There aren’t many sweeter things in motherhood than being able to cuddle your baby close while they sleep. It’s often here that you can slow down and immerse yourself in these fleeting moments that we all know go by so quickly. Contact napping is a beautiful thing, not only for you, but for your baby as well.
Defined as when your baby is sleeping on your chest or snuggled up next to you, contact napping can bring many benefits. There are even studies showing the importance of being in close physical contact with your baby as frequently as possible in the first few months of life. This way you can release the hormone oxytocin (the happiness hormone), help regulate your baby’s body temperature, and promote independence and resilience later in life. Contact napping is also typically when your baby is about to get his or her longest sleep periods initially as they adjust to life outside the womb.
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It goes without saying that the contact nap is good and necessary, but it can also be difficult if this is the alone how your baby will sleep. This is especially difficult if your nap is the only time you need to cross things off your to-do list, or do basic things like shower and get ready for the day. This is when being able to place your baby in the crib for a nap or cradle for a nap would come in handy.
Related: 4 steps to get your baby ready for a restful nap
If your baby is currently napping on contact and this works for you, you don’t need to make any changes if you’re not ready. But if contact napping has gotten to the point where it’s no longer sustainable, there are several ways you can start practicing crib or crib naps.
5 ways to go from nap to contact
1. Create an environment conducive to sleep
Before placing your baby in a crib or crib, make sure he or she has a healthy sleeping environment. Some things to think about are the temperature in the room, the lighting, the noise level and the set up of the room. Ideally, your baby’s sleeping space is between 68 degrees and 72 degrees Fahrenheit, is as dark as possible, is quiet except for white noise, and is free of distractions and clutter. A healthy sleep environment is an important ingredient when it comes to promoting adequate naps, so you don’t want to skip this step in the process.
2. Help your baby get used to his sleeping space during waking periods
While you don’t want to promote the crib as a place to play, you also want to help your baby feel comfortable there, and sometimes babies reject the crib simply because it’s unfamiliar. The more time they spend in this space, the less likely they are to reject it. So try placing your baby in the crib for short periods during an awake window to expose him more and more to this space.
Related: Sleep Like a Baby: Your Expert Guide to 12 Months of Sleep
3. Practice placing your baby in the crib or cradle once he is asleep
So often parents focus on trying to get their baby into the crib wide awake, but this is not something parents should be concerned about initially. While your baby may be able to do this at some point, you need to help him get used to sleeping in the crib first. So, putting them down once they’ve fallen asleep is usually the best way to help them do that. Typically, you’ll need to wait about 10 minutes before transferring them to ensure they’re fully asleep, and once you’ve lowered them into the crib try doing this by first placing them on their side and then gently rolling them onto their backs.
4. Be sure to follow your child’s awake windows and sleepy cues
Sometimes babies simply refuse the crib because they are tired and fussy. To avoid this, be sure to follow your child’s age-appropriate wake windows and sleepy cues to ensure they are suppressed at the right time. This is especially important if your baby is taking short naps or refusing to nap altogether.
Related: It’s science: The benefits of napping on your child’s brain development
5. Finally, keep practicing and don’t give up
If you’re ready to limit contact naps, remember that this will take time and it’s common for your baby to initially refuse the crib or cradle. Babies would almost always rather be snuggled up on you than on a firm mattress in a crib on their own. But if the crib/crib is never offered, they will still prefer and expect contact naps. While a contact nap or two a day may still be necessary to ensure your baby gets adequate sleep during the day, you don’t want to give up the crib if that’s your goal. Even if your baby only naps for 30 minutes, that’s still a win and a sign that you’re on the right track.
Related: This 5-minute walk and sit routine may help your baby fall asleep faster
A note from Motherly
Contact napping is a wonderful way to bond with your baby and help them get some much-needed sleep. However, it’s not right for every child or family in the long run, and in some cases it may not even be possible.
If you’re ready to stop, or at least limit it, from contact dozing, gradually implementing these tips should help. If you find that your baby continues to refuse the crib or crib, consider seeking additional one-on-one assistance and support.