You’re probably here because you Googled something like, “Is contact napping bad?” I’ll share the pros and cons of contact napping – the good, the bad and the worst-case-scenario: Contact sleeping 24/7!
What is contact napping?
Simply put, contact napping is when you hold your baby for naps in your arms. Maybe you’ve always felt the need to contact nap with your newborn, but chances are, if you’re suddenly stuck in the nursery contact napping all day, a sleep regression may be at play.
The pros and cons of contact napping
When you have a tiny newborn, they can usually sleep anywhere – in the bassinet or crib or in your arms. They nap for longer stretches and sometimes you may even wonder when to wake them up for feedings. It’s sweet to have your baby snooze in your arms, but as they grow and the dreaded 4-month sleep regression starts at around 12 weeks, you might not be able to put your baby down so easily anymore. Or if you do put your baby down in the crib or bassinet, maybe they will only nap for 20-40 minutes.
The only pro to contact napping is that it can extend naps so that your baby gets more than 20-40 minutes of sleep at a time. It’s much easier to rock a baby back to sleep after 20-40 minutes if they’re in your arms than if they wake up screaming in the bassinet or crib. Right?
The major con to contact napping is that once your baby gets used to it, it’s a super challenging habit to break. Why? Because when you try to go back to napping your baby in the crib or bassinet, they will probably wake up crying after 20-40 minutes and want to go back to sleep but they can’t, because they’re used to sleeping in your arms! So you will probably swoop in and try to get your baby to go back to sleep with a pacifier or picking your baby up to extend sleep. Not the most pleasant way to spend your days!
The biggest pitfall comes when contact napping extends to nights and especially early mornings, between 3-6am. This is the lightest sleep cycle for every baby so you may find your baby in your arms between 3-6am just so they can get some more restful sleep before the day starts, and you go back to contact napping. Ugh!
When to stop contact napping
I recommend parents try to avoid contact napping entirely if possible so you don’t have another habit to break later. But if you’re already contact napping, try to stop by 8 weeks and stick with crib or bassinet naps from then on. If you’re beyond that age now, it’s probably time to consider sleep training.
How to stop contact napping with sleep training
The fastest, easiest way to stop contact napping is to start sleep training. By this I mean teaching your baby to fall asleep independently in their crib, and giving them space to learn to connect their sleep cycles throughout the night and during the day for naps. This will involve some crying because it’s new and different, but within a few days, your baby can learn to connect sleep cycles night and day, and you can be arms-free!
Get a professional to help sleep train your baby
If you’re ready to put your baby down awake in their crib and then see them again 11+ hours later in the morning; if you already know that sleep training is too confusing or scary for you to do alone, seek professional help. We can come to your home and get you all sleeping through the night in 3-4 days, and get your baby happily napping in their crib every day.
Ready to sleep again?