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5 Reasons Your Baby is Cat Napping – and What You Can Do about It!

Catnapping, a predictable developmental milestone that most babies will do at some stage and usually starts around the age of 12-16 weeks. Babies spend more sleep time in a light stage of sleep, the REM stage of sleep. They can be very easily woken in this stage. Around the 40 minute mark babies will enter a super light stage of the sleep cycle and most likely wake.

If your baby is continuing to cat nap beyond 6 months old it can start to impact on the rest of the days sleep and the night sleep due to overtiredness building up throughout the day.

But Why Does It Happen and What are The Solutions?

A baby that cat naps will be waking after 1 sleep cycle. You will be able to set your watch by them, they drift off to sleep and boom….40 minutes later they wake. And there is no getting them back to sleep again. They have woken out of a sleep cycle and struggle to go back to sleep. They seem wide awake to you. Let’s take a look at reasons as to why this may be happening…

1. Your baby fell asleep with assistance.

This may be something like rocking, feeding, motion in the buggy or car, even bouncing on yoga balls! Your baby will be making neural connections in the brain to learn that falling asleep can only happen in this way.

What can you do?

You can start to reduce the amount of assistance you give them every few days so your baby comes to learn how to fall asleep independently without that assistance.

2. The nap was not quiet at the right time that is suited for their age and stage of development.

As your baby grows they will be able to stay awake a little longer before the next nap. The sleep pressure needs to build up to be high enough for them to fall asleep and stay asleep. Equally you do not want to have them awake too long or they become overtired and the levels of cortisol will rise and this supresses the sleep pressure hormone, adenosine and also the sleep hormone melatonin. When this happens...they will wake after a short cat nap.

What can you do?

Check out my blog on schedules or wake windows to find what may suit your child best!

3. Is it time to drop a nap?

Your baby may be having too much sleep in the day now. Your baby may be in a transition period so for example many babies drop from 3 to 2 naps as early as 6 months and if your baby is taking a long nap 1 and then a cat nap for nap 2 then it may be time to adjust the nap schedule.

What can you do?

Check out my nap transition blog on my website to help guide you on when and how to drop naps.

4. Your baby may be hungry

A hungry baby will find it difficult to fall asleep and equally stay asleep for a length of time. Equally if you have a chronic cat napper on your hands they may be too tired to eat properly and take a full feed/meal.

What can you do?

Start to think about getting into a routine with your baby with structured feed times and nap times. Even if you are a go with the flow parent this may help immensely. Your baby’s circadian rhythm will really benefit from more structure during the day and regulate more easily what is coming next and when.

Stagger out feeds so they have decent intervals so your baby is not snacking and starts to take fuller feeds which will help them go longer and have a fuller tummy to help them sleep longer.

But please remember milk feeds are the main source of calories and nutrition up to the age of 12 months. Not sure about routine yet? Check out my BLOG to routine or not to routine here!

5. Sleep space and conditions are not quite optimum for sleep.

The ideal place for your baby to sleep in is their cot in their bedroom in the dark. But this is not always possible and we like to be flexible so naps may occur in the car or on in the buggy or sling on errand or to meet a playdate and that is absolutely fine. However you may find baby wakes after 40 minutes and will not go back to sleep again. The outside day light, street noise or once you enter inside the temperature changes and this all can aid waking your baby. When they come to the 40 minutes mark in the sleep cycle is it very light, fragile sleep and these environments may very probably will wake your baby.

What can you do?

I am not suggesting or telling you to stay prisoner to the cot every day, every nap, that’s no fun but don’t fret or worry too much about the fact your child may have a short nap if you are out and about. It is what it is and it is not the end of the world! Just bring the next nap forward, acknowledging their awake window and get them down in time. You don’t want to hold out for their usual time they go for a nap or they will become overtired and this opens another can of worms.

When at home ensure white noise is on, black out curtains in place to stop any light seeping into the room and room temp between 18 and 20.c. Take extra layers off, ensure only loose cotton clothing or even pyjamas would be great.

So there we have it, some top cat napping reasons and solutions! If you would like some more help to deep dive into your cat napping baby and their sleep please feel free to book in your free 15 minute discovery call here! I look forward to chatting with you soon!

Peaceful nights to you all,


Your Paediatric Sleep Consultant



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