Wondering when to let your baby have a contact nap? Then, this article is definitely for you! There is no “wrong” time to have a contact nap. If you are a mama who desires to have a moment when you can lay your baby down to sleep, then let’s talk about how to use contact naps to your advantage. The best times to hold your baby while they sleep are the times of the day that are generally harder for them. Ideally, you want to utilize the easier times of the day to work on a sleep routine that promotes independent sleep. This means you should put your baby down in the crib or the bassinet, swaddled (of course!), and let them get some independent sleep. So, let’s talk about when the easiest time of the day for most babies actually is!
The Mid-Afternoon Nap and the Cat Nap
When your baby just simply needs more help or is struggling, it’s a good time to do a contact nap. Typically, a baby’s harder time of day starts around mid-afternoon and can continue through the evening; the mid-afternoon nap and the cat nap are great times to do a contact nap for this reason. I almost always recommend moms hold their babies during cat naps, especially moms that are working outside of the home. When they get home, their baby needs that contact, since they were away from them all day. Many times, baby craves the close contact that only mom can give, and a contact nap provides mom with some much-needed downtime after a long day at work. This generally also makes for an easier bedtime routine and a better night’s sleep, because babies get the contact and closeness that they need.
The Second Half of the Nap
Another time when baby’s tend to struggle and a great time to do a contact nap is during the second half of the nap. For example: Your baby goes down for their nap and they sleep for 35 to 45 minutes (one sleep cycle), and then, they wake up and they’re not going back to sleep. This would be a great time to hold your baby! This can be in the nursery, a rocking chair, or while baby-wearing. Oftentimes, this will allow them to finish the nap. Even if they don’t go back to sleep (remember, we can’t make our babies sleep!), the contact is still beneficial to both mama and baby.
When Baby Misses Their Sleep Window
Another time when a contact nap may be necessary is if baby misses their sleep window. If you’re trying to get your baby down, or maybe you just didn’t get them down in time, and now they’ve missed their sleep window – meaning, they’re overtired, they’re crying, and they’re just not going to sleep – this is another great time to hold your baby. It’s going to give them the sleep they need, plus the close contact is going to bring down those stress hormones that tend to increase when a baby is overstimulated and overtired. It’s going to give them the warmth and closeness they need, making sleep come much easier.
Early Morning Hours
The early morning hours, or during the night as it gets closer to morning (usually 4:00 AM to 6:00 AM or 7:00 AM), is just harder for babies. Sleep is lighter during this time, which can mean more frequent wakings and less deep sleep. This is another great opportunity for a contact nap! I always tell parents that if they’re going to bring their baby into the bed, that this is a great time to hold/co-sleep or cuddle their baby; this provides them both with some extra rest. This time of morning can be particularly difficult with a young baby. This is another reason why I always recommend parents take shifts during the night when possible. This 4:00 AM to 6:00 AM shift can be much easier for a parent if they’ve gotten a solid stretch of sleep at the beginning of the night.
Need more guidance on navigating your baby’s sleep routine, including contact naps? Reach out to me or book a consultation! As a baby and toddler sleep expert, I’m here to help you and your little one get better sleep!