Q&A with Elizabeth: Cat-naps, In-arms Napping, and Naptime Battles

Posted by in No-Cry Nap

My baby is a cat-napper! He only naps about 30 to 45 minutes, but soon afterward he seems tired and gets crabby. Is this because the nap is too short? ~ Annika, mother to 14-month-old Mordechai

Your suspicions are correct! A short nap takes the edge off, but doesn’t offer the same physical and mental nourishment that a longer nap provides.

It has been discovered that each stage of sleep brings a different benefit to the sleeper. The very first five to fifteen minutes reduce feelings of sleepiness and bring that whoosh of second-wind energy. But this dissipates quickly; resulting is fussiness, crying, crankiness, tantrums and whining.

It takes between 90 and 120 minutes for a child to move through one entire sleep cycle – which brings benefits such as: stabilizing mood, increasing alertness, improving motor skills, enhancing brain connections, sharpening visual and perceptual skills, repairing bones, tissue and muscles, boosting the immune system, regulating appetite and releasing bottled up tension and stress.

In order for your child to receive all of these wonderful gifts he must sleep long enough to pass at least once through each stage of sleep (90 to 120 minutes!). Longer naps will encompass additional sleep cycles and provide a continuous string of these benefits.

A long nap really is a Perfect Nap.

Ryan

Ryan

My baby will only nap in my arms. If I try to put Emily down she wakes right up. This was fine for a few months, but she’s five months old now. I’d really like to have her nap in her cradle so I can make productive use of her naptime! ~ Leanne, mom to 5-month-old Emily

Guess what? Over 65% of infants fall asleep this way, so Emily is clearly in the majority! It’s easy to see why: being in your arms – outside the womb – is the place that most clearly resembles being inside the womb: the cozy, secure place where your baby began life. In a perfect world we’d allow babies to always sleep in the comfort of our arms. But, as you said, arms get tired, and there are many tasks that need to be done with two of them.

Here are a few tips for switching from in-arms naps to in-bed naps:

  • Learn to identify your baby’s sleepy signals and put her for a nap the minute you identify her signs of fatigue; she’ll more likely welcome a nap
  • Let your baby fall asleep, and take her entire nap to the sounds of gentle lullabies, or white noise, such as a recording of ocean waves, rainfall, or the sound of a human heartbeat.
  • Keep your baby’s napping room dimly lit.
  • Try swaddling your infant for naptime.
  • Investigate the purchase of a baby hammock or swinging cradle.
  • Invest in a quality crib mattress or padded crib mattress cover to create a softer, yet safe, bed surface.
  • Use soft crib sheets, such as fleece, flannel, or jersey knit. These fabrics are soft and warmer to the touch than traditional crib sheets and less jarring when you first lay your baby down.
  • Let your baby have several quiet play sessions in her crib during waking hours. Stay with her and engage her interest so she becomes familiar with the setting. This way, when she is put in his crib for naptime it won’t be a foreign place, but a familiar place acceptable for naps.
Nathaniel

Nathaniel

Naptime has turned into a daily battle. My daughter fights me every day. Should I just give up naps? ~ Aikya, mother to 3 ½ year old Dinesha

Every child can benefit from a daily nap, but sometimes there is nothing you can do to get your child to actually sleep. (You know… you can lead a horse to water, and all that!) However, day after day, week after week – all that child-energy expanded, without a rest break – can result in a fussy child prone to tears, temper tantrums and whining.

Instead of fighting your daughter about taking a nap – try starting a “Hush Hour.” This is a rest-break that can provide a wonderful substitute for an actual nap.

The Hush Hour is a quiet, restful hour that encourages relaxation. Sleep is not required, but the setting often brings about a peaceful aftereffect, much as a nap would. Have your child lie comfortably on a sofa or bed. Let her listen to a child’s audio book or soft music, and turn down the lights.

The Hush Hour is most effective when used at the same time every day. Try to create a daily ritual that includes a Hush Hour in the afternoon, perhaps when your little one returns home from daycare or school.

Your child may or may not sleep but she will be refreshed after this break.

Alex

Alex


Need more tips? The No-Cry Nap Solution is filled with gentle ways to solve your naptime problems.


What is your question? Please ask it here – and watch for it to be answered in an upcoming column.

4 Comments

  1. My 2 year fights like crazy against naps. We are still co-sleeping. Would a hush-hour refresh him at this age? I feel that he should still nap as I don’t want him to be ober-wired late afternoon and then I would still have to keep a cranky baby till bedtime. I also don’t want to move bedtime down because if it is too early he might just nap and then be up till midnight.

    • 2-year-olds do need their naps! But they would not understand the concept of “hush hour” — but you can set up the environment to make it nap-friendly. Darken the room, play some soft music or white noise, do some rocking or massage. Stay quiet and peaceful yourself. If your little one is tired she will surely fall asleep. Good luck!

  2. My 5-month-old stays asleep in our arms, but often (not always) pops her eyes wide open when we lay her down in the crib to nap. We tend to take her back out and rock her to sleep again, but she usually ends up in our arms at that point, since she tends to nap for 45 minutes at a time and we don’t want to miss the window.

    Her room is nap-friendly, as you describe. Since she’s too young for a hush hour, what do we do when she opens her eyes? Also, how long do we try to get her to sleep before we skip the nap entirely and/or, when do we try for another nap?

    • Hi Carol, This is such a common problem that I wrote a whole section about this — and how to solve it! — in The No-Cry Nap Solution. This issue can also create a problem of short naps and more night wakings. It’s a long and more complex answer – so check out the book (perhaps at your local library.)

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