Why a catnapping baby is hard work

Why a catnapping baby is hard work

Sleep, it’s an issue dear to any parents heart. I’m oh so familiar with a catnapping baby. It is hard work. Our youngest lad is a chronic catnapper. He snoozes in 40 minute blocks, you can set your watch by him. The biggest lad also catnapped and NEVER grew out of it.  We tried everything the experts suggested. Resettle? Not having a bar of it. Remove the sleep props? Done, no dummy, no rocking or feeding to sleep, he still cat napped. Don’t rush into the room and he might go back to sleep? Sure thing, not once did it work. Shorter awake time? Catnap. Longer awake time? You guessed it, catnap. After months of excruciatingly painful efforts to get our eldest to sleep for more than a sleep cycle, I gave up. My sanity was much better for it. Accepting that the biggest lad was a catnapper seemed almost revolutionary. Yet I still felt like I’d failed some kind of parenting test because I didn’t have a ‘good sleeper’.

Why catnapping is hard work at life on wallace
Bit tired are you kiddo?

The youngest guy is very like his oldest brother in many ways. One of those ways is an aversion to sleep. At the ripe old age of 9 months, the baby is a seasoned catnapper. Honestly, I struggle with it. I can cope with multiple night wakings. But frankly I find catnapping hard work. Here’s why.

1. You can never get anything done

When you have a catnapping baby you have a very small window to be productive. I’ll mentally give myself a list of jobs to do. If I get one job completely done, it’s a miracle.

2. There’s never any downtime

Even when I think, screw the house work, I am going to have a cup of tea, I won’t have finished the tea before the catnapping baby wakes. You can’t properly relax when the baby sleeps for such a short time. Plus it takes me longer to get the baby to sleep than he actually sleeps. It is maddening.

3. You have very little time to devote to the bigger kids

When there are other kids in the house, a catnapping baby makes it hard to spend time with the bigger kids. There are some activities that are just simpler without a baby crawling at your feet or held in your arms. Painting, cooking, play-dough aren’t really baby friendly. But it is hard to enjoy the process of baking when you’re bossing the big kids about and saying things like “if you want to cook chic-chip cookies we have to hurry up and do it now“!

4. A catnapping baby requires constant attention

A baby that catnaps is a tired baby. They don’t get enough sleep so when they are awake then need lots of attention. They whinge. They need to be carried around, or always engaged. Basically, a catnapping baby is a demanding baby.

Catnapping baby is hard work, life on wallace
Oh so sleepy!

5. Everyone has advice for you

As a parent, especially a new parent, people have lots of advice. To a parent of a catnapping baby the advice is not helpful, its infuriating. The last thing you need is people telling you that your baby is overtired or needs more sleep. Really? Trust me, the parent of a catnapper knows their baby is knackered. They would like nothing better than a well rested baby. But there is no magic trick to make that happen. The helpful advice makes an already worn out parent feel awful. Oh, and sleep when the baby sleeps? Useless, just as you nod off, the baby wakes. You end up feeling groggy and gross.

There is loads of information out there about how to get a catnapping baby to sleep longer. Give it a go, It might work for your child, every baby is different. But, don’t slavishly try to get that baby to sleep longer. If you feel yourself losing touch with reality, give up. At some point you may need to embrace the catnapping. For many babies, catnapping is a phase. It wasn’t for my eldest son but maybe the little guy will one day embrace a long nap. I can dream!

What do you find tough about a catnapping baby?

35 thoughts on “Why a catnapping baby is hard work

  1. I think we get a nap longer than 40 minutes perhaps once a week in this house; a gradual improvement on what it used to be. Not because of anything I’ve done with the sleep routine. So no advice here, just plenty of sympathy and seconding of every one of your reasons why catnapping is painful!

  2. So true Claire! Even Tresillian couldn’t get my eldest to go to sleep (‘We’re not miracle workers’ they told me). And if we did get him to sleep then 15 minutes was a pretty good stretch before he woke up. It has taught me a few things; how much I can get done in 15 minutes, not to listen to advice, and to try and just go with it and be flexible – still working on that last one!

  3. That’s a fantastic post Claire and I hope it helps other Mums keep their sanity through a very frustrating stage of parenting. Don’t know how you guys have done it. Hey, is the second photo of biggest or littlest lad?… first glance I thought it was the bigger lad but I wanted to check…

    1. Yes Emma, frustrating indeed. The photo of Mr Wallace putting a vest on a boy? That’s the biggest lad at about 10 months old.

  4. Oh this was like reading about my life at the moment! My eldest was THE BEST sleeper – he loved his sleep, to this day he loves it. My youngest is 4 months and although he sleeps through the night – he is a catnapper during the day, and I have experienced everything you have listed above! Driving me mad! I do hope it’s a phase :/ I hope yours start having long naps too! 😀

    1. My parenting mantra is ‘this too shall pass’, here’s hoping it is a phase for both our little ones!

  5. Yep, I remember those days. I could not have survived without my carriers, they were a godsend. Just remember – babies who don’t sleep well are very intelligent 😉

  6. It all sounds very tough, I can definitely relate, especially to the frustration with not being able to get anything done while they ‘sleep’ during the day. It’s exhausting, isn’t it? Hope he sleeps better at night for you x

    1. Thanks Laney, with four little ones I am sure you’ve had your share of sleep issues! We’re not having great nights at the moment, but I know it won’t be like this forever. Here’s hoping anyway!

  7. 40 minutes is a catnapper? Dear god, how did I not know this??

    My 7 month old is a notorious 40 minutes to the dot napper, and as a first time mum, I thought it must be “normal” and that my daily struggle to be productive is just because I’m hopeless at getting the hang of the parenthood shenanigan.

    I’m so glad this appeared on my Facebook feed. It doesn’t help my ever mounting list of things to do, but I did have a sense of relief wash over as I read it, realising that it isn’t just me.

    1. You’re not hopeless at the parenting gig, it’s tough, made even harder by a catnapper! Glad I could shed some light on that one for you. Fingers crossed your little one embraces a longer nap very soon.

  8. Oh Claire! Amen to just going with the flow of cat nappers! Like your boys we can set the clock for 40mins with both and the frustrating thing is they never have the same afternoon nap together. It is such hard work!!!
    I have given in to the very short nap and my sanity is much better for it.
    I laugh when people say “sleep when your baby sleeps”. I would just put my head in the pillow and Miss P would wake. I felt worse than prior to my nap.
    The joys of parenting!!!

    1. At some point it’s just easier to embrace the catnap. Totally agree that the ‘sleep when your baby sleeps’ comments are entirely laughable!

  9. I have an inconsistent napper. A lot of time my 8mo has to “tow the line” with the almost 3yo energetic demands that we get out of the house (or it will get torn to shreds!) so she sometimes gets a full 40 minutes, and maybe once a week she’ll give me a miracle 3 hour sleep in the arvo. but otherwise, I’m SO tired.

    1. Those miracle naps are brilliant but if only they’d tell you before they did them so you could plan accordingly!

  10. A-freakin-MEN!! My first was a catnapper and I was nodding along to this entire piece. I tried (and failed) everything to get him to nap longer. Then my second son popped out and started sleeping in 2 hour blocks like it weren’t no thang. It was like some sort of MIRACLE!! Hallelujah!! So THIS is what everyone talks about when they get all this shit done when their kids naps. When you don’t spend your whole day trying to get your kid to flipping sleep for five minutes. I did nothing different the second time around. Different kids. Different sleep patterns. Nothing to do with me.

    1. Hugzillablog, man to I hear you. My second was a dream sleeper. As you say different kids, nothing at all to do with me! I think parents who get lucky with good nappers have NO IDEA how lucky they are.

  11. Love This, can totally relate. I love when mums are honest and share the hard stuff, makes it easier for those of us struggling. Cat napping drives me crazy because I can never get anything done either. But gee my alert little girl is a treasure!

    1. Oh yes, I often get the ‘he’s an alert baby’ comments! An alert baby is a treasure, except when they are meant to be sleeping…

  12. This is me also! My 7 month old girl is a cat napper with 40 minute ‘on the dot’ naps.

    It is literally impossible to get much done in the day at all. if I complete two whole jobs in a whole day I feel I have achieved something! Most of the day though, I leave piles of unfinished jobs all around the house and then have to run around at night finishing them when baby is finally in bed. Is so hard! House is a tip. The hardest thing I find is having to choose which two jobs to do in a day and whether to drop one of those jobs to instead have a shower or do my hair! I also thought like one if your other readers, ‘why am I so crap at this?, why can’t I get things done like all the other mums?, and why all these glamorous up together mums are out there looking good and I look shocking?’ I didn’t realise my baby should be having 2hr naps!

    Thankfully my girl is a joy when awake and is very alert as some of your other readers have said, so I guess we are blessed in that way!

    1. Oh Victoria, I share your pain. It’s so easy to say things like ‘the house work can wait’ but it’s not that simple is it?!? I envy those mum’s whose kids do long 2 hour naps, I’m sure they don’t know how lucky they are. Fingers crossed your daughter one day decides she’d like to snooze longer xx

  13. My 9.5 month old seems to be a catnapper. When your son switched to 1 nap a day, did he still only sleep for 40 min? What was his bed time/wake up time in this case?

    1. Oh Angela, it’s tough. My eldest son, even with one sleep a day, slept for 40 minutes. Even at childcare and they tried all the tricks in the book to get him to sleep longer. He was in bed at 7 and up usually at 5.30, he was a rubbish sleeper. The youngest is still having two naps a day (at 18 months), I am hoping he decides to nap longer when he has one sleep, time will tell. Good luck with your cat napper xx

      1. Thanks for writing back so soon! 🙂 Was he grumpy a lot? That’s what’s so frustrating- he always seems tired and is already slightly delayed in some milestones because of acid reflux which has ended months ago and when he’s too tired he never wants to work on anything. If he was in a good mood with less sleep I would care less (except I like to get stuff done!)

        1. Oh yes he was Angela! That’s why it’s such hard work, because they need constant entertaining and won’t be left to their own devices. I totally agree that the catnapping wouldn’t be too bad if they were happier when they were awake. But if they are grumpy, they probably need more sleep! Pity they can’t work that out themselves. I do hope that your son starts sleeping better soon, for both his happiness and yours!

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