Your Mini Cart

Catnapping Solutions for During the Day

Catnapping Solutions for During the Day

Catnapping! One of the most common requests we get at The Sleep Store is to help babies sleep longer than 45 minutes during the day. Not only are many catnapping babies just not rested after a 45 minute sleep, but it makes for a very tiring day when mum or dad don't get any time for a rest either!

However there are also a lot of catnappers who are just fine on shorter sleeps and much time and energy can be wasted worrying about catnapping. So before proceeding, you might like to also read our article on Worrying about Catnapping.

Many babies grizzle or cry for a few minutes as they stir, wake and resettle back to sleep. This is quite normal and doesn't mean your baby is upset, hungry or ready to get up. For many babies it is just what they do in between sleep cycles, both day and night.


Does my baby need to sleep for longer during the day?

There are some catnapping babies who will only ever sleep for one sleep cycle, regardless of what you do!

If your baby sleeps for 45 minutes per sleep, wakes up cheerful and does not show any signs of tiredness until their next sleep, then try not to stress about the length of his day sleeps. It is likely the sleeps will increase as time goes on, and he becomes more active during the day.

But if your baby wakes up tired, grizzling or screaming after 45 minutes, it is much more likely that your catnapper is crying from tiredness rather than hunger, so try to resettle him for another sleep cycle and then feed him when he wakes.

The following tips should help you increase the length of your baby's day sleeps.


Opportunity to resettle

Once your baby is over a couple of months of age, we recommend that you give your baby the opportunity to resettle by himself if he wakes at the 20 or 45 minute mark.

If you always rush in as soon as he makes a little noise, over time he learns he needs you to help him back to sleep, and he never gets the chance to practice going back to sleep.

Many babies grizzle or cry for a few minutes as they stir, wake and resettle back to sleep. This is quite normal and doesn't mean your baby is upset, hungry or ready to get up. For many babies it is just what they do in between sleep cycles, both day and night.

How long you give your baby to resettle is completely up to you, how old your baby is and what you feel comfortable with. However a good rule of thumb would be to give your baby about 5 minutes of grizzling to see if they are looking likely to resettle or you could try something else like a buggy ride.


Swaddling

This is one of the most effective ways to increase the length of day sleeps, even if you don't wrap your baby at night or you stopped swaddling when your baby was smaller. Give it a try, you may well be surprised and delighted at the effect on your baby's day sleeping. We have often had customers who have 'tried everything' let us know what a difference swaddling their older baby made for catnapping.

The key issue with swaddling older babies is rolling and safety. If your baby is already rolling then swaddling is not safe. If your baby is close to rolling, then you need at least one arm out and preferably use a Safe T Sleep over your swaddle to prevent rolling.

If your baby is interested in using his hands/fingers to soothe himself, then wrap with one arm out. One arm out is also good if you want him to be able to hold a comfort blankie or put his dummy back in.

There are a lot of excellent fitted, escape proof swaddles available for older babies including those in our fitted swaddle category - these all allow arms in or out.

If you are taking your baby for a walk to help him sleep longer, we recommend you wrap your baby before putting him in the pushchair, or use a SwaddleMe which can be buckled into your pushchair harness.

We highly recommend the Love to Dream range of swaddles (pictured) plus the ergoCocoon range from ergoPouch for this age group.


Use white noise

Using white noise can be one of the most effective ways to help older babies to sleep longer and resettle without help during the day.

Even though white noise sounds like the inside of the womb, it is still be very effective for creating a relaxing and soothing environment. White noise can also mask distracting sounds from the family and household activity, and provide a strong cue that it is sleep time.

Also as babies get older, they are more and more awake and alert prior to sleep time, and white noise can help with the winding down needed to fall asleep.

Play your white noise at the start of your nap and continuously for the duration of the nap time.

We recomment either a Marpac white noise machine or a white noise CD played on repeat. You can also experiment with radio static or a phone app, but we find the marpac machines and specially engineered CDs are far more effective.

If you aren't currently using white noise, definitely add this to your catnapping plan of attack immediately. Even try the vacuum cleaner running under the bassinet if you need something to try right this minute!

Browse white noise options


Wake to Sleep - reset the sleep cycle with a gentle prod

Here's a trick that may just be what you need! Go into your baby about 5 minutes before she usually wakes up from her nap. Gently prod her, enough that she stirs or moves slightly...but not enough to fully wake her.

At that point your baby should fall back into a deep sleep, and sleep through the waking that was about to occur.

We have had amazing feedback on this technique from lots of mums, so we look forward to hearing how it works for you.

It generally won't work the first or second time you try it, so be patient and try Wake to Sleep for at least a few days.


Listen for the stirring

An alternative to Wake to Sleep is going in to resettle as soon as you hear some stirring. Some babies start to make little noises or wriggle round a bit before they fully wake.

So you could pop in once you hear these little sounds and do your resettling before baby wakes fully and cries. You can re-insert a dummy, use some patting, turn up the white noise or whatever works for your baby.

We recommend this as a shorter term option, in order to try to shift your baby's body clock to having longer naps.

Try reducing the help needed over time to see how baby gets on without your assistance and work on giving baby more opportunity to resettle without help.


Dummy

Using a dummy can be a great way to get your baby to resettle after one sleep cycle. It doesn't work for all babies, but it's well worth a try, especially if you have a sucky baby. Often baby wants to suck but doesn't yet need a feed, and they may well go back to sleep for another cycle once the sucking desire has been satisfied.

Once your baby is over about 5 months, you can start to teach your baby to re-insert the dummy without help. This is an excellent way for babies to get back to sleep and nap for longer.

However if your baby falls asleep with a dummy and won't put it back in for themself or wakes fully and won't resettle with help, it may be worth dropping the dummy altogether.

dummy-in-mouth-newborn-baby-on-side-woolbabe-tide-swaddle

Comforter

Does your baby have something to cuddle which helps her get back to sleep? Introducing a comforter can make a big difference with a lot of babies, as they can use it to resettle themself at the end of a sleep cycle. This can help achieve longer day sleeps and also consolidate night sleep into longer stretches.

It generally isn't a quick fix as it will take your baby a little while to become attached to their comforter and start to use it without help.

We generally recommend comforters for babies over 6 months, once they are outside of the SIDS risk group. However you can judge the time to introduce one based on baby's age, are there any other SIDS risk factors, are you watching your baby during day sleeps. Also you can attach a comforter to your baby's swaddle or sleeping bag so they can cuddle it but not have it end up over their face.

We recommend comforters made from beathable natural fibres that are easy to replace! Our favourites are Cuski.


Baby-Carrying - (using a sling or carrier)

Many older babies sleep well in a sling or carrier during the day, for some babies longer than they would in bed. And if baby wakes after a short sleep, a carried baby is easy to pat or jiggle back to sleep for a longer snooze.

 

Napping in a carrier means you are hands free and can carry on with whatever you are doing, which is useful if you want to walk, have other children or activities to get on with. It can be a great way to manage getting on with life with a catnapper, rather than a stressful day of constantly going back to the cot to resettle and feeling frustrated at how much of your day is taken up with trying to get your baby to sleep.

There are lots of different slings and wraps available - click here to see our range. Let us know if you need help choosing!

You can also use your carrier to resettle after a first sleep cycle in bed. This can be a good way to continue working on settling in bed but avoid baby becoming over-tired if you can't get them to resettle in bed.

We do recommend mixing up your day sleeps with some in bed and some in the carrier, rather than only using a carrier for day sleeps with an older baby. If all naps are in the carrier, your baby will likely become dependent on movement and patting to get to sleep and to resettle, which can impact on night sleep too. Of course this is not an issue if you are relaxed about ongoing night-waking or prefer to resettle your baby than have them learn to resettle.


Patting & Rocking

If your baby is still swaddled and you have had constant white noise playing loud, and baby will still not go back to sleep, try some patting, rub babies tummy or stroke her forehead, or gently rock the bassinet.

Often this gentle movement will be enough to stop baby crying, relax and fall back to sleep.

Baby will likely be less dependent on the help to resettle if you do patting or stroking in bed, rather than picking up and rocking back to sleep.

Over time, we recommend you pat or rock until baby is drowsy or calm, rather than rocking right back to sleep.


Walks in the pushchair

As with using a sling, buggy movement is another very effective tool for helping your baby sleep for longer during the day.

You can either walk your baby for the whole sleep or use a walk to resettle baby for a 2nd sleep cycle. It works well to settle baby in their bed, swaddled and with white noise for the first sleep cycle Then if your baby wakes after 20 or 45 minutes and won't resettle in the bassinet, you can then take them for a walk to get them back to sleep.

Keep baby firmly swaddled, as she will be much more likely to go back to sleep if she is still snug and doesn't startle.

You may also want to use some portable white noise, such as a Marpac Hushh.

Look for a bumpy place to walk, rather than smooth concrete. It seems the bumpier the walk, the better babies sleep!


Dark room

Close your baby's curtains and make his room nice and dark. Bright light can be stimulating to a baby, and may effect your baby resettling after one sleep cycle.

Invest in blackout lining on your curtains, or pin a blanket or black polythene (not in summer!) over the windows to see if that helps.

Or we have several options for temporary Blackout Blinds, which you can use and also take on holidays. These include the Lights Out Blinds and the Gro Anywhere Blinds.

This becomes more of an issue with babies once they are over 4 months and are far more aware of their surroundings...and can seethere are fun things to do when you get out of bed.

However lots of babies can still sleep really well in a lighter room, so this isn't an issue for all babies!


Is it time for a routine

We recommend using the feed/play/sleep routine during the day with younger babies, which means you put your baby into bed when she shows tired signs. Then feed her when she wakes from her sleep.

However if your baby is over about 4-5 months and still an over-tired, determined catnapper, you may want to look at using a routine with set nap times. It can take some getting used to and you may need to experiment with what nap times work for your baby. There are lots of sample routines online and lots of books with structured routines, so check out the options and see what might work for you.

Allow a week or so to see if the routine will work for your baby. You might need to use a lot of resettling in the meantime while your baby adjusts, such as buggy rides or a baby carrier. You might also need to use some distraction like bath time, some time outside in the fresh air or playing, as you stretch out the awake times.

This approach is not for everyone, but it can be the one thing people haven't tried that ends up making the biggest difference!

Sample nap schedules

For babies over 4-5 months - naps at 9am, 1pm and 4.30pm.

For babies over 6-7 months - naps at 9am and 1pm

For babies over 8 months - naps at 9.30am and 1.30pm.


Avoiding falling asleep in the car

We recommend that you avoid letting your baby fall asleep in the car when you can, as this reinforces cat napping habits. Having a usual nap schedule, as above, makes this easier.

For example, your baby may fall asleep 10 minutes before you get home, and think he has had his sleep. That means he then won't settle for another sleep in his cot, your routine will get completely out of whack and you will have a baby that will be really over-tired later in the day.

We find it works best to either go out after your baby's morning sleep or to go out early and put baby into his pushchair for his morning sleep when you get to your destination (wrapped or in sleeping bag, whatever you do at home).


Teaching your baby to self settle

If your baby can't settle himself to sleep, it will be hard for him to resettle at the end of a 45 minutes sleep cycle in the day. So if you are currently helping your baby fall asleep with feeding or rocking, for either day sleeps or bedtime, this is a good place to start working on to improve day sleeps.

Click here to read our information on teaching your baby to self settle. Learning to self settle doesn't have to mean leaving your baby to cry, it just means you need to start a process where you wean your baby off needing you to fall asleep.

Whichapproach to take will depend on the age of your baby and what you are comfortable with. This also might be something you come back to once you have tried a number of other techniques, such as white noise and swaddling.


But I've tried all those things & nothing works!!!

For starters, make sure you have persevered with the tips and not just tried things once or twice. Plus you may need to increase the intensity that you try the techniques with - for sample, very quiet white noise doesn't have much impact on catnapping but loud white noise makes a difference with most babies.

But if the above info doesn't make a difference for your baby, perhaps she is just going to be a cat-napper in the near future.... some babies are happy with less sleep! Use your baby's temperent as a guide rather than what a book says about how long your baby should sleep for!

We do find that some parents get fixated on how much their babies sleep in the day, rather than just seeing this as a phase and enjoying their baby for who they are. Try not to compare with the mums in your coffee group for example, as hearing that other babies sleep for longer may drive you crazy and it might not even be true!!!

If you have tried all our catnapping tips and your baby is still sleeping for shorter sleeps, then so be it. Please try not to stress about it, just go with the flow in the meantime. You will likely find that some tips do work over time or that as your baby grows, her sleep changes.



Recommended Articles