Baby Whisperer: Sleep Transitions


Baby Whisperer: Sleep Transitions. Sleep transitions as explained by the Baby Whisperer

When Brayden was a baby, I read a book that talked about sleep transitions a baby goes through. I cannot remember what book it was in, but Tracy Hogg talks about it on page 186 in Secrets of the Baby Whisperer.

A baby’s sleep cycle is 45 minutes long. Babies start with deep sleep then move into REM, then wake up. Your baby might make noises at transition time, but if left alone will sleep through the transition.

When Brayden was a baby, we learned that 45 minutes after he fell asleep, we needed to be quiet. We knew if he made it past that 45 minute hump, he would take a good nap. With Kaitlyn, we didn’t need to worry about it. She loved to sleep. Brayden, however, did not and was also so curious. Hearing new sounds (or familiar ones) would get him up and wanting in on the action.

This sleep cycle pattern is the reason I list so many of the things I do in nap problems or 45 minute intruder problems. As baby is shifting cycles, if he is too hot or cold, he will likely wake up. If a dog is barking, he will likely wake up. If he smells something of interest, he might wake up (I have a friend whose son was very sensitive to cooking smells). If he doesn’t know how to soothe himself and depends on your or some other device, he will likely wake up. If he is hungry, he will wake up. If he is practicing a new skill, he will likely remember that when he wakes up and want to continue work on it. See these posts for more on reasons for waking:

Naps: Troubleshooting

45 Minute Intruder

Nap Disruptions: Rolling, Standing, Crawling, etc

Chronic 45 Minute Naps

Poll Results: Did Baby Ever Experience 45 Minute Naps for a Consistent Length of Time?

Reader Comments:

  • Jaclyn said…
    Oh, wow. I’m glad to know my baby’s not the only one! She’s so sensitive at that 45 minute point. I have to be completely quiet, and make sure nothing else makes a sound in our house.(Sadly, can’t control what goes on outside of our house.) She’s always been this way! Thanks for your sharing your wisdom and experiences. For a first time mom, it’s a HUGE blessing! Jaci
    September 26, 2008 9:34 PM
    Plowmanators said…
    You are welcome Jaclyn! Something you might consider since she is so sensitive is some sort of white noise. There are machines or you could do a humidifier..just something to drown out other stuff a little.
    September 29, 2008 11:28 AM

Reader Questions:

  • Laura said…
    I am so glad I found your blog! It is exactly what I needed. My baby boy is 5 weeks old and seems to be waking up throughout his naps. I don’t know how much to let him cry and when I should be going in to help him…what if it’s a gas problem or he’s cold? He was a good napper but our life has been busier the last week or two so I’m wondering if that’s messing him up. Anyway, thank you for your blog. It is no doubt a huge time sacrifice for you but I really appreciate it.
    September 27, 2008 11:26 AM
    Plowmanators said…
    Laura, At 5 weeks, I don’t know that I would let him cry in the middle of a nap yet (unless you find it works). See this post for ideas:Waking Early From Naps/Won’t Fall Asleep For Naps
    September 29, 2008 11:29 AM
  • Annie Haymans said…
    I just found your blog and I am so excited. Congrats on you new news, that is so exciting. I am a first time mom I have a 6 month old baby boy. I started babywise at about 2 weeks old and he has done perfect until about the past month. He started waking up to nurse in the middle of the night again….he would cry four more than an hour and I would finally go nurse him. So when that started, I decided to introduce solid foods thinking the reason he was waking was due to hunger. That helped for a while and now he has started waking up again. I have had a really hard time with him for the past month. Any advice…please help.
    September 29, 2008 4:35 AM
    Plowmanators said…
    Annie, see this post:5-8 Month Sleep Disruptions 
    September 29, 2008 11:30 AM

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15 thoughts on “Baby Whisperer: Sleep Transitions”

  1. Hi. I’m new to the site, but you might be just what I need. I did the Babywise stuff, and my son did very well for awhile. Then, at 17 months, he started having issues. I think it started at night, he would wake up because he was wet, but instead of going right back to sleep, he was awake. So I rocked him for a few minutes until he did. Shortly after that, he was sick, and then teething hard again, and it all just snowballed. He’s 19 months now, and for the past two months we’ve been rocking him to sleep every time, and I am ready to launch him back into figuring out how to do it himself. I tried to look through the blog, but most parents have younger babies. I would like some tips on how to go back to this whole system. I shouldn’t have let it go on this long, but oh well. Now we’re here, and I’m due in February with my second. I know I have limited time to teach him how to put himself to sleep again, and I need help. He takes one nap a day, and we try to put him to bed about 8pm. He usually wakes up around 7am, sometimes as early as 6am. I am going to the library today to get the babywise books again and brush up, but I thought if there were any helpful things I should know from real people who are doing it, that would be great! Thanks!

  2. Hi Myla, I don’t have any experience with your situation. I would imagine it will require some CIO, but his crying will be more out of protest than out of trying to figure this out. He should already know how to self soothe. I imagine it will be difficult, especially if he enjoys his rocking sessions. I have a friend who once took her baby to bed with her when she was 12 months old. She knew how to self-soothe and sleep on her own up to this point. After that one night, her daughter cried for a week before going back to her old habits. But you will definitely want your son sleeping on his own when the new baby comes.

  3. HI – I hope you can help. My daughter is 13 months old and has been a textbook Babywise baby since we started it at around 10 weeks. Until recently, she slept solid 8PM – 7:30AM with two naps (9:30-11AM and 2:30-4:30PM) I could set my watch by her sleep and wake times and by when she would get hungry. About a week ago, she started throwing absolute fits at bedtime. Screaming, stomping, etc. Same thing at nap time. This is the baby who would point at her crib when she was ready to go in! The worst part is that she is waking once, sometimes twice a night and screaming until we go to her. Even then, she does not want to go back to sleep. Any ideas what is going on? Any suggestions? This is so difficult because her lack of sleep is taking a toll on her disposition during the day, and on my patience! HELP!

  4. Tina, there are a lot of possibilities. You can rest assured there is a reason she is acting this way, it is just up to you to find out what it is and then decide how best to go about it. It could be as simple as her wanting to play rather than go to sleep. It could be teething pains. See the blog label “sleep problems” for ideas on what it could be.

  5. Hello and thank you for taking the time you do to provide all this wonderful information to BW moms! I have just started implementing the program with my 15 week old son, who was waking up many times in the night and day for a pacifier until I took it away cold turkey about two weeks ago. I concentrated on his night wakings first, letting him cio, which was not as bad as I had feared. I still feed him once around 3-4am as he consistently wakes at that time each night. Over the last four days, I have been really concentrating on his naps, which have always been exactly 30 minutes long. After much trial and error, it seems his optimal waketime is about 55-60 minutes, as I have managed to get several good naps out of him when laying him down at that point. He consistently shows the same sleep cues at that point as well. I am happy to say that he now goes down for night sleep and day sleep with no crying. However, every night he still cries out at least two times (either just one single cry up to 5-10 minutes of crying) and each nap he cries out at least twice in the same pattern (and always at the transition point). He then spends time trying to settle himself by sucking his thumb. I am finding though, especially during naps that he doesn’t always get himself successfully back to sleep.My question for you is- is this normal for a baby who is new to sleep training to cry out in this manner? Is this a sign of overtiredness? Is there anything I should do differently or do you think it will eventually just pass as he gets better at self soothing (I plan to remain consistent in allowing him to continue practicing his self soothing without intervention from me).Thank you so much for any input you can provide!!!

  6. It is really common for babies who are learning to self-sooth to wake early from naps. It seems to be a lot easier to self-soothe initially than half-way through. My guess is that it is just that they aren’t as tired after their catnap. I think it will pass.But do always be on the lookout for growth spurts. You don’t want to miss that.It sounds like you are making great progress!

  7. Hello and thank you for this blog! it's so great to have a community of people who are using the same parenting strategy with their kids. :)I have a wonderful 7 month old who has done BW since birth. He has done great. We've been on a 4 hour sched for about 5 weeks. His last feeding is at 7pmish then goes to bed and wakes up at 7am. he has always been a long napper. his first and second nap are 2 1/2 hours and his 3rd nap is 1-2 hrs. these past couple of weeks he's been waking up from his 1st nap at 1 1/2 hrs. he wakes up happy but it's an hr earlier than usual. i've tried just leaving him to see if he'll go back to sleep. but if i leave him until the time we normally eat lunch, he can't stay up very long after lunch so i end up putting him down early. then he sleeps the full 2 1/2 hrs. then we eat and have waketime. then he's tired a little earlier than normal (about 1/2 hr early) so i put him down. and i have to wake him up at 2 hrs. so it seems like his 1st nap is switched with his 3rd. i'm not sure how this happened. i've shortened his morning wake time, but he just talks in his crib for longer before he falls asleep. if i feed him when he wakes up early, won't i have to add a feeding later to not go over the 4 hrs? any thoughts on how to solve this? thank you thank you!!Laura

  8. Laura, I would try adding waketime, but only in 5 minute increments. If you do to much at a time, you risk jumping right over the optimal waketime and creating overtiredness 🙂

  9. Thank you for your help! do you mean more wake time in the afternoon or just more wake time in general?since my last post we've had a few developments. his morning nap is still short. (usually a little over an hour) now his second nap is short too. ( about 1 hr and 30 min. so when he's been awake for about 2 1/2 hrs after that second nap he starts to get fussy. i try to hold him off b/c i really think he needs to drop the 3rd nap. but i always end up putting him down and i have to wake him up to take his last feeding before bed. also he used to sleep 11-12 hrs at night and now he's down to 10. i realize this is still okay, BUT i feel like he is showing me signs that he's getting too much sleep by waking up early in the morning and waking up early from his first two naps. the book says i need to drop the third nap. how do i do that if he gets fussy and seems to need it? i'm trying not to get frustrated but it's hard b/c he used to be such a great napper! by the way, he is 8 months old now.thank you!!!

  10. I mean his waketime before his first nap. Work on that first, then once that nap is back to good, work on the next waketime length.You don't need to drop the third nap until he is ready for it. Don't stress out about that.

  11. Hi again!I posted a comment on on another blog post you did, and I'm really hoping to get some advice from you or other moms regarding issues I'm having with my 4.5 month old.She has never STTN. She started sleeping 6-7 hours (8p.m.-2/3a.m.) when she was about 3.5 mos. old, but that was very short lived when we got to 4 months. Now she wakes at least once, sometimes more before the 2-3 a.m. mark. We tried CIO for one week, she cried and cried then would go to sleep for 20 min-hour before she'd wake up again and start the process all over again. She is now waking up right around midnight-12:15 every night. I have tried to soothe her with sush/pat but she just wants to play and it takes FOREVER to get her back to sleep. I start with patting her, then I move away and just shhhhh her until she falls asleep. Sometimes she will sleep for a couple more hours, other times she isn't completely asleep before I stop and she wakes up again. This is also affecting her naps. She is waking at exactly 45 min. into her naps. I have tried shushing her but it takes a long time to get her back to sleep and then the nap is almost over. This just started about a week ago. Before that the majority of her naps went very well, this is so disheartening and frustrating. Her first nap is usually in a swing because of her reflux. I know I will need to phase this out. Her other 2 naps are in the crib.I am at a loss and I'm exhausted. I treated it at first as a hunger issue so I would feed her when she woke up as usual (I only breastfeed, no formula), then I would feed her before I put her down for a nap. She still woke up. We also started giving her some rice cereal in a bottle for her last feeding to try and help with the reflux so I know she is getting about 5 oz. before she goes down. I don't want to continue "double feeding" her every day, I think she is getting plenty. She never acts hungry after she eats- always very happy and good natured. What do I do??? We are now on our travels for the holidays and things won't really settle down until the end of January. I have 1 week between this trip and the next, then another week between that one and the last one. I am afraid this is going to continue until FEBRUARY and then it will be a major issue that will be hell to resolve….any advice?? If I have to wait until February, what direction do I take?? She will be 6 mos. by then… I just commit to CIO? Do I CIO during the weeks that we are home between travels? Any advice would be welcome!!

  12. P.S.I forgot to mention that lately I have resorted to putting her in the swing far too often for her other baps because I want her to get sleep and we've also had 2 weeks of in-laws and I couldn't let her cry. She wakes up in the swing but is generally able to to fall back asleep.

  13. T, C, and Little C,I recommend all the same things I did yesterday.Plus, you will see this in posts I recommended, but is she on meds?

  14. Hi valerie! thank you so so much for writing and helping and encouraging so many moms! i've been encouraged by so many of your posts. i have a 4 and half month old that has taken 45 minute naps since he was about 5 weeks old. God has is teaching me that it's not the most important thing and it's good to try things and try and figure out the problem, but in the end to trust God and enjoy the amazing blessing of this new baby God gave me! some of your posts have helped me see that i need to enjoy my baby and not go crazy trying to get him to be a perfect napper. thank you!i saw you answered a question someone asked about using the swing after the baby wakes up. i do that and he will go back to sleep. i was just curious if you thought it would be better to let him CIO at this age even though he won't go back to sleep. i'm wondering if it's worth it to hack it out for a short time then to get him dependent on the swing. as much as i hate CIO i think it can be good and help more in the long run. i was just curious of your thoughts. thank you!!

  15. I have a question I am desperate to find help with. I have a 9 month old whom we have been doing babywise with since birth. He has been a great sleeper. I could lay him down and walk out of the room and he would sleep all night. Last week, he got the flu and all has changed. He has recovered from the flu, but he is now waking every 1/2-1 hr at night and stands up and screams until he is held. I have tried to let him cry it out, but he makes himself sick and gags badly. It seems to make things worse. So I pick him up until he is almost sound asleep and gently put him back in his crib. If you put him down sooner, he screams and you have to start all over again. Sometimes it takes 2 hrs just to get him back to bed. I think this is his 9 month sleep regression on the tail of the flu. Do you have any advice for the best way to get him through this without introducing any props? Also his room is pitch black. I can't see my hand in front of my face!Thanks,Shanle


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