A term that comes up frequently when your little one reaches around 6 weeks of age, and again around 4 months of age. What do we mean by ‘cat napping?’ - essentially it is a short nap, around 30-45 Minutes, or in sleep terms, one sleep cycle in length. Your baby may wake looking more alert than ever, and not look like wanting to re-settle back to sleep, or seem happy enough to babble on to themselves for a duration of time! Cat napping or shorter day naps is a common occurrence in all babies, with some only going through this for a couple of days, and others needing much more help in consolidating their naps when and if needed. We would be looking to assist a baby with consolidating their day sleep and naps when they are beginning to build up too much sleep debt, causing them to become overtired and waking more frequently overnight, and regressing further with their day sleep. So, how do we combat it, and what is causing these dreaded mini-naps? ✖️At 6 weeks of age the maternal melatonin passed on by the mother is well and truly worn off, causing a much more alert little baby. At 6 weeks of age a baby’s pineal gland is beginning to regulate their serotonin, in small amounts, which in turn sees their melatonin source beginning to come through - but this isn’t matured until around 4 months of age. Cue - the 4 month sleep regression! Where sleep cycles become much more prominent due to the second burst of melatonin hitting the scene as a baby’s hormone production and release matures significantly. It cues more frequent wakings after each sleep cycle, which is where cat napping can begin. ✖️Until your baby learns to go back to sleep after one sleep cycle finishes - or is able to self settle in other words - they will continue on with these shorter style cat naps. Alternatively, you will be required to put them back to sleep at each wake, which is a good start to teaching them the skill of self settling, through Guiding them to re-settle again after each wake. Our sleep guides have a gentle and gradual way of withdrawing away from the need of the parent to resettle each wake. ✖️Again, a cat napping baby is most likely overtired, which results in them waking more frequently after one sleep cycle as their stress hormone, cortisol, inhibits the release of melatonin, and floods the blood stream with adrenaline - triggering this wake. ✖️On another note, they could also be under tired. It is common at this age that babies need to have their awake times stretched out slowly and gradually to allow them to build up enough sleep debt in order to achieve greater stretches of sleep. ✖️A big growth spurt occurs around 16 weeks of age, coinciding with the 4 month sleep regression - so it’s a big age for development and growth! If your baby is hungry they will in turn not settle as easy, and defend feeds until their needs are satisfied. This could be in conjunction with being either over or under tired also! ✖️Look at the sleep environment! is it dark enough? Is it too hot or too cold? Are they becoming distracted from toys or a mobile above their bed, which is keeping them awake for longer and pushing them into an overtired state? Are you using white noise to aid their settling? Many sleep issues can be resolved with a review of the sleep environment, which can be controlled! ✖️Daytime sleep structure is another big contributing factor - if your child is taking a good nap during the day, but cat napping for the rest their naps may need to be better structured and spaced throughout the day n accordance to their age appropriate awake windows. Day sleep has a huge impact on night sleep. ✖️Re-settling to achieve a lengthier stint of sleep will benefit your baby, and this could take around 10+ minutes in some instances! Remember, they are leaving their sleep cycle in a lighter stage of sleep, so it will take a bit to help them fall back to sleep again. The more consistent you are with this, the quicker they will learn to link up and consolidate their naps. Below we’ve got some more tips regarding cat napping, and how to combat them.
Our sleep guides have all the age appropriate information and settling plans, age appropriate routines and troubleshooting, plus more! Buy now to start sleeping today!