So you’ve got a catnapping baby on your hands. And now you need to figure out how to be productive with a baby who catnaps.
I know how frustrating it can be…
Your baby finally goes down for a nap after a half-hour battle. But you won so now it’s time to enjoy your much-needed break…by working! (Hey, it sounds worse than it is – we’re mom entrepreneurs so we LIKE work, right?)
You pour your steaming hot coffee that’s been waiting for you in the coffee maker for an hour and that you’ve been looking forward to since 7am.
You climb up the stairs and settle in at your desk.
You begin emptying your email inbox before you really dive in because you know you can’t get real quality work done knowing there are unanswered emails waiting for you.
Alright! Emails are answered. Inbox is empty. Now you check your schedule and refer to your TO-DO list to figure out what work needs to be done and you make a plan for yourself.
Now you’re really feeling productive. You’re starting to get work done. You feel good. You’re in the zone. Everything is flowing beautifully.
You literally jump out of your seat as your blaring baby monitor reveals the worst: baby is awake.
A record breaking 40 minute nap.
Are you kidding me????
WHY Does My Baby Catnap?
This is an important question. Before you can truly accept the fact that you’ve been blessed (excuse me, cursed!) with a catnapper, you need to understand the reasons behind short naps. Setting aside the long list of things that so many other resources state you might be doing “wrong” (ignore most of this shit because there’s no wrong way to be a good mama) such as poor scheduling, sleep associations, clothing, lighting, the way you put your baby down, blah, blah, blah…there’s an important fact that you may or may not be aware of:
An average baby’s sleep cycle lasts 30 to 50 minutes.
Notice the correlation between this and the quick catnap example above? Baby woke up because babies do wake up between each sleep cycle. The question is, will they go back to sleep or call it quits? (A little more info on babies and sleep cycles.)
Once I learned this very important fact, I instantly felt at least a little better. Another thing to keep in mind as you battle your way through the catnaps is that this is likely just a phase. Most babies naturally transition from short catnaps to longer, more substantial naps on their own. Be patient. Have a little faith. Give your baby some time to grow up.
3 Simple Things to Extend Your Baby’s Catnaps
In the meantime, here’s a little extra motivation: between 0 and 5 months or so, my little guy was a pro star catnapper. Not only that, but it would take me 30 minutes just to get him down and then 30-45 minutes later (on the dot!) he’d be up and ready to party again. It was ridiculously frustrating.
By about 6 months, he started taking longer naps. And no, I didn’t “sleep train” him to do this. Of course I tried a lot of atmosphere type things such as a fan for white noise, experimented with extra padding on his mattress, lighting and so on.
But the final list of extended sleep must haves are right here:
I can say with complete honesty that I don’t know whether his naps extended because of these three things, or because of him, or because of a combination of the two. In any case, you’re probably just as desperate as I was so these three easy things are worth a shot!
How Productive Are You? Really?
You might think that you’re being productive because as soon as your baby goes to sleep, you’re sitting at your desk, plugging away at your keyboard and, well, “working”.
But what are you really doing?
Are you taking a few minutes to catch your bearings? Are you easing into your workload? Are you checking the news first? Looking at your social media stats? Checking your site’s traffic?
While these are all tasks that have merit, are they really where you need to be spending your VALUABLE time? Things are different now. You can’t take an hour to get into the zone. Your baby may have already woken up and had a full feed in that amount of time.
And so if life is different, then you need to be different in it.
Get better at working with what you have.
5 Ways to be Productive with a Baby Who Catnaps
- Keep to-do lists and set schedule reminders.
Without this step, you can’t do anything that follows. Before you can actually be productive, you have to know what you need to be productive doing. If you’re scattered and disorganized, there’s no hope in hell. Organization is the very first step to productivity. Especially with a baby who’s totally turned your life upside down! Use Apple Notes, get Evernote or take advantage of any other note-taking, to-do-list app out there to jot things down wherever you are – at your computer, on your phone, on the move… Then sort these random notes and to-dos into priorities by day. Figure out what you need to do tonight, tomorrow, the next day and so on. Know what’s coming up. Be aware of your responsibilities to clients and colleagues. Map out your day, week, month. And what’s the cardinal rule? Don’t ever say to yourself, “No need for a reminder, I’ll remember that.” No, no. Those days have passed, Mama. Even the things that you feel certain you’ll remember, like a best friend’s birthday or an appointment you’re looking forward to – you might just forget. To prevent that from happening, set reminders in your calendar. Get those alerts chiming at you all day long if you have to. No shame! You’ve got baby brain now. (Yes, it’s a real thing.) Knowing you’ve got everything set up and scheduled will help you keep your sanity, trust me.
- Get all the administrative BS out of the way beforehand.
You know what I’m talking about…the menial, basic stuff you need to do. And although it’s work, it isn’t work work. Use the precious silent, uninterrupted time while your baby is sleeping to get some real, valuable, feel-good work done. At some other time of the day when you manage to get a few minutes, throw your baby in a sling, set her up with a toy beside your desk, or let him pull all the books off the shelf while you quickly check your email, sort the papers on your desk, draft an invoice or record a payment. Then, when you finally get that little catnapper down for a rest, you can dive in to actual work.
- Transform your mindset.
Getting quality work done has a lot to do with your frame of mind. Are you focused? Motivated? Into it? Or is your head still in baby lala land? If your little one is anything like mine, it takes a lot more than a couple of minutes to get him down (he’s a sleep fighter, doesn’t want to miss a beat!) and sometimes this is actually quite helpful. While I stroke his back and ease him into his nap, I’m able to take 5 minutes or so to think about the work I’m about to complete. This works wonders once I actually sit down at my desk and get going. Because I’m already in it.
- Have everything ready.
You probably need a few documents on your desk, websites open, phone numbers handy and a steaming hot cup of coffee. So, have it all there ahead of time. If you don’t, this could eat up 5 minutes of your precious timeslot. I’m a mama who really believes strongly in giving my little prince maximum, undivided attention when we’re together – as much as humanly possible that is, I mean, I’m still trying to run a business and raise a baby. But what I mean is, instead of trying to always get everything ready while your little one just wants to play and be with you, take 5 minutes the night before to look at your schedule. Check your deadlines. See what’s up for you the next day. Then prep it all for a serious productivity hoedown mañana.
Sounds simple. But it might not be. Even when you know that you only have 40 minutes to get something done, your mind may just not be in it. Shit, a few months ago, you would have had all day to get your ass in gear if you needed it. Ahh, those were the days. Maybe a personal thing is consuming your mind. Maybe you’re tired. Maybe something in the news caught your attention and distracted you. Whatever it is, you need to block it out. Hone in on the task at hand. When your mind wanders, bring it back. Practice being in the moment. Force yourself to get down to it. You’ll feel so much better afterwards, knowing you fought through the all-too-tempting distractions. And of course, you’ll have your work done!
Okay, that’s my two-cents.
Got anything to add?