For many of you, naps during the day cause a huge amount of stress and frustration.
You may have heard catnapping is “normal” or “developmentally appropriate”, yet you can see your baby or toddler is struggling, especially by the end of the day and you know deep down, there has to be a better way.
When my middle child Harry was a baby, there was a time when he was waking 20 minutes into his nap, every nap. It drove me bonkers.
Catnapping is exhausting.
It’s exhausting for your baby or toddler and it’s exhausting for you too.
Babies and children who have short, frequent naps all day just do not get enough deep, good quality, restorative sleep each day.
They become overtired, irritable, a nightmare to settle and often, they sleep worse overnight as a result.
If your little one is in a cycle of having catnaps of 20 or 30 minute, or less, throughout the day or naps of just one 45-50 minute sleep cycle, they have ended up doing this not because “it’s just the way it is” but because their core sleep and routine foundations have not been set up and correctly put in place first.
Lengthening naps can take some time but with consistency and commitment from you, they will.
MY FIVE STEPS INCLUDE –
NIGHTS FIRST - Your baby or toddler’s naps will only lengthen if they are sleeping (feeding if needed) well overnight. If your baby or child is having broken sleep all night or not getting enough total sleep overnight, they will be going into their days feeling tired, irritable and on “the back foot”, making it very hard for them fall asleep during the day and stay asleep.
The day naps need the night-time sleep to be on track. You need to make sure your baby or child’s night-time is set up correctly before working on breaking you them out of the catnapping cycle for their day naps.
BASIC NEEDS – For your little one to nap well, their basic needs must be met. Babies and toddlers don’t need a lot. They need to be healthy, well fed, clean, dry, warm and snug, loved and they need sleep. If they are all these things, there is no reason why they can’t nap well. A cold, hungry, dirty, wet baby will not.
Before putting your little one down to nap, tick all the “basic needs” boxes, then feel confident putting them down and leaving them down in their bassinet, cot or bed for their long, restful nap.
RESPOND TO TIRED SIGNS - If you put your little one down for their nap before they are tired or when they become overtired, they won’t sleep as well as when you hit that “magic window” when they are just-tired.
In between naps, towards the end of your little one’s wake time (the wake time is from when they wake up till when they go back down to sleep) as they begin to get tired, your baby or child will begin show you tired signs.
Learning to recognise your baby or child’s-tired signs will help you a lot. When you see the signs, you’ll know it’s time for sleep.
DON’T RUSH IN - If your little one is waking 20, 30, 45 minutes into their nap, try not to rush in straight away. If you do go in and get them up, it won’t be long until they get tired and need to go back to bed again which encourages the up down, up down catnapping cycle that benefits no one.
If your baby or toddler is fussing, not screaming, try leaving them resettle back to sleep so they can finish their nap. They may surprise you by falling back asleep with minimal upset but if they don’t, support them using your chosen settling method until they return to sleep.
DON’T PANIC - It may take your little one some time to consolidate their naps during the day. Don’t panic things don’t fall into place as quickly as you would like. It’s important to keep everything consistent and really stick to your routine during the day.
If there is a nap session when your baby or toddler just will not settle for whatever reason (and there will be occasions when this happens), try not to panic. Take a few deep breaths, you can always end a nap session if it is becoming too difficult and you are getting too stressed and anxious. Simply, end that nap session, get your child up, offer a something to eat and drink and then try again.
If you have tried working on your little one’s naps and you’re still struggling, don’t hesitate to reach out.
I talk through NAPS in my comprehensive and easy-to-follow Age Basics eBooks LINK. Reading through my eBooks might be all you need to nail the naps once and for all.