Let’s put cat naps, linking cycles & regressions in the bin.

parenting tips

If there’s one thing we humans are really good at – it’s over-complicating things.

In the world of parenting, there has been this momentous rise in information and research. Which is mostly wonderful. What we now know about brain development is so groundbreaking and fascinating, and gives us so many tools to help our kids thrive.

But – along with this comes other information. Buzzwords and phrases pop up that soon become part of the mainstream parenting discourse, and don’t always serve us well.

Here are a few that spring to mind:


‘Linking cycles’

‘Cat naps’

‘False starts’



‘Wake windows’

Notice how most of these relate to sleep? Those of us who have parented a baby understand that sleep deprivation can push us to the brink. In desperation, we often turn to Google, searching for solutions to finally get some rest.

But often what we’re given are these negative terms to describe our children, that label normal baby behaviour as something problematic, and put pressure on parents to achieve outcomes that can make them incredibly anxious.

Now – I know what it’s like to struggle with sleep. My own son was not one of those babies who just laid down and nodded off peacefully. Far from it. I did not get a full night’s sleep for years.

But – so often when parents come to see me for counselling, they start dropping these buzzwords into conversation and it’s clear that – rather than helping them understand their baby better – they are just making them feel like they have failed as a parent.

Let’s look at those terms again and talk about the anxious thoughts they can cause in parents (and the negative lens they can make us view our children through):


“I didn’t get the baby down quick enough. I missed her tired signs. Now she’s overtired. I knew I should have just tried harder to get her to sleep earlier. Now we’re going to have a rough night. Ugh, why doesn’t she show clearer tired signs?”

‘Linking cycles’

“WHY is this baby waking up after 45 minutes! He just can’t link his sleep cycles, nothing I do is working. I’ve approached this all wrong. It’s my fault he keeps waking up. The app says he’s supposed to have a two hour nap now!”

‘Cat naps’

“My baby is such a cat napper. I can’t get anything done. I don’t know what to do to get her to nap longer, she’s meant to have 15 hours sleep in 24 hours at this age and she’s only getting 13! I’m so worried about the impact on her development.”

‘False starts’

“I feel so angry and frustrated with my baby. Every time I put them to bed lately, they have a false start. I just feel like such a failure that I can’t even do bedtime right. We have a really good routine and they seem so tired, but then wake up so soon!”


“My child was doing so well with sleep/food/toilet training until this regression. Everything has gone to sh*t. It’s like all the progress we made has just gone out the window.”


“I’ve been trying so hard to get my baby to self-settle but it’s just not working. I feel like I can’t leave the house – my whole day is focused around his sleep. I’ve been doing all the wrong things like rocking him when he wakes up because he just can’t seem to self-settle! I haven’t been consistent enough, I’m such a bad mother.”

‘Wake windows’

“So this sleep program I’m doing says my baby should be having a wake window of 2 hours-2.25 hours first thing in the morning. I try everything to get her on this schedule but it takes me sometimes an hour and a half patting her in a dark room until she sleeps. I’m so exhausted by it all – I’m just not cut out for being a parent, obviously.”

I feel stressed, just reading these hypothetical thought spirals.

For so many new parents, this is their reality. And it shouldn’t be this way. So often when I work with parents experiencing anxiety, a huge trigger has been all this noise around what their children ‘should’ be doing. Often, it’s coming from people who are not educated on the science around child development (but are marketing themselves as experts).

All these words and phrases are stealing joy from so many parents. I invite you to sit with any of them that you personally use in describing your baby’s behaviour, and just check in with yourself. Are they helpful for you to understand your baby? If so, great! But if they are causing you stress and anxiety, keeping you isolated at home instead of out enjoying life, or making you view your baby in a negative way and impacting your bond? I invite you to join me in putting them all in the bin.

What if cat naps were just called ‘naps’?

Sometimes, and at certain ages, babies have short naps. What if this was just expected? What if we were supported to find ways to get the rest we needed or get things done around the house, no matter how long our baby napped?

What if no one told us about wake windows?

Would we be so stressed about trying to get babies to sleep in a certain timeframe?

What if regressions were reframed as massive periods of brain and body development?

Barring any serious medical concerns, a typically developing child does not ‘regress’. They are always moving forward and learning new skills. What if we had support to get through the disruption to sleep and behaviour that can come with that?

What if a false start is just ‘a baby waking up a short time after going to bed’?

A phase that will likely pass.

It can be so liberating to let go of all the ‘shoulds’, and to stop trying to fix things that aren’t broken. To look at our babies through a more positive lens. To view ourselves as competent parents who are not doing anything wrong. To tune into our own babies, our own unique situations, and do what works for us.

What would that feel like?

If you need some help with anxiety in parenthood, book in a counselling appointment and let’s chat. You are not alone.

Your kid is going to be ok

When you just need something quick to bring you out of the thought spiral and back into calm, try one of these.

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