rid of The Dummy”.
Over Tired Catnapper
This may sound counter intuitive but if baby is going to bed over tired, they’re going to be far more difficult to settle and may wake up more easily. Get to know your baby’s tired signs and initiate sleep as soon as you see the tired signs appearing. It will make life a lot easier for everyone and hopefully your baby will sleep better.
Under Tired Catnapper
Are you trying to put baby to bed too early? This could be another cause of catnapping. Make sure baby has had enough stimulation and time awake. How about tummy time? This is a great way to tire out your baby. Read more about tummy time here.
Routine and Structure
At Bubbaroo, we talk a lot about sleep routines and setting up your baby for a good sleep. We have found that parents that follow the feed, play, sleep routine and let baby know when it’s time to go to bed. Using a Bubbaroo Baby Sleeping Bag or Swaddle Wrap as a sleep cue can help baby learn when it’s time for bed and form part of your baby’s sleep routine.
Another word of advice from many mothers is not to rush into baby as soon as you hear them make a peep. Wait outside the door for a few minutes and see if baby is trying to self settle. Let me be clear, this doesn’t mean let your baby cry it out! Helping your baby form good routines and teaching baby to self settle means less chance of a cat napper in the long run
This is a common question from parents – is my baby waking because they are too cold? If baby is too cold then it is likely that they might rouse from their nap more easily or wake up too early in the morning. On the other hand, it is very important not to overheat your baby, hoping they will sleep longer. Overheating can increase the risk of SIDS.
Always check your baby’s chest or back of their neck to see if they are warm or cool. Do not use their hands and feet as a measure of temperature. Also check your baby’s chest, head or neck for dampness. If your child is damp this is a sign that they’re sweating and overheating.
It’s really important to keep baby comfortably warm for sleep. You might like to read our blog “Is My Baby Too Hot or Too Cold For Sleep”.
Did you know that swaddling your baby in the early months will improve their sleep quality. Bubbaroo Joey Pouch Swaddle Wrap or Joey Pod Swaddle Wrap helps to reduce your baby’s natural moro (startle) reflex so they do not wake themselves when their arms fling out.
A Joey Pouch Swaddle Wrap or Joey Pod Swaddle Wrap allows baby freedom of movement and access to their hands without escaping the covers.
Daylight helps prevent baby from becoming catnapper
Be sure that baby’s room is not too light and bright for sleep. Block out blinds are a good idea as they help with light and also to muffle out sound.
Getting out in the sun light every day when baby is awake, will help your baby settle into their circadian rhythm faster. Did you know that sunlight helps our bodies produce our sleep hormone melatonin from the chemical melanin. Melanin is produced in the skin through sun exposure.
Long Term Sleep goals
If baby is waking up happy, then a cat nap may not be cause for concern because your have a happy catnapper. On the other hand if baby is grumpy and irritable after a nap then it could be a sign that they are not getting enough sleep. A chat with your child health nurse or doctor could help.
Finally as always, make sure baby’s room is safe so when they do start to sleep longer, you will know that they are perfectly safe and comfortable in the bed. Always follow RedNose guidelines and safe sleep practices. No matter how frustrated or tired you are, do not compromise safety for a sleeping baby.
Try to work with your cat napper to establish good sleep hygiene. A baby that goes into their cot slightly awake and is left to self-settle most of the time will build up good sleep habits – making life a lot easier for you in the long run!