"No day is so bad it can’t be fixed with a nap." ~ Carrie Snow
Does your newborn or infant struggle with the dreaded cat nap or as I like to call them, CRAP naps? There’s nothing worse than seeing your child struggle with short naps. Any nap that is less than 45 minutes is not mentally restorative but it may be physically restorative meaning, it is just enough to get your child through for the next hour or two before the crankiness kicks in. It’s kind of like having French fries for a snack instead of an apple with peanut butter; the French fries will hold you over for an hour or two but the apple/peanut butter combo will fill you up for at least three hours. My daughter took cat naps for the first 4-5 months of life until I started to do these simple things.
Put your child down for more naps in their crib, in a darkened room with white noise. The same circumstances they have at night time for sleep, create for your child in the day time.
After 2 months of age, avoid holding your baby to sleep, having them sleep in the carrier, car naps and stroller naps, unless it is the last nap of the day or extenuating social activities (plans out of the home on the weekend that you need to work around).
If you put your child down for a nap and they cry or are fussy, that’s okay! This may be a new thing for your baby and it takes time to build them up to the 1-2 hour naps.
Once your child starts to become more comfortable sleeping in the day time in their crib, gradually delay your response to them waking up prematurely. If your child is waking up 30 minutes into a nap, start by waiting 5 minutes before going to get them out of the crib. After a few days, start to wait 7 minutes before going in etc. The idea is you want to build them up gradually over a few weeks to get them comfortable sleeping in their crib for a longer duration, ideally at least an hour.
The main end goal to have when you are working towards extending a cat nap is to be able to leave your child be, alone in their crib in their room for an hour. Think about it, do you think you’d nap better in the car or in your bedroom with blackout shades and a white noise machine? Over time as your baby becomes more comfortable hanging out in their crib alone for an hour, when he/she wakes up at the 45 minute mark, your child will learn to put themselves back to sleep, allowing for a deeper more mentally restorative REM sleep. Naps take longer to come together than night sleep simply because the need for sleep in the day is not as strong as the need for sleep at night time.
The best thing you can do when you are “nap training” is to be patient and consistent. Babies tend to start getting into a good rhythm with day sleep between 6-8 months of age, once the startle reflex fades (wahoo)!