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Got a catnapper? Here’s how to break the cycle

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When it comes to baby sleep, qualified baby and child sleep consultant Steph Gouin has seen it all – including catnappers!

During a recent Facebook Live with TMB TV, a tired mum asked for some strategies to help her baby self settle and link their sleep cycles. Steph had the answer.

“I see so many families with catnappers,” says Steph. “Their babies might sleep OK at night, but then it gets to the daytime and they’re just constantly awake, asleep, awake, asleep, awake, asleep … it’s just a mess.”

What is a catnap?

“A catnap will happen when they do one sleep cycle and they wake, or a stage of sleep, and then they wake. They’re not waking because they finished, they’re waking because they don’t quite know how to move through the stages or move into the next sleep cycle.

“And if we always go in and pick them up or we always go in and interfere or disrupt them, they’ll never get the opportunity to start learning how to join the cycles and the stages together.”

Watch the full baby sleep chat below

Foundations for sleep

The first question Steph says parents need to ask is, “Why is my baby waking so frequently?”

“It’s all about setting up the foundations first,” says Steph.

Here are some common problems that can cause catnapping:

Not warm enough

One of the reasons babies stay awake is because they aren’t warm enough – babies need to be cosy enough to drift back to sleep and into the next sleep cycle. 

Hungry

This might come as a surprise to some parents, but babies are born to feed, not sleep. A baby who hasn’t had enough to eat will wake up when they are hungry.

The wrong environment

The sleep environment your baby is in matters, especially as they get older. If possible, make sure baby has a dark room, trying using white noise and swaddle bubs under four months old. Read more about swaddling your baby.

Broken night stretch

Out of all of the foundations, Steph says having a “solid” night stretch is really important. An overtired baby will have trouble going back to sleep between cycles during the day.

“The night stretch [needs to be] solid, which makes sure they’re not so exhausted that they can’t fall asleep and stay asleep,” says Steph.

Resettling

If you’ve ticked all the above boxes, and your baby is still catnapping, parents might need to resettle their baby when they wake in between sleep cycles, just like they would during the night.

One settling technique you can try is patting. Simply cup your hand and gently pat your baby’s bottom or thigh. Try and make the patting as rhythmic as possible, similar to your heartbeat. You can also say ‘Shhh’ while you are doing it.

Catnapping is very common for babies until they can learn to link cycles and sleep longer. It might take a few weeks of helping your baby settle, but it will happen!

For more settling techniques, visit the Raising Children Network.

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