Catnapping: Its role in infant sleep and tips to help your baby sleep longer

ByZarafshan Shiraz, New Delhi
Jan 03, 2024 01:39 PM IST

Is your baby waking up from naps much sooner than expected, even after being properly fed? Know all about catnapping and tips to help your baby sleep longer

The sleep pattern characterised by brief periods of sleep followed by waking after 30-45 minutes, commonly seen in infants, means catnapping. Newborns often have unpredictable sleep patterns and while this is normal, it can be very tiring for parents when there is no consistent routine.

Catnapping: Its role in infant sleep and tips to help your baby sleep longer (Photo by AP)
Catnapping: Its role in infant sleep and tips to help your baby sleep longer (Photo by AP)

Many parents find that their baby wakes up from naps much sooner than expected, even after being properly fed and seeming content, which leaves them with little time for other activities as they need to constantly attend to the baby. So, the struggle with establishing a regular sleep routine is common among parents and the short sleep-wake cycle where babies wake up 30-45 minutes after falling asleep is known as catnapping.

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What is the concept of catnapping and its impact on infants?

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Peeyoosh Rankhamb, Consultant - Paediatrician and Neonatologist at Motherhood Hospitals in Mumbai's Kharghar, shared, “Catnapping refers to the brief sleep-wake pattern in which a baby awakens 30-45 minutes after falling asleep. This is a common occurrence in the early months of a baby's life. While it is normal, it can be distressing for parents to witness their baby experiencing short periods of sleep and waking up tired. Typically, babies' sleep cycles fluctuate between daytime and nighttime as they mature. However, around four months old, their brain development leads to less drifting between these cycles, with most babies remaining awake between them.”

Why do babies engage in catnapping?

Dr Peeyoosh Rankhamb explained, “One primary reason is that infants spend more time in the light stage of sleep known as REM, making them more prone to waking easily and struggling to return to sleep. It takes them longer to establish a routine that helps differentiate between day and night. Additionally, babies who are accustomed to falling asleep through bouncing or rocking, bottle-feeding, or breastfeeding will continue seeking these methods for falling asleep. As a result, their sleep patterns can be unpredictable during the first few months until they grow older and learn how to self-soothe back to sleep.”

He elaborated, “Catnapping may not pose a threat if the baby is growing and generally healthy. Whether they take short or long naps, it indicates that they are getting the necessary sleep for their age. However, the concern arises when the baby wakes up early from a nap and cannot be comforted, even after feeding, changing, and rocking. Consult an expert as there could be an underlying issue. This can be exhausting for parents, particularly new mothers who also wake up for night feeds.”

Concluding, Dr Peeyoosh Rankhamb advised, “To help your baby sleep longer, watch for signs of tiredness such as yawning and sucking on their fingers. Put them in their crib and allow them to settle themselves to sleep without rocking or feeding. If they can nap independently, they are more likely to soothe themselves back to sleep when they wake up. Establish a routine and create a peaceful environment around the baby. Catnapping is a normal phase that babies go through at some point. Parents need to adapt to this pattern and remember that it will pass eventually. By doing so, the process will become easier, allowing you to navigate this stage with less difficulty.”

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