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Why do babies catnap and how to manage it?

Their tiny fingers flex as a small toothless yawn washes over their face, beckoning them into the world of sweet slumber. And you cannot help but gaze up on that scene with misty eyes, appreciating the serenity and beauty of it all as it unfolds in front of you. Several times a day. In the form of catnap.

Are you doing a ‘wait, what?’ right now? Sorry, we did not mean to dampen the beautiful site in front of you. But the problem with catnaps is they have the potential to disrupt your baby’s sleep cycle. And also your schedule.

A frequently catnapping baby can prevent you from catching up with the other aspects of your life. Which means you need some way to manage it and we are here to help you!

What is catnapping in babies?

Babies sleep. A lot. However, a catnap should not be confused with full-fledged sleep. Neither are they synonymous with daytime naps.

Catnaps are those extremely short naps that your baby takes during the day. Think of an average duration of anywhere between 5 minutes and 45 minutes. These naps can quickly turn into a habit for your baby, thus disrupting your routine.

What’s the reason behind catnapping in babies?

Truth to be told, catnapping in babies is not an anomaly. But if you are concerned about why your baby is catnapping, this might help:

  1. They just like it
  2. Trust us, one of the commonest reasons for baby catnapping boils down to their choice. There is really no underlying cause for that choice, except preference.

  3. REM sleep
  4. REM sleep is rapid eye movement sleep. Translation: it is shallow sleep, which is the state of sleep your baby is in for most of the day. Ergo, the shallow catnaps.

  5. Irregular sleep schedule
  6. Or a lack of it. When babies do not have a fixed sleep routine, they catch any moment they get to take a catnap to make up for the sleep they need.

  7. Questionable feeding pattern
  8. Your feeding routine should suit you and your baby too. If you keep waking them up for feeding, chances are they may not get the best quality sleep, and thus, end up napping every chance they get.

  9. Uncomfortable environment for sleeping
  10. If the room your baby sleeps in is way too bright, too noisy, too hot, too cold or too stuffy, they will not be able to sleep well. This will naturally make them resort to taking several catnaps a day.

  11. Illness
  12. Another reason for your baby sleeping too much at odd hours can be illness. However, this will be accompanied by other signs too such as fever, lethargy and lack of appetite among others.

Is it bad for babies to take a catnap?

Not in general, no. The daily required sleep quota of a baby does cover daytime napping so it is not unnatural for them to be sleeping during the day. However, if your baby wakes up cranky after a catnap or displays an unusual sleep pattern or signs of illness, you may need to visit your doctor.

What effect does a catnap have on a baby?

As long as your baby has a regular sleep cycle and is getting their required dose of daily sleep, catnaps do not adversely affect your baby’s health in any way. However, if your baby catnaps frequently enough that it disrupts their nighttime sleep schedule, catnaps can be a problem.

This lack of sleep, in turn, can hamper your baby’s growth and development. It can also affect their mood, making them cranky. They might appear lethargic and show less interest in feeding. The cumulative effect of these troubles can weaken them. So that is something to keep in mind about baby catnaps.

When should parents worry about baby catnaps?

Like we said, catnaps in babies are generally nothing to worry about. However, certain circumstances can induce worry and warrant a visit to the doctor. These are:

  1. 3 month old or older baby choosing a catnap
  2. Babies younger than 3 months old do not have a well-defined circadian rhythm so it is natural for them to catnap. However, 4-month old babies do develop a nocturnal sleep pattern, sleeping just about 3-4 hours during the day. So if your baby catnaps more than that, you should call a doctor.

  3. Taking very short catnaps
  4. A baby’s ideal daytime catnap duration should be 30 minutes to an hour. If it is shorter than that on the regular, your baby might need a doctor’s visit.

  5. Catnapping in the evening
  6. Evening catnaps can prevent your baby from falling asleep at night and can even affect their nightly sleep quality so it is best to consult your doctor.

  7. Catnaps disturbing feeding schedule
  8. If your baby naps during their feeding schedule more than once or twice, you should visit your doctor and have your baby looked at.

  9. Lethargic baby
  10. As we said before, any signs of illness accompanied by catnapping, should be immediately looked at by a doctor.

How to improve the quality of your baby’s catnaps?

You can help your baby nap better by trying out some of the suggestions we have listed below:

  • Maintain a sound sleep routine so your baby’s circadian rhythm regulates itself and prevents daytime drowsiness.
  • Ensure your baby sleeps in a comfortable room that is dim, noiseless and set to the right temperature so they can nap better.
  • If your baby appears to be drowsy, put them in their crib immediately so they can learn to sleep independently.
  • If your baby is younger than 4 months, swaddle them so they feel comfortable and relaxed enough to fall fast asleep. Avoid swaddling for babies older than 4 months as they are learning to roll over at this age and it might dull their reflexes.
  • Make sure the baby is well-fed so they do not wake up mid-nap crying because they are hungry.
  • Place a pacifier in your baby’s mouth so they feel soothed and sleep better.

When do babies stop catnapping?

Wondering ‘when do babies stop catnapping?’ Or do babies grow out of catnapping at all? The answer is that there is no fixed age at which your baby will stop catnapping. However, as a general rule of thumb, your baby will nap less and less during the daytime as they grow older. As your baby nears 2 years of age, they may only be napping for a couple of hours each day. A number that will reduce even further as your child grows. 

So now you have all the information you needed to know about baby catnapping. Generally safe and nothing to worry about, if you feel your baby’s catnapping is unnatural, you should definitely talk to your doctor. For more such interesting articles or to gain information on a wide variety of child-related topics, visit EuroKids.

Please note the information provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice. EuroKids encourages you to consult with a qualified healthcare professional for any health concerns your child may have. The information on this website is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any diseases.

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