What Are The Benefits And Risks Of Contact Naps?
What Are The Benefits And Risks Of Contact Naps?
Contact naps - where parent and child nap together - can be a polarizing parenting practice. While some swear by the increased bonding and security contact naps provide, others worry about possible safety risks or forming bad sleep habits. So which is it, dear reader? Do contact naps provide valuable parent-child bonding and affection, or do the potential downsides outweigh the benefits? Stay with me as we dive into the pros and cons of contact naps and equip you with information to make the best decision for your family! There are reasonable arguments on both sides of this issue, and ultimately it comes down to your unique situation. Kaiya Angel’s goal is not to push you one way or the other, but rather to explore the nuances around contact naps so you can evaluate the evidence and decide what's right for you and your little one. Sound good? Let's get started!
What is contact napping?
Contact napping, also known as " babywearing napping" or "napping on the go," refers to the parenting practice of napping with an infant on the parent's chest or near them, often for the soothing and comfort it provides to both. The infant sleeps in physical contact with the parent rather than alone in a crib or bassinet. It involves the baby sleeping in close physical contact with mom, often while mom continues with daily activities or tasks. This practice is a way to provide comfort and security to the baby while allowing parent to be hands-free. As with any parenting choice, contact napping works well for some families but may not suit every situation or child.
What are the benefits of contact nap for baby?
Improved bonding - Skin-to-skin contact helps release oxytocin and promotes attachment between parent and baby.
Better sleep - Babies tend to sleep longer stretches when in contact with their mother's heartbeat, smell and warmth.
Breastfeeding support - Contact naps make breastfeeding on demand easier and can increase milk production.
Comfort - Babies find the parent's presence soothing and it's easier for them to drift off to sleep with skin contact.
Regulation of breathing, heart rate and temperature - Babies co-regulate vital functions by being close to their parent.
Cognitive benefits - Early positive interactions are stimulating and important for brain development.
Less crying - Contact helps satisfy a baby's need for soothing touch and proximity to their caregiver.
Biological normalcy - Co-sleeping mimics what babies experienced prior to birth with constant contact and access to the mother's body.
What are the benefits of contact nap for parents?
Improved sleep quality
Having the baby close by helps parents feel more at ease and secure, reducing stress and anxiety that can interfere with sleep.
They can sense if the baby stirs and reassure them more quickly, falling back asleep easier.
It satisfies deep innate needs for parents to have their young infant within sight and touch.
The proximity alleviates worries and allows a deeper sense of fulfillment from nurturing their baby.
Parents do not have to fully wake to transfer the baby elsewhere if they stir, saving time and energy.
Bed sharing is more practical for night feeds and changes compared to walking to a separate bassinet.
Nursing is seamless without separating mother and baby, supporting milk production and baby's feeding cues.
Nighttime feeds do not disrupt the whole household with babies sleeping beside their mothers.
Skin-to-skin contact releases oxytocin and helps attach parents emotionally to their growing infant.
Watching the baby sleep and feeling their warmth provides intimacy that enriches the parent-child relationship.
What are the potential dangers of contact napping?
Contact napping, while convenient and bonding for parents and caregivers, can have potential dangers if not practiced safely. Some of the risks and potential dangers associated with contact napping include.
Suffocation: If the baby's face becomes pressed against the caregiver's body or the fabric of the carrier, there is a risk of suffocation. It's crucial to ensure that the baby's airway remains clear and open.
Overheating: Babies can quickly overheat when pressed against a caregiver's body or inside a carrier. Overheating is a risk, especially in hot weather or if the baby is overdressed.
Improper positioning: Incorrect positioning of the baby's head and neck can lead to discomfort or potential breathing difficulties.
Hip dysplasia: Prolonged incorrect positioning in certain carriers may contribute to hip dysplasia or other orthopedic issues in the baby.
Another potential danger is if parents fall asleep during this process.
Lack of supervision: If parents fall asleep, they won't be able to provide supervision and care, unable to respond promptly to any issues that may arise with the baby.
Falls: If the caregiver becomes too tired, trips, or loses balance, there is a risk of the baby falling from the carrier. Properly securing the baby in the carrier is essential.
Baby's position: If parents fall asleep without adequately supporting the baby's head and neck, it may lead to an incorrect position for the baby, potentially affecting their breathing or causing discomfort.
Therefore, during contact napping, parents or caregivers should exercise extra caution to ensure they remain alert and awake to provide the necessary care and supervision when needed. If parents feel excessively tired, it's best to place the baby in a safe sleeping environment, such as a crib or bassinet, to minimize potential risks. Safety awareness and vigilance are key to ensuring the safety of contact napping.
When should you stop contact naps?
Around 4-6 months: As babies get more mobile and wiggly, the risks of accidental suffocation, rolling, or overheating increase with co-sleeping.
When baby can roll independently: Once babies learn to roll front to back and back to front on their own, contact naps are no longer safe due to the higher risk of becoming trapped.
Once solid foods are introduced: Some experts recommend ending contact naps once babies start eating solid foods other than breastmilk/formula, around 6 months.
If baby seems disturbed by contact: Some babies may become restless or fussy if confined during naptime skin-to-skin versus being able to stretch out alone.
When practicing safer alternatives: Once babies are used to napping independently in their crib or bassinet, daytime contact naps are no longer necessary.
Parent or baby health issues: Underlying conditions in either parent or baby may heighten risks of contact napping.
How do I get my baby to stop contact napping?
Gradually increase alone time
Start with very short periods of alone time in crib, like 5 minutes, and slowly increase the duration each time by small increments until baby falls asleep, e.g. adding 5 more minutes each session.
Be attentive to baby's cues and comfort them in your arms if they seem distressed before fully transitioning.
Familiar environment and senses
Add familiar smells to crib like clothes worn by parent to mimic parental scent.
Use white noise machine or music to recreate womb-like background sounds.
Choose the same pacifier or blanket used during contact naps.
Increased alone time
Gradually extend each alone period, for example 5 minutes on day 1, 10 minutes on day 2.
Allow sufficient time for self-soothing even if they cry, to adjust to the new routine.
Consistency and patience
Stick to the same nap schedule and transition process daily.
Even if difficult, do not give up easily as it may take weeks to establish a new habit, with consistency being key.
In conclusion, the benefits and risks of contact naps need to be carefully weighed. While contact naps provide important psychological and physiological benefits to infants, potential safety risks also exist and vary between families. With prudent precautions, the benefits can outweigh risks for many healthy babies and families. Overall, a mindset of flexibility and putting baby's wellbeing first is most important when determining the best approach to co-sleeping or independent sleep.
An expert in sleep sack design, is a valued contributor to Kaiya Angel's blog. With a strong background in baby sleep bags and maternal care, she is highly regarded for her professionalism. Yujia Shi prioritizes baby comfort and safety in her designs, using high-quality materials. Her insightful articles on sleep bags have been featured in reputable publications and have gained a significant readership. Trust Yujia Shi to help you create a comfortable and safe sleep environment for your baby, backed by her proven track record in the industry.