How to Stop Contact Naps
When your baby is a newborn, you can’t hold them enough! Looking down at your new baby asleep in your arms is the best feeling. You can hold them all day and snuggle for every nap if you want to. But there comes a time when you need to lay them down for naps and end the contact nap cycle. Contact naps are essentially when you hold your baby, co-sleep, let them lay on your chest, or any other form of laying on or near you for sleep. If your baby will only sleep on or near you, this post is for you!
When babies fall asleep on or near you only, they don’t ever enter that deep sleep phase that we want them to reach. If they’re not ever getting good, solid, deep sleep, they aren’t recharging their bodies. Babies and toddlers both need good, restorative sleep to grow, learn, and develop. Because they aren’t getting deep sleep while napping on you, they aren’t learning how to connect sleep cycles which can prevent independent sleep habits from forming. As rewarding as parenting is, it’s also hard– especially when it’s filled with sleepless nights. Below I’ve listed some sleep tips that can help you get out of the cycle of contact naps and get them sleeping on their own so that you can buy back time for yourself!
How to Stop Contact Naps
Sleep training is the first and best tip I can give anyone looking to stop holding their baby for nap time. If your baby is 4 months old, you can start sleep training. Please remember that sleep training does not mean setting your baby down in their crib wide awake, letting them cry and scream themselves to sleep! There are SO many different ways you can sleep train your baby. From slow, gentle sleep training methods to faster methods involving some crying- but not torturous crying, don’t worry! I have an entire post dedicated to the benefits of sleep training that goes into more detail!
Make sure your baby’s sleep environment is conducive to getting good sleep! Your baby should sleep in a safe sleep space (firm, flat mattress with nothing else in the crib) in a dark room with white noise of some kind in the background. Getting your baby to sleep independently is so much easier when you have a calming room or space set up for them to sleep soundly. There are a ton of baby sleep products that can help them sleep better!
Nap / Bedtime Routine
Babies and toddlers THRIVE on routine! A good bedtime routine signals to their brain that it’s time for sleep. A nighttime routine does not have to be long and drawn out with many steps. It can be as simple as changing, feeding, rocking, and putting them to bed. Apply whatever routine you choose for day and night sleep. If you’re consistent with your routine, your baby will learn that these steps lead to sleepy time and develop solid sleep patterns.
Consistency is KEY when teaching your baby the new skill of sleeping independently. Once you decide to stop contact napping and have them start sleeping on their own, it’s best to stick with it. If you’re not following a routine every night, it sends mixed signals to your baby and can ultimately lead to confusion and lots of protesting, because they know you’ll eventually give in and soothe them.
Avoid an Overtired Baby
Overtired babies lead to grumpy babies which leads to babies who have a hard time falling asleep. Keep a close eye on age-appropriate wake windows for your baby when you’re switching to independent naps from contact naps. If your baby is overtired they have a much, MUCH harder time falling asleep in their crib.
Don’t Give Mixed Signals
This goes hand in hand with being consistent! If you are going back and forth and eventually giving in to holding your baby for naps, this sends very mixed signals to them and can confuse them. Stick with a process and follow through- they will learn to self-soothe and your life will get a lot easier!
If after trying these steps you’re still having trouble, please let me know! I’m happy to offer one-on-one support to help your baby start sleeping through the night independently. My 3-4 month sleep guide is also a great way to get started with sleep training. Follow me on Instagram for more updates!