Catherine Completely Baby Sleep Consultant

Catherine Thompson
Baby Sleep Consultant & Owner of Completely Baby

Have you found yourself pacing the floor, bouncing up and down, or rocking in a chair for hours just to help your little one get some shut-eye? You’re not alone. Many parents feel like they’re in a never-ending cycle of sleepless days and nights. But what if there was a comforting solution right at your fingertips?

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Enter the world of contact napping: letting your baby nap in your arms or close to you, creating a special bond and providing them with the comfort and security they need during those early weeks of life. But it comes with many questions, such as whether it’s safe, how it affects your little one’s sleep and when should you stop contact napping. I’m here to dive into these questions, offering tips to help you enjoy the cosy world of newborn contact napping. Whether you’re a first-timer or have some experience behind you, contact napping is a game-changer.

Baby contact napping on mothers shoulder

What is contact napping?

When you hear the words ‘contact naps’, it refers to a sleep practice that’s as natural as it is nurturing. Imagine this: your baby, nestled against you, drifting off to sleep with the comforting rhythm of your heartbeat and the gentle rise and fall of your breathing. This is a contact nap – a nap where your baby sleeps in direct contact with you, rather than in their cot or bassinet.

Contact naps are not a new concept. In the early stages of life, babies crave closeness and comfort. Newborns haven’t yet developed a sense of individuality. The physical contact during these naps helps in reinforcing the bond between parent and child, providing a sense of security and comfort that is essential for their emotional and physical development.

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Contact napping also has plenty to offer parents. It’s a heartwarming way to strengthen the bond with your child, to feel their tiny breaths, and to enjoy moments of peace in an otherwise hectic life. They’re only little for a little while!

Man sitting in front of christmas tree with baby contact napping on him

Safe Sleeping – What Red Nose Australia has to say?

When it comes to contact napping, as much as we cherish the closeness and bonding it brings, ensuring our baby’s safety during these naps is crucial.  

Red Nose Australia emphasises the importance of safe sleeping practices to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep-related accidents. Here are some key points from their guidelines:

  • Awake and alert parenting: Contact naps should occur only when the parent or caregiver is fully awake and alert. This is to ensure that the adult can monitor the baby at all times.
  • Safe positioning: While it is best to sleep your baby positioned on their back to maintain an open airway, Red Nose also states: “Sleeping an infant prone on the parent’s chest, especially skin to skin, is an excellent strategy for settling an infant when the parent or another adult caregiver is awake and able to monitor the baby.”
  • Avoid overheating: Overheating is a risk factor for SIDS. Keep the room at a comfortable temperature and don’t overdress your little one.
  • Clear airway: Ensure your baby’s face is not covered by any clothing or bedding, and is not pressed against your body in a way that could restrict breathing.
  • Transitioning to a safe sleep space: While contact naps can be comforting, Red Nose Australia suggests transitioning the baby to a safe sleep space, being a cot,  once you feel sleepy. 

It’s about finding the right balance between enjoying these precious moments and being vigilant about your baby’s safety.

Infant in baby carrier contact napping while his mother has her hand around his back

Benefits of Contact Napping

While contact napping might seem straightforward, it comes with so many more benefits than simply helping your little one drift off to sleep. 

Bonding and emotional security

Holding your gorgeous little bundle against you not only feels good, but it also releases oxytocin, often referred to as the ‘love hormone’. This boosts those feelings of attachment and trust, and the sense of security it offers is essential for your baby’s emotional development.

Soothing comfort 

That big transition to the outside world is often an overwhelming one for a newborn, who is used to the comfort and security of the womb. The warmth, heartbeat and familiar scent of a parent can be incredibly soothing for them. Contact naps can help reduce crying and fussiness, providing a comforting environment that mimics the cosiness of the womb.

Improved sleep

This one benefits the parents as much as your little one: contact napping can lead to longer and more restful sleep for your baby. Your gentle movements can help your baby fall asleep more quickly and potentially sleep for longer stretches.

Convenience

When many parents think of contact napping, they picture being stuck on the couch underneath their sleeping baby, unable to move. All you need is a baby carrier that you can pop your little one into so you can get on with your day. It allows you to keep your baby close while having your hands free to attend to other tasks.

Flexibility

If you’re a busy family on the move, contact napping offers the flexibility to ensure your baby gets adequate rest even when away from home. You can keep your baby’s nap schedule even while out and about.

Infant contact napping on a woman

Ways to Reduce Contact Napping

While contact napping brings many benefits, there comes a time when you may want to start cutting back on these sleeps and encourage a little more independence in your baby. Are you wondering how to stop contact napping? This transition should be gentle and responsive to both your needs and your baby’s. Here are some strategies that show you how to wean off contact napping:

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  • Start by gradually reducing the duration or frequency of contact naps. You can begin by putting your baby down in their cot or bassinet once they are in a deep sleep. Over time, try to start the nap in their sleep space, staying close to provide comfort if needed.
  • Babies thrive on routine. Establishing a consistent naptime routine can signal to your baby that it’s time to sleep, even without physical contact. This might include a quiet activity, a lullaby, or a gentle massage before naptime.
  • When transitioning away from contact naps, use responsive settling techniques. This means responding to your baby’s cues and offering comfort, but gradually reducing what is needed to help them fall asleep.
  • Pay attention to your baby’s sleep cues. Putting them down for a nap at the first sign of tiredness can make it easier for them to fall asleep independently.

If you’re finding the transition particularly challenging and don’t know how to stop contact naps, don’t hesitate to seek advice from a child health nurse or sleep consultant. I can offer tailored advice and support for your specific situation. Remember that changing any habit takes time. Be patient and consistent with your approach. Some days might be more challenging than others, but with time, your baby will adapt to the new routine.

3 Tips When It Comes to Contact Napping

Contact napping can be a wonderful experience for both you and your baby, but it’s important to approach it with mindfulness and care. Here are my three key tips to help you make the most of contact napping while ensuring the safety and well-being of your little one:

Tip 1 – Safety First

  • Always be aware of your environment when you’re contact napping and make sure it’s a safe, secure place where there’s no risk of you or the baby falling.
  • Keep your baby in a safe position to maintain an open airway and make sure their face is clear of any obstructions. Avoid slouching or reclining too much, as this can pose a risk.
  • Be mindful of the temperature and your baby’s clothing. Overheating can be a risk factor for SIDS, so avoid too many layers.

Tip 2 – Use Them When Needed

Contact naps can be particularly beneficial when your baby is unwell, undergoing a sleep regression, or needing extra comfort. Contact naps during sleep regression can help them get that much-needed sleep. These are times when the emotional and physical closeness can be most comforting to your baby.

While contact naps are helpful, it’s also important to balance them with opportunities for your baby to nap independently. This helps in developing healthy sleep habits in the long run. Knowing when to end contact napping makes this transition even easier.

If you’re unsure, let your baby guide you. If your baby is struggling to sleep or is particularly fussy, respond to their needs in the moment.

Tip 3 – Flexibility

Contact napping is a great way to help your baby get some shut-eye even when you’re out and about. Whether you’re running errands or enjoying a day out, you can provide the comfort and security your baby needs to nap peacefully.

Start by investing in a good-quality baby carrier or sling. This can make contact napping easier and more comfortable, especially when you’re on the move. Ensure that any carrier you use adheres to safety standards and is appropriate for your baby’s age and size.

It also helps to consider your baby’s nap schedule when you plan an outing. Try to match activities with their usual nap times, so contact naps become part of your day’s itinerary.

Baby contact napping on her mother while she looks down at her

Embracing the Journey of Contact Napping

Contact napping has so many uses, from comforting your baby during an unsettled day, and helping them nap on the go to acting as a tool for you both to bond. Just remember, every baby is different, and what works for one may not work for another. Trust your instincts as a parent, and tailor your baby’s naps as they grow and their needs change. Asking yourself when do babies outgrow contact naps is not really a fair question, as every baby is so different. It’s about meeting the needs of your little one. Embrace these moments of closeness, cherish the bond they create, and enjoy the journey, knowing that you’re providing your baby with the best start in life.

newborn baby contact napping on her month while she looks on

Contact Napping FAQs

When should contact naps stop?

All babies are different so the decision to stop contact naps will vary for each family. Generally, as babies grow and start to develop independent sleeping skills, it’s a good opportunity to gradually reduce contact naps and help them self-settle.

Is contact napping good for babies?

Contact napping can be beneficial for babies, especially in terms of emotional bonding and providing comfort. However, it’s important to gradually encourage independent sleep as your baby grows. The key is to find a balance that works for both you and your baby.

Why is my baby a contact napper?

Every baby has their unique preferences and needs. Some babies may naturally prefer the closeness of contact napping, while others gain independence early on. Looking at your baby’s cues and day-to-day life can help you understand the reasons behind this. Remember, what’s important is finding a routine that works well for both you and your baby.

The help you need

If you’re on the hunt for a little extra help when it comes to helping your little one into a good napping routine, you can review my packages for some one-on-one support, check out my newly released ebook,which focuses on babies aged 0-4 months, or get in touch and book a free chat to discuss any sleep challenges you might be having with your little one.

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Do You Need Help With Your Baby Or Toddlers Sleep?

I am a highly experienced baby sleep consultant with a unique educational and healthcare background.
Click Below NOW to book in a free chat with me I would love to see how I can help!

Catherine Completely Baby Sleep Consultant

Catherine Thompson
Baby Sleep Consultant & Owner of Completely Baby

Did you find this article helpful? I am a highly experienced baby sleep consultant with a unique educational and healthcare background who supports tired parents to help their babies find sleep more easily. If you want to chat about your situation please book in a free chat today by clicking the below button now! Alternatively you can text or call me on: +61 406 344 010.