This picture is our youngest Malachy on a morning walk and falling asleep. He was so snoozy, he couldn’t resist the motion of the pram.
It was the second day in a row he had a short morning nap, even though he is on a 1 nap routine.
We have friends over from Australia staying with us at the moment. They also have 3 kids (aged 2-7) and so there is A LOT of stimulation, and we have also had full day activities out meaning he’s had a couple of days with a little less daytime sleep.
We also think he’s having a growth spurt at the moment as his normal pot belly has disappeared!
So with both of these things, he’s a bit more tired than usual and this is why we are offering a “bridging nap” in the morning.
What is a bridging nap?
It’s a nap which is shorter than usual – usually 10-20mins – which allows your little one just to get through a wake window (which they’d normally be able to do but are too tired to do on any given day).
For example, Malachy is normally going from around 7am until 1pm for his nap. He’s a little tired come 1pm, but we focus on a shorter wake window until bedtime so it works fine for him and for us.
However, given he is more tired than usual at the moment, he wouldn’t make it until 1pm without being exhausted.
So by giving him a bridging nap, it helps reduce some of the sleep pressure and allows him to get to the normal nap time without being so tired.
This means that you don’t have to bring the nap earlier which could lead to a bigger wake window to bedtime.
This bigger wake window to bedtime will likely create overtiredness, which is one of the biggest drivers of early wakings.
Why the nap duration needs to be capped…
With an addtional nap being added to a routine, there is always a concern that it can really make the main nap(s) extra difficult which is why the bridging nap is short and it’s just to tide your little one over until when they would typically sleep.
If you let that bridging nap go on too long, it can lead to the next nap being more difficult or being pushed later than you would like.
You can use a bridging nap when you are in the 3 to 2 naps (either between naps or between nap 2 and bedtime) or during the 2 to 1 nap transition period.
Or when your little one just won’t make it to their normal sleep time when they are down to having one nap per day.
The key is not to get greedy on a bridging nap.
Even if you find it difficult to wake your baby as you know they’ll be cranky, letting that nap go on too long could lead you to not the main nap being fought leaving you with a very difficult afternoon and bedtime!