What Are Contact Naps?

Written by: Laura Hunter, LPN & Jennifer Walker, RN, BSN



Time to read 5 min

As parents, our ultimate goal is to ensure the best and safest sleeping environment for our babies. At Moms on Call, we understand the appeal of contact naps but also recognize the importance of establishing safe sleep practices that benefit not only your baby's health but also your peace of mind. It's about finding the right balance between enjoying those precious moments of closeness and adhering to practices that ensure your baby's safety and well-being.

Contact naps occur when a baby sleeps while being held by a caregiver, providing a comforting embrace that can be soothing for both the baby and the adult. These naps happen in various circumstances, whether for comfort, bonding or sometimes out of necessity, when a baby struggles to fall asleep independently. While the warmth and closeness of contact napping can be appealing, it's important to understand the context and implications of this practice.

Why Do Contact Naps Happen?

Contact naps are a natural aspect of the caregiving process, often stemming from a baby's need for reassurance and warmth or simply because they've grown accustomed to sleeping in arms. In the early months, these naps can also be a response to the calming effect a caregiver's hold has on a baby, helping them to feel secure and loved.

The Moms on Call Approach to Napping

Contrasting with the spontaneous nature of contact naps, Moms on Call advocates for establishing a consistent napping routine that prioritizes safety and helps instill healthy sleep habits early on. Our methodology recommends facilitating two consistent naps a day in the baby's crib. The crib should be less than 5 years old, have a new mattress, mattress cover and tightly fitted crib sheet. There should not be any pillows, stuffed animals, loose blankets, or interactive toys (including mobiles) in or near the crib. This approach is designed to ensure a safe sleeping environment and foster routine consistency, which is crucial for the baby's development and the overall family dynamic.

By encouraging naps in a crib, we emphasize the importance of a safe, controlled sleep setting free from the risks associated with accidental caregiver dozing during contact naps. This structured routine aids in creating a predictable environment for your baby, supporting better sleep quality and longer nap durations.

Routine Consistency with Moms on Call

Moms on Call's recommended practice of having two consistent naps a day in the baby's crib doesn't completely dismiss the occurrence of contact naps. Instead, it offers a framework where the majority of naps are taken in a safe, designated sleep area. This balance ensures that while there is room for the occasional contact nap—under the condition that the caregiver remains awake and alert—the foundation of the baby's nap routine is built on consistency and safety.

Embracing this approach allows parents and caregivers to enjoy the bonding moments contact naps offer while prioritizing establishing a healthy sleep routine. Through understanding what contact naps are and contrasting them with a structured, crib-based nap schedule, Moms on Call provides a pathway to nurturing well-rested, happy babies within a safe and loving environment.

The Moms on Call Perspective on Safe Sleep and Naps

At Moms on Call, our guiding principle is to ensure the safety and well-being of infants through established routines and informed practices. When it comes to napping, our stance is clear: safety first, with a strong emphasis on creating a consistent napping schedule. This approach supports your baby's health and fosters a sense of security and predictability for both baby and caregiver.

Understanding the Risks of Contact Naps

While contact naps — where a baby sleeps in the arms of a caregiver — may seem harmless and even nurturing, they carry inherent risks that cannot be overlooked. One of the most significant dangers is the potential for the caregiver to fall asleep, which could lead to unintended consequences such as suffocation or falls. Hence, regular contact naps are not a practice we recommend. Instead, we advocate for naps in a crib, where safety measures are in place to protect the child. The safest sleep environment includes a crib that is less than 5 years old, has a new mattress, mattress cover and tightly fitted crib sheet. There should not be any pillows, stuffed animals, loose blankets, or interactive toys (including mobiles) in or near the crib.

Guiding Principles for Safe Napping from the Moms on Call 

Our Moms on Call 0-6 Month Book and 6-15 Month Book provide comprehensive guidance and schedules for establishing a napping routine that aligns with our safety-first philosophy:

For the 0-6 Month Age Group:

  • Aim for at least two naps in the crib each day to instill consistency.

  • Introduce a little sunlight in the room during nap times to distinguish between day and night.

  • Swaddle for every nap in the crib for infants under three months (or under 12 pounds; whichever comes first) to promote security and improve sleep quality.

  • Encourage keeping the baby in the crib as close to the next scheduled feeding time as possible.

  • Expect "twilight sleep" around 30-45 minutes into the nap, where babies might fuss but often settle back to sleep.

For the 6-15 Month Age Group:

  • Acknowledge that curiosity peaks, affecting nap quality. Consistency in scheduling remains crucial.

  • Two naps a day are recommended, with specific durations for morning and afternoon naps to ensure adequate rest.

  • Transition to one nap a day when the child shows readiness, indicated by more challenging nap days.

Key Recommendations for Safe and Effective Nap Routines

  • Always keep the sleep surface separate; sharing a bed with an infant is highly discouraged due to the risks involved.

  • Use white noise throughout nap time to help soothe the baby and drown out external noises.

  • Ensure the nap environment is consistent, with naps starting at the same times each day as much as possible.

  • Remember, your role is to provide the routine and environment while your baby's job is to sleep.

By adhering to these guidelines and prioritizing safety and consistency in nap routines, parents and caregivers can help ensure their babies get the rest they need in the safest manner possible. For further detailed advice and practical tips, we recommend consulting the naptime sections in Moms on Call’s 0-6 Month and 6-15 Month Books and Online Courses . These resources are designed to support you through every step of your child's napping journey, offering peace of mind and fostering healthy sleep habits that will last a lifetime.

Co-Founders of Moms on Call

Laura Hunter, LPN and Jennifer Walker, RN, BSN

Co-Founders of Moms on Call, Pediatric Nurses and Moms to 8 kids between them, Laura Hunter and Jennifer Walker created Moms on Call to simplify parenting. Through their books, online courses, podcast and content, they help parents everywhere navigate the first four years with confidence and better sleep.

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