Baby Cat Naps – Making Short Naps Longer

Posted by in No-Cry Nap

Does your baby always wake up within an hour after being put in bed? Here’s how you can get your little one to take longer naps – and why you must do it.

Most babies who are cat-nappers fall asleep while being fed, or while in a car seat, sling, swing or someone’s arms. They are typically transferred to bed where they then sleep less than an hour. These factors clearly point out the causes and will lead us to the potential solutions.

What Science Says about Cat Naps

The science of sleep explains why a short nap takes the edge off, but doesn’t offer the same physical and mental nourishment that a longer nap provides. Each stage of sleep brings a different benefit to the sleeper. The first 10 to 30 minutes of naptime reduces feelings of sleepiness and increases alertness. So that’s why a cat-napper wakes up feeling rested and ready to go! However, this burst of energy doesn’t last long, and your child will hit a tired wall very quickly which usually brings on fussiness and grumpiness.

It takes between 90 and 120 minutes for your child to move through one entire sleep cycle. When a child sleeps long enough he gains all the benefits of deep sleep, resulting in a Perfect Nap. Young babies need at least two sleep cycles to fulfill their sleep needs.
As with almost every aspect of parenting there are exceptions. A few children survive quite well on a diet of cat naps, but most will show signs of fatigue – becoming fussy, whiny, or out-of-sorts if they don’t get long-enough naps. So if your child shows signs that longer naps are in order read on for a few ways to make this happen.


How to Help Your Cat-Napper Sleep Longer
Every child is different, so you can experiment with different solutions. There are a number of ways to encourage your child to have a complete nap. Here are a few ideas to try.

Create a Cycle-Blender Nap for an Infant
One way to help your baby sleep through from one cycle to the next without waking is to put him down for a nap in a setting that will lull him back to sleep when he has a brief awakening. The most common and effective Cycle-Blender naps occur in cradle-swings, rocking cradles, strollers, or soft carrier slings. These options can help infant cat-nappers extend their sleep time because the rhythmic motion can help lull him back to sleep when your baby begins to awaken.

“Our baby only took forty minute naps in her crib. She takes two hour naps in her cradle swing–it has been pure sandman magic.” –Fiona, mother of four-month-old Jaelyn

Build a Better Sleeping Place
Many cat-nappers will fall asleep at first because they are so exhausted that they welcome sleep. Then, after a short nap, the edge has been taken off and a brief awakening turns into a full awakening.

If you want to entice your little one to have a long nap, turn the sleeping environment into a cozier nest. Use soft flannel sheets, a darkened room, and gentle white-noise background sounds.

For a toddler you can add a child-sized pillow, a soft blanket, and a few stuffed animal friends to cuddle with.

Do a Comfort Check

Make sure that the napping environment is perfect for your child. What’s right for one isn’t for another so this may take a bit of detective work. Is the room too hot or too cold? Does your baby sleep better with the window open or closed? Is it too light or too dark? Is his sleeping attire comfortable and non-binding? Does he sleep better with socks on or off? Would pajamas improve his nap? Are his diapers adequate for the job or is wetness waking him?

Watch for Expiration of the Happily Awake Span
The length of time that your child is awake from one sleep period to the next will have a powerful impact on his ability to sleep as well as his temperament, mood and behavior. It is vital that you pay attention to how long your child has been awake.

You’ll see that the span of awake time is very, very short for a newborn baby, who can only stay happily awake for an hour or two before needing to sleep again. This span gradually increases over time: 2 to 3 hours at six months of age, 3 to 4 hours at twelve months, 4 to 6 hours at eighteen months, and 5 to 6 hours at two years.


Interpret Signs of Tiredness
If you put your child for a nap before he is tired, or when he is overtired he won’t sleep as well as when you hit that perfect just-tired moment. Observe your child for indicators of fatigue and put your child for a nap the moment you see any signs. If you note the time this occurs over a period of a week or so you should see a pattern emerge. This can help you set up a daily nap schedule that suits your child’s tired times perfectly.

To learn your child’s sleepy signs it can help to watch him in the hour after he first wakes up in the morning when he is well rested. Compare this to his behavior during the time from dinner to bedtime—when most children show signs of fatigue. As his usual bedtime draws near, make note of how his behavior and body language differs from when he is alert and refreshed.

While children are unique in their combination of signs of fatigue your child may demonstrate one or more of these signs that tell you he is tired and ready to sleep:

• Reducing his level of activity; becoming more quiet
• Losing interest in playtime, people or toys
• Rubbing his eyes, ears or hair
• Looking glazed or unfocused; staring off into space
• Having a more relaxed jaw, chin, and mouth (droopy looking)
• Eyelids at half-mast, slow-motion blinks, or eyes open wide and unblinking
• Becoming whiny, cranky or clingy
• Fussing, crying or having tantrums
• Losing patience with toys or activities
• A burst of uncoordinated activity or hyperactive behavior
• Yawning
• Lying down or slumping in his seat
• Watching television or a movie with a blank expression
• Caressing a lovey or blanket
• Asking for, or rooting for, the breast, a pacifier, or a bottle

Is It Time for a Schedule Change?
There are times when short naps are a sign that your baby’s current nap schedule is no longer working for him and he is ready for a change of schedule–perhaps switching from four naps a day to three, from three to two, or from two to one. Possibly he needs more or less time between naps. Maybe he needs to go down for a nap a little earlier or later than he has been doing.

Pay attention to the clock, your baby’s “happily awake span,” and her tired signs to set up a new nap schedule that works perfectly.

This article contains information from The No-Cry Nap Solution: Guaranteed Gentle Ways to Solve All Your Naptime Problems by Elizabeth Pantley