If you are here, I’m guessing you are wondering one of two things:
- Is it okay to contact nap?
- How can I stop contact naps?
Baby sleep just might be the most stressful part of the baby stage for new parents.
I’m going to cover it all here.
I remember very well the phase when baby won’t sleep without contact.
Both of my babies went through the baby only wants mom phase, and there were times when I loved it.
There’s nothing like baby snuggles.
But there were many other times when I didn’t.
I was touched out.
Or I had a to-do list a mile long.
Or in the case of my second child, she was a toddler and still craving a contact nap.
And I thought it was NEVER GOING TO END.
So let’s get to it.
What Is Contact Napping?
Contact napping is pretty simple. It involves your baby sleeping in your arms, on your chest or in any way involving skin-to-skin contact.
Are Contact Naps Bad?
Are they going to spoil my baby?
Will my baby ever sleep on his own?!
These are definitely valid questions.
I’m sure you know that it will end eventually, but you might fear that it’s causing your baby to be too attached or too dependent.
Here’s my experience.
I have two children.
They are VERY different when it comes to physical contact.
My first child isn’t a snuggler.
However, as a baby she did prefer to fall asleep in my arms and woke in the middle of the night wanting to be soothed back to sleep by me.
My second child’s love language is physical touch.
If she doesn’t get approximately 23 hours of physical touch per day (that’s a slight exaggeration), she’s an angry beast.
She of course LOVED napping with me or on me.
She still falls asleep with me next to her at night.
It’s what she needs in order to feel loved.
My point is that both of my children are well-adjusted, secure, happy kids who just so happened to reject independent sleep as babies.
Contact naps are good for your baby or child.
They provide your child with comfort and security just like they had in the womb.
Pay attention to how your baby sleeps independently and how your baby sleeps with physical contact.
I am sure that your baby naps much better with you!
Don’t think of it as time wasted.
It’s the exact opposite!
Think of it as bonding with your child and providing them with a safe environment.
What’s more important than that?
You are most definitely not creating a bad habit and using contact naps is a great tool to calm your baby.
Are contact naps safe?
Safe sleep is extremely important in the early days.
But here’s some good news.
Would you believe me if I said that contact naps are safer than naps taken in a separate room?
The only requirement is that you are awake.
Research has concluded that “SIDS can happen at any time of the day and relatively quickly… keeping (babies) under supervision is equally important for day-time sleeps.”
It is safer for baby to be with an awake caregiver than alone.
Contact Napping Benefits
According to Dr Sony Sherpa, the benefits of napping with contact are numerous.
- can lower cortisol and therefore stress in your baby as well as yourself
- lengthens naps and improves the quality of the nap (baby is more settled and relaxed)
- skin-to-skin contact can aid in more successful breastfeeding
- releases oxytocin in both caregiver and baby (hormone that causes feelings of closeness and love). Oxytocin also helps with postpartum recovery and with reducing the risk of postpartum depression.
- regulates body temperature
- regulates heart rate and breathing
- can reduce nighttime waking
- can encourage deep sleep
- can provide quiet time for the caregiver
Why Do Babies Like Contact Naps?
A contact napper craves the closeness and comfort of the womb.
The outside world is a HUGE adjustment!
Imagine being taken from a complete utopia to the real world.
And you have no idea what is happening or why.
The only thing that your child knows for sure is safe is YOU!
Baby Will Only Contact Nap
If your newborn or baby only contact naps you have a couple options.
You could just go with the flow and learn how to navigate your life with contact naps.
Or you could try some of the techniques below in order to reduce or stop them.
If your baby only wants to nap with you, you could get a baby wrap or carrier and embrace it!
Another option is that you can take nap time as the opportunity to slow down and just enjoy this stage of your child’s life.
Put on some Netflix or curl up with your favorite book.
Also, if this is a fairly new thing for your baby, it’s definitely just a phase.
There are sleep regressions and teething and a million other things that can cause your baby to be more clingy during sleeping hours.
The easiest thing to do in this case is to keep trying to go back to your normal routine every week or so to see if the phase has passed.
How To Reduce Contact Naps
Having the option to sneak out and have your baby continue to sleep is probably something we have all wanted at some point.
I think the best way to reduce contact naps is to lay down on a safe surface with your baby.
Once baby has fallen asleep, you can sneak away.
If probably won’t work every time and might result in some short naps, but if you are only looking to reduce contact naps at this time, this is a pretty effective strategy.
Another way to reduce contact napping is to try to get your baby to sleep in the crib or bassinet for the first nap of the day.
This nap is typically the easiest time of day to get your baby to settle without you.
This technique will also allow mean that if the first independent nap was short and low quality, your baby will get the sleep he needs in other naps throughout the day.
An overtired baby at bedtime is NOT fun.
When To Stop Contact Naps
The best time to stop contact naps is when they are preventing you from being a calm, happy mom.
If they are no longer working for you and your baby, then you should find a technique that works to stop them.
How To Stop Contact Naps
First, make sure that your child has an age appropriate nap schedule and earlier bedtime.
Then you can attempt one of the options below.
Here are a few options to consider:
- many moms have successfully transitioned from napping with contact to napping using the Dock-A-Tot.
- There are also many different types of nap sleep training out there that you could try if you are comfortable with that.
- falling asleep next to each other on a safe mattress or floor bed, and then sneaking away when your child is asleep. Gradually add space between you and your child while he is falling asleep so that he gets used to less and less contact.
- try doing a shortened bedtime routine for your nap time routine
- have someone else put your baby down
Make sure that you have realistic expectations of the process.
The transition will likely take time.
Here is my last little bit of advice.
I have seen many moms online asking about how to encourage independent naps even though they LOVE contact napping.
If you enjoy holding your baby for naps, there is NO REASON TO STOP.
It is not going to be harder later on.
It might just be easier because you’ve built a secure foundation and a strong bond with your child.
Your baby is not going to demand contact for the rest of his life.