Contact Naps: Are They “Good” or “Bad”?Aug 31, 2022
I’m often asked about contact naps and if it’s “good” or “bad” to hold your baby for every nap. Contact naps (when your baby sleeps on your body for a nap) are common during the newborn phase since this is often how newborns prefer to sleep. My answer? It could never be “bad” to allow your baby to nap on you. My question I pose to parents wondering this, though, is how they feel about contact naps as the only method of napping long-term.
If you want to have your child nap on your body, are able to, and plan on only this option for a long time, then that’s great! Sticking with contact napping alone may be the right path for you, and there’s nothing wrong with it. Some parents may not want or be able to contact nap with their baby for every nap, and that’s also ok! As parents, we are faced with so many choices that are labeled as “right” or “wrong;” “selfless,” or “selfish.” The reality is that the only thing that matters is whether the choice is working or not working for a family and whether the parents and baby are happy and healthy.
Finding the right balance for your situation is just about evaluating the things I just mentioned! And if you need to make a change in the future, just know there is always a way to help get your little one’s sleep on track! The following are some reasons a parent might want, or not want/be able to, solely contact nap:
Reasons You Might Want to Contact Nap With Your Baby⠀⠀⠀
- Sometimes a contact nap is the only way to get a long nap in for your baby in the early months, and if your baby is under 4 months, they really can be a great tool for lengthening naps!
- If your baby is a newborn, enjoy those snuggles! (Safely, of course.) Napping on your body, or wearing them in a wrap or carrier are both great options when you’re out of the house or your baby is fighting naps.
- They’re sick
- Their sleep was thrown off & they need a restorative nap
- You’re in a new environment
- You just want a good cuddly nap
These things may be reasons you want to contact nap for every sleep or less-consistent situations that you feel contact napping is what’s best! ⠀
Reasons You Might NOT Want to Contact Nap With Your Baby⠀
Sleeping with your baby on you can be a great bonding opportunity for you both. However, contact naps can easily become “needed” by your baby at every nap and bedtime if no other nap style is ever introduced. If you prefer it that way and it’s working for you, then there’s no reason to change anything!
For some parents though, this is not something that is practical for every nap every day, and there are a few reasons you might not want to (or be able to) contact nap with your baby:⠀⠀
- You want to do something else (eat, sleep, shower, have time to yourself, work, watch a show, etc.)⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
- You're touched out⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
- You have other children to tend to or spend time with⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
- You're returning to work ⠀
Babies get used to what they are introduced to, and if your baby is used to ONLY contact napping, that’s what will be their understanding of nap time and it takes time to introduce change.
If you’ve determined that you’re interested in your baby being able to sleep in other places than your body and they’re under 3 months old, it’s a great time to start practicing at least one nap a day in the bassinet or crib. You can start slowly, by encouraging your little one to fall asleep in their sleep space when you see early tired cues. Even if your baby only sleeps for 5 minutes, that’s a win! We want progress, not perfection right away. Slowly, your baby will get used to napping in their sleep space and sleep longer stretches there. When working on this, it’s always better to start the nap in the sleep space and “save” a short nap with contact sleep than the other way around. The idea is to get them used to falling asleep not on your body, even if you’re standing right next to the crib, patting them to sleep at first! Slowly, you can add more naps in the crib or bassinet and lessen your involvement as their comfort grows.
If your baby is over 4 months old and you’re having a hard time transitioning them to their sleep space for naps and the method above is just not working quickly enough, you can consider implementing sleep training techniques for a more structured process. Not every baby needs to be sleep trained; it is a personal choice! However, if baby sleep is causing you stress, anxiety, or sleep deprivation, a behavioral sleep intervention like sleep training can be a great option.
Check out this blog for more about sleep training and how to decide if it’s right for you!
An ideal sleep environment, a bedtime routine, and teaching your child good sleep habits are all part of healthy sleep hygiene, and go a long way in helping your baby to sleep well. Practicing these habits with your baby when they’re young lays a foundation for awesome sleep habits as they grow.
Again, If you enjoy contact napping with your baby and you’re able to do so, then there’s nothing wrong with it! If you find it’s no longer working for you further down the road, it’s never too late for some sleep intervention. If you know from the start that you won’t be able to or want to contact nap with your little one before they’re born or in the newborn phase? It’s a great time to implement practicing the one nap a day in the crib and increasing from there based on comfort.
If you find yourself also struggling with your little one’s sleep, please know that you are not alone and that I am here to help. Download one of my comprehensive sleep guides for step-by-step advice.
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