Throughout pregnancy and in the early years of your child’s life, there is no advice that is given more frequently than: “Nap when they nap.” For the soon-to-be mum and the tired mum, naps sound like heaven. You envision putting your little one down for a nap and enjoying a blissful “extra” two hours of sleep. Except – you need to make a quick stop. You check into the kitchen for a quick snack. You scan your phone. You use the bathroom. Half an hour goes by in a flash before you settle onto your own bed. Just as you close your eyes...

… Waaaaa!

Bub is awake. The bliss is over. Yours and his! The worst part is you just spent over an hour putting him to sleep! All for a twenty-five minute nap.

He’s just not a sleeper, you say. He’ll grow out of it one day.

Then later, Oh, I didn’t want a daytime nap anyway!

Why Does it Happen?

There are a couple of reasons that bub won’t nap for longer than 20-30 minutes at a time. Oddly enough, he might be too tired. That’s right, he may be so overtired that he can’t settle into a deep enough sleep. Or he may be too dependent on settling techniques to settle himself if he wakes up.

How to Discourage Catnaps

Developing a consistent sleep schedule – for both nighttime and naptime – can help to solve catnapping problems. For almost all babies under two, aim for at least 12 hours of sleep at night. Then, make sure that you are consistently spacing the nap or naps during the daytime so your little one both expects them and knows how much awake time he will have. It’s also very normal for newborns to take frequent catnaps, so older babies may be holding on to this pattern. A consistent schedule can help ease babies out of their catnapping patterns.

Another way to help bub transition away from catnaps is to give him opportunities to settle himself. If he knows he can put himself to sleep, he will be more likely to try to do it if he wakes after 30 minutes. This doesn’t mean you have to let him cry if you are not comfortable doing that, but you don’t need to run into his room at the first sign of stirring. Let him call you when he is ready. Don’t worry! He will definitely let you know!

If you are confident in your bub’s sleep schedule or you need help developing one, you can try darkening their room at naptime. Then, he will associate the dark with sleep and may be encouraged to continue sleeping while he is in a darkened room. The same goes for white noise. Providing bub with some background noise while sleeping can be another cue that it is sleep time and can help your little one transition between sleep cycles on his own.

For younger babies, swaddling can lessen the Moro reflex which gives babies the sensation that they are falling if their arms are free. A swaddle will keep their arms close to their body, which will eliminate this sensation and keep bub from startling himself awake.

What if Nothing Works?

Some babies will continue to be catnappers until the day they drop their nap. Sorry mum! But, the important thing is that bub gets enough sleep every day. Some babies may be happier sleeping 14 hours at night and taking 2-3 catnaps during the day. While others may only sleep ten hours at night and take two two-hour naps during the day. Trust your instincts! If bub isn’t showing signs of being overtired and is near the recommended range of sleep for a baby their age, relax and go with it. At the very least, you’ll get really good at accomplishing at a lot in 30 minutes!