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Naps: Baby Will Only Nap While Being Held

Contact naps are wonderful.  Spending lots of time skin to skin in those early months has many benefits for both you and your baby.  Contact napping is also a great way to rest and bond with your baby but after a point many new parents start to feel like they are nap trapped.  

It’s completely natural for your baby to sleep best when they are being held by you.  You are their safe place.  It’s also normal for you to want to have the option of putting your baby down during naps.  

Understanding the Sleep Science of Naps

What is the purpose of napping? Naps help relieve sleep pressure so that your baby isn’t overtired at bedtime.  Newborns can only stay awake for 35-60min at a time.  As your baby grows and develops they will be able to tolerate longer and longer wake windows.  Your baby will also naturally start to have more of a rhythm to their days, with naps and bedtime happening more consistently.

Naptime Routines

Having short nap time routines can also help make it easier for your little one to go down for a nap.  This can be as simple as a top up feed, diaper change, putting on their sleep sack, turning on the sound machine and then whatever method you use to support your baby to fall asleep (feeding, rocking, patting, shushing, humming, hand holding, etc.)  Try to keep the routine consistent with all of their naps and between their various caregivers.


Crib sleep takes practice.  We also want to support our babies to build some positive associations with their sleep space.  Playing peekaboo around the crib is a great activity.  Passing toys in and out through the bars can be fun for an older baby.  If your baby only associates sleep and separation with the crib they may have a harder time feeling safe and comfortable there.

Start with the nap that your baby goes down for most easily.  For most babies this is their morning nap.  Initially this may result in a very short nap.  With time and practice your baby will get used to sleeping in their crib and start to take longer naps.

Remember that it’s ok if your baby takes a short nap, the purpose of the nap is just to reduce some sleep pressure to prevent overtiredness.  Short naps can be developmentally normal for babies under 6 months.  If your baby was normally taking a long contact nap you may opt to extend their crib nap by supporting them back to sleep or adjust your day adding in a mini nap to bridge them to bedtime if needed.

How to transfer a sleeping baby to the crib

If your baby is used to co-sleeping and contact napping or maybe you normally nurse them to sleep it can be tricky to transfer them into the crib.  Try these tips:

  1.  Hold your baby for ~10 minutes and wait until you can feel that they are in a bit of a deeper sleep.
  2. Move slowly with confidence.  Our babies are so in tune with us.  Feeling confident about the transfer can make all the difference.
  3. Transfer your baby bum first or side first and then slowly lower them onto their back.  If they start to stir, place your hand on their chest.

If your baby wakes up after transferring and you aren’t able to resettle them easily, pick them up, and try rocking them back to sleep. Try again once or twice or just take the nap on the go.  Don’t fret if the first few attempts at transferring your sleeping baby into the crib don’t go well.  Keep practicing and reach out for support.

There is no one size fits all solution to sleep.  Every family’s needs are different.  Every baby’s temperament is different.  Contact your local Mama Coach to get support with getting more rest for your family.

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