Trouble Shooting for Cat Nappers

06 Apr

Do you have a baby who doesn’t sleep for more than 20 minutes at a time during the day? These tips from our experienced sleep consultants might help:

  • Feed baby to appetite and look at a pattern of Feed-Play-Sleep or Feed-Play-Feed-Sleep. We find the latter really helps maximise the feed in breast fed babies. A full tummy and a thriving baby are necessary for good quality sleep patterns.
  • Encourage feeding patterns of 2-4 hourly in breast fed babies and 3-4 hourly in formula fed babies in the day. At night it’s a purely feed-sleep model and feed on demand.
  • Plenty of play/floor time in the day to help them exercise and so sleep better. Encourage rolling over in a 3-4 month old baby. We like 4-6 lots of floor time in the day. We do a lot of baby carrying nowadays and sometimes not enough floor time. The babies we see sleep so much better with more “exercise”.
  • Responding to tired signs – wait for several tired signs in a baby of 3-4 months and with a tiny bit of ‘shouty’ behaviour. A newborn (1-4 weeks) we like to put down much earlier. If you’re struggling with reading your baby’s tired signs then we find using time lapse video a really helpful thing. You can go back and analyse what ‘state’ your baby is in i.e. awake and alert, drowsy, ready for sleep.
  • We’re fans of wrapping until 3 months or baby is rolling. After that, the swaddle needs to go.
  • Does your baby have a dummy? Is it constantly falling out? Dummies are a classic cause of a short catnap. Does it need removing?
  • Putting baby down to sleep awake in their cot to encourage self-settling. Get that sweet spot (optimum tired state) and you’ll nail this. 
  • Once they wake at 40 minutes or earlier, always try and re-settle. We’re not talking a marathon re-settle just a 20-30 minute affair. If it’s going to happen it’s at that point. Doing a long resettle past 30 minutes – we haven’t found that helpful.
  • We’ve heard of mums being advised to go in at 20 minutes and pat them off into their next sleep cycle. We’ve also heard of going in just before they usually wake and again patting them back off to sleep. We don’t advocate either of these approaches. There is no research behind them and we’ve actually had babies with sleep cycle problems because of these approaches. Read more on the impact of patting on this blog:
  • Encourage a rhythm to your day. A long sleep of 3 hours and then a couple of 20 minute sleeps is not ideal. Once a baby has been asleep for 2 hours in the day we will gently wake/rouse them to encourage a positive day rhythm.
  • Expose them to daylight/gentle sunlight in the daytime whilst awake to encourage the development of their own circadian rhythm. All day sleeps should be in a dark nursery.
  • Babies generally sleep better at night because melatonin, that neurotransmitter that helps them get to sleep and stay asleep is triggered by darkness. Cortisol (stress hormone) is lower at night compared to the day.
  • If things aren’t improving after 2 weeks of practicing these ideas it may be time to reassess. Always bear in mind reflux and other health conditions. Whilst overtired babies and reflux can look similar it’s important to get your baby checked by your doctor to either confirm or discount this.
  • Hopefully we’ve helped you turn your cat napper into a super sleeper.