I’m constantly hearing from mums about the struggle and frustration of their babies who won’t sleep longer than 30-45 minutes at a time. Catnapping can be such a tricky part of infant sleep and there are often a combination of factors that will undermine all your hard work.
If you’re a tired mum, particularly one with older children, you might be using baby’s naptime to get housework done, or have a nap of your own. So it can be frustrating when baby won’t stay down for long enough for you to get a load of washing done.
Here are 4 tips to help you gradually increase your babies nap time and encourage longer, deeper day-time sleeps.
1) Fill that tiny tummy
The problem with catnapping is that most babies quickly develop a habit of snacking on a very small amount of milk or solids to accompany their short naps, which perpetuates this frustrating cycle.
Try to create a buffer between feeding and nap time, which will help reduce the association of “food equals sleep” and “waking equals food”. Try not to feed your little one to sleep and when they wake up, enjoy a cuddle or a small play before offering a feed. This then reduces the feeding/sleeping association that most catnapping babies have developed.
After the first few months, your baby will become easily distracted during meal times and won’t drink or eat enough. Try to eliminate as much distraction as possible, keep milk feeds relatively quiet in a space that isn’t too stimulating and gently encourage your little one to take a full feed.
Depending on your child’s age it may be time to start solids.
The food we offer our babies will impact how long and how well they sleep.
Offering high quality, grass-fed, iron enriched protein (red meat), along with good fats (like avocado, coconut oil, wild caught salmon) will satisfy and sustain a little belly much longer than rice cereal alone. Obviously, fruit and veggies are extremely important but I’ve found that infant sleep can significantly improve with the addition of good fats and iron enriched protein.
2) Offer your little one nurture-based sleep guidance
At around 4-months-old your baby will likely experience the 4-month-sleep regression, which isn’t really a regression at all, it’s simply a positive sign that your child is growing!
At this time, your sweet angel will start to transition from newborn sleep cycles (which are quite long) to adult sleep cycles (which are about 45 minutes in length). If your baby hasn’t learnt to self settle (don’t worry, many haven’t at this stage) and is being rocked or nursed to sleep, they will call you every time they wake up through the night to help them get back to sleep.
Also referred to as sleep training, gentle sleep guidance consists of helping your baby settle to sleep without you feeding or rocking them.
Try to find ways to help your little one settle and always place them in bed while they are still awake.
Once your baby is comfortable self-settling, they will still wake up between each sleep cycle, but if they are comfortable they will gently put themselves back to sleep for another sleep cycle.
3) Keep cozy and carry on
I notice so many of the babies I see are often underdressed for naps or sleeping in rooms that are too cold. Room temperature, bedding and bedtime attire can make or break infant sleep because a cold baby will wake up through the night and will take shorter catnaps during the day.
You really need to use your own discretion and decide on the right room temperature and clothing for your child, but remember, a smaller sleeping body loses heat much more quickly that an adult’s body. I usually recommend a room be heated to about 22°C to create a comfortable environment for baby sleep, but please use your own discretion because you’re the one standing in the room with your child.
Always try to use cotton bedding and clothing which will retain some warmth without overheating your child. Please always adhere to the SIDS and Kids Safe Sleeping Guide.
4) Schedule some sleep
Overtiredness is one of the biggest reasons a baby will catnap. I know it sounds strange and a lot of people think that if their child is waking up after only a short nap they mustn’t be very tired but this is often a mistake.
Sleep begets sleep, if your little one isn’t getting enough sleep for their age and size, they will wake up more frequently and it will often be impossible to help them lengthen their daytime naps.
The simplest way to help your child get enough sleep is to follow an age appropriate sleep schedule, which includes sleep and feed times.
When you follow a sleep schedule you can rest assured your child will be getting the right quantity of sleep for their age.
Follow this guide and you might find yourself getting a lot more napping of your own done.
Do you have trouble getting baby to sleep? Share with us below.
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