It turns out that catnaps, commonly called “Power Naps,” are great for us. For babies? Not so much. A short nap for babies reduces feelings of sleepiness but doesn’t offer the physical and mental nourishment that a longer nap grants.
After much effort, Noah became a pro when it comes to falling asleep on his own on bedtime. The naps are still the problem. Sometimes he falls asleep without crying, sometimes he cries for 6 minutes, sometimes for 30 and sometimes he just doesn’t want to go to sleep. And worse, he sleeps for 40 minutes and wakes up like he recharged his batteries. Right? Wrong. Two minutes outside his crib and he starts crying all over again. Our pediatrician told us that some babies sleep less and some more, but I know that Noah needs at least an hour and half of nap time, twice a day, for him to be himself; the Noah that smiles and talks, not cries.
My mother got me Elizabeth Pantley “the no-cry nap solution” as a gift. I couldn’t figure out if the “no-cry” solution was either for Noah or me. In her book, Pantley gives various solutions to different nap problems, one of them being “Making Short Naps Longer”.
Pantley argues that most catnappers suffer from what is called the OCSS (One Cycle-Sleep Syndrome). These babies can’t put themselves back to sleep on their own so they finish their nap at the end of the first cycle. (A baby’s full sleep cycle ranges from 40 to 60 minutes).
She asks us to think about what would happen if we fell asleep in our room and woke up on the kitchen floor. Would you be able to fall back asleep?, she asks. (Me? No doubt, I could sleep while walking if I wanted to). Well, this is what happens to a baby who is aided to sleep and wakes up in the coldness of his crib, all alone.
She believes that the key for many short nappers, who are mostly between 2 and 8 months old, is to “identify the differences in conditions between falling asleep and waking between cycles”. She also believes that a one-cycle nap is not always a problem. If your baby is a natural catnapper, he will wake up happy after a short nap, stay cheerful until the next one and go to sleep easily at naptime.
Pantley asks us to make sure that our babies have the optimal conditions to fall soundly asleep: Keep the environment dark and add with white noise or a recording of relaxing music, build a more comfortable bed, check wet diapers, temperature, dress him in comfy pajamas. And very important: Interpret correctly signs of tiredness. If you put him down when he is too tired or not tired at all, it can mess up Nap time.
Solutions? Intervene before the cycle-change awakening: put baby down for a nap. About 5 to 10 minutes before the usual wake up time go into the room and gently touch or pat baby for about 10 minutes to prevent him from fully awakening. If baby’s naps are not always consistent, wait until baby stirs and then use whatever technique helps him to fall back to sleep. She believes that after a week or so of this intervention, baby should be taking a much longer sleep without help from you. You can also try these adorable ways to help babies sleep and see if they help!
Anyone out there knows what to do with those (oh-so-sweet) mini catnappers?