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Sleep Expert Tames the Catnap

Sleep expert Heather Turgeon, co-author of "The Happy Sleeper: The Science-Backed Guide to Helping Your Baby Get a Good Night's Sleep—Newborn to School Age," will fix your family's sleep problems in this space as she does in her home consultations. Turgeon's solutions are nonjudgmental, kind and—best of all—based on science.

No situation is too challenging. Leave your sleep problem in the comments. Let's all get a good night's sleep, finally.

Dear Heather,

My baby takes the most incredibly short naps. It's exhausting! I feed her, set her down asleep, and she pops awake again in 20 to 30 minutes, if not less. What am I doing wrong?

Mom to Catnapper

RELATED: How to Drop the Kid Nap Like a Pro

Dear Mom,

You're not doing anything wrong. You're noticing the very common—yet agonizing—catnapping pattern of younger babies. My sense is that this short napping phenomenon is partly because we put babies on their backs to sleep (which we do for good reason, as the back-to-sleep campaign has cut the rate of SIDS significantly with this recommendation). But many babies are more easily roused on their backs.

Hang in there. When your baby is unswaddled and can roll, these catnaps will grow. Make sure you're doing a lot of tummy time—once she can roll and move, she can choose her own sleeping position and sleep longer.

She's also much more likely to take a longer nap if you put her down in her crib awake and allow her to do the falling-to-sleep part herself. (Try it once a day, you might be surprised that she can do it.) If she can self-soothe at the beginning of a nap, she'll know just what to do when she startles, comes into a light stage of sleep or is woken by a noise. She'll be able to put herself back to sleep (rather than being surprised and confused about where she is, since she went into her crib unknowingly).

RELATED: Sleep Expert Warns Against This Toddler Bed Pitfall

Also make sure to put her down frequently enough—after 90 minutes of awake time if she under about 5 months of age (yes, 90 minutes after waking, put her back down). If you miss the window, she may be more restless and more likely to take a short nap.

Sleep happy,

Heather

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