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Chronic 45 Minute Naps. What to do when your baby just will not take a nap longer than 45 minutes. Encouragement from a mom who has been there.
Despite the best efforts of moms, some babies consistently take the 45 minute nap for an extended period of time. I often get questions from moms asking what to do about this. My advice is to keep trying to fix it but try to relax and accept the way things are. Brayden took a 45 minute nap until he was 6 months old, when he suddenly started taking 2 hour naps. I have many theories as to why, and those are the items I list in my troubleshooting naps post and 45 minute intruder post (see Naps: Troubleshooting–Revised and Updated and 45 Minute Intruder). Another important post to be familiar with is Optimal Waketime Lengths.
I have a friend, Raegan, whose baby took a 45 minute nap until she was about 13 months old. This is a woman who I would without hesitation say understands the foundational principles of Babywise/Growing Kids. I met Raegan in an online Babywise group, and she always gives excellent advice to other moms. She knows what she is doing. She did everything she could, so I thought she would be a good person to write a guest article for this blog. This article outlines her experience and her advice for those facing a similar situation. My thanks to her for writing this post.
Chronic 45 Minute Naps
by Raegan Disharoon
I think every Babywise mom at one point or another deals with the 45 minute intruder. It’s a phase…it’ll pass…it’s temporary, right? For most, yes! You keep tweaking you schedule, trying new things, and then they “get it.”
The 45-minute intruder started early for us– at one month. She’d sleep for 30-45 minutes, cry for 10, fall asleep 10, and repeat until it was time to eat. At 2 months she stopped going back to sleep after she woke. We tried adjusting my diet, working with less wake time (even as little as 20 minutes), more wake time, timing to the minute, sleepy cues, temperature adjustments, the swing, the bouncy seat, solids (at 4 months), burping, patting, shushing, propping the mattress, gas drops, baths to calm and soothe, Tylenol (she started teething at 2 months, first tooth at 3 months), cry it out, cry it out, and cry it out. I was careful about over-stimulation. I had a great nap routine down. I asked everyone Babywise I knew for help. I got a contact mom. I was assured from most everyone that the 45-minute intruder was normal and I’d see a huge change by 5-6 months old. In the meantime, I kept wake time to the minimum average that everyone else seemed to have for their child of the same age. Since nothing else worked, I just stuck to cry it out as my method, put on some praise music and let her cry for 45 minutes each nap cycle. It was miserable.
Things would get better for a few days, then back to the 45-minute intruder for weeks. At 5 months, someone recommended that I try extending wake time again by trying 10 minutes of a very quiet activity before naps, like a walk or rocking. Again, it helped for a few days. At 6.5 months (what everyone assured me was the “golden time” when she’s definitely “get it”) I tried everything that I had tried before, plus moving to a 3.5 hour routine, just keeping her in bed for 1.5 hours, etc. That’s what I ended up doing 9 times out of 10, for lack of knowing what else to do, and needing time to get things accomplished around the house. The 6 month “phase” had been described in Babywise II and it stated that there may be “crying involved.” No kidding. 🙂 I kept thinking there was something that I’d missed.
There were bumps in the road along the way, for sure. There were normal disruptions like rolling, crawling, and pulling up. At 7 months my contact mom recommended going in at 15, then 20, then 25 minutes (etc) until the 2-hour mark was reached after she’d woken from a nap. I was to go in, use my stern mommy voice, and tell her nap time wasn’t over. I would lay her back down without picking her up and holding her, and walk out of the room, hoping she gets the hint. 🙂 It worked for 4 days.
Along the way there were so many questions: how can I move to a 3.5 or 4 hour schedule when she’ll never sleep that long? And then naps conflict with eating times! Will not doing an eat/wake/sleep mess with her nighttime sleep? And my biggest question…Will she ever get it?
By 9 months she still cried going down for naps and waking up from naps. By 9.5 months we’d finally hit a beautiful milestone that most babies hit much earlier. She was waking up happy, even after 45 minutes. So I took it from there. Enough was enough for me. I’d given it 9 months of trying, and finally she was waking happy. I’d given my best effort and I know that from the bottom of my heart. I had tried everything I knew, asked everyone I knew, and prayed for wisdom. I’d cried all I was going to cry about this.
You see, I had to realize that in my life I have to “do all I can do”, seek wisdom from others and the Lord, pray about it (and I’ll admit that sometimes my praying felt like begging), and take action where I can. But we are raising individuals and sometimes we just won’t understand why things work the way they do. I am a “x + y = z” kind of person. You do ______ and ________ happens. But motherhood is more spontaneous and needs more flexibility than that. Each child is different and wonderful. When I learned that she wasn’t changing (yet J) than I realized that I had to change. I was feeling defeated, like she was a failure and I was a failure. When napping became an issue that didn’t resolve, I thought “How can I tell others about the success of Babywise if I can’t even get my own kid to nap???” I had up and down days. Mostly I just wanted to see the “fruit of my labor” and for her to take a good nap. I felt discouraged when I knew other moms that didn’t do BW still had kids that napped 2-3 hours AND slept at night. Granted, my little girl slept through the night months earlier than others, but I had worked so hard!! (That’s me whining.)
So I decide that if 45 minutes was all she needed, that was fine. I’d given her all the tools and now it was time to move on to bigger issues. We moved to a 3.5-hour schedule, then a combo, then 4 hour as she needed. I stopped stressing about naps and moved on to character and training in other areas. We did extra independent playtime, extra blanket time, a regular bedtime, and continued to keep a good routine. When she took a longer nap, I was grateful. But I’m confident that the Lord knows what she needs better than I do, so I lean on Him.
Lessons from 45 Minute Naps
Here’s what I learned as the mother of a chronic 45 minute napper:
- Don’t give up. Try everything! At the end of it, you won’t have the “maybe I should have…” thoughts. I will say that I know my child better than 90% of the moms I know (and that 10% is only other Babywise moms) because of the problem solving and the listening to the cries and thinking before I responded.
- Ask for wisdom. Go to someone who has been there. I’ve learned so many random things not related to my original question by asking. Don’t be afraid to ask…it’s how YOU “get there.”
- A baby that naps only 45 minutes may need to keep the 3rd and 4th nap longer than other BW babies. Go with what they need.
- Sleep/wake/eat cycles are important, but not the “end all.” Do what you can to get there but don’t worry about night sleep when you don’t. Nap issues never messed with her night sleep.
- Routine makes the difference. My 45 minute napper was still the most well-behaved, most complimented baby of all my friends.
- Naps and sleep are just the start to building a strong foundation.
- Use an IPOD when necessary to drown out crying and save your sanity. As long as you know they are safe, it won’t hurt you and can give you some peace.
- Things are 10x worse when you are tired or have listened to your baby cry what seems like all day. Take a break, get a babysitter, or TURN OFF THE MONITOR.
- Don’t be afraid to CIO. When she wakes up now, I either wait until she “gets a happy heart” or goes back to sleep. Sometimes if she’s happy playing, I’ll leave her a little longer. She’s learning to be content without me to entertain her.
- She still cries sometimes when going down for a nap. I’ve come to the conclusion that after 15 months of a strict routine, that it’s not me. HUGE REVELATION! It’s what she needs to help her wind down. She’ll stop doing that eventually, but it’s not a mark of my failure.
- When she went down to 2 naps and still only napped 45 minutes, I chose naptimes that worked for me, but were the same time every day.
- Be consistent in other areas. Given them and you the extra downtime. If they won’t nap longer, get your sanity back with more independent play, blanket time, etc. It’s harder at first but it pays off in the end.
Want to know more? See Raegan’s update: Chronic 45 Minute Naps: One Year Later
For help with naps, get my eBook:
Related 45 Minute Posts:
- 45 Minute Intruder
- Baby Whisperer: 45 Minute Naps
- Dealing with the 45 Minute Intruder
- How to Deal with the 45-Minute Intruder
- How to Put Baby Back to Sleep
- Chronic 45 Minute Naps: One Year Later
- Easy Nap Fix
- Reader 45 Minute Nap Questions
- Surviving 45 Minute Naps
- The Babywise Mom Nap Guide: How to establish successful naps from birth through the preschool years
- What To Do When Your Baby Is Taking Short Naps
Reader 45 Minute Nap Advice
- Lisima said…
I just wanted to let all the moms who suffer from this know what I am doing today with my chrinic 45 min napper. Instead of shortening his waketime (he was already being put down at 40 mins) what I did was I took his wake time activities down to the bare minimum of just talking, singing, flirting, the very basics (he is only 2 mos) and then I put him down at the same time or when I was getting good sleep cues, which are different with every child. Well ladies, with the exception of a 3 minute cry at about an hour into his nap he slept the whole time! 2 full hours. Of course that was just the morning nap so far but I think I will carry this on for today and then gradually see what type of activities he can and can’t handle as the days go by. Just because I know most of you are desperately looking for answers I thought I’d let you know even thought I am just starting this new experiment today. I am also keeping a chart on excel of his activities waketime and sleep patterns so that I can remember what works and what doesn’t. This morning he had 54 mins wake time and for the 10:00 cycle he only had a 40 min wake time. I put him down because of his cues even though I thought it was goind to be too early. I hope this will help some of you and just know that you are not alone.
September 18, 2008 8:49 AM
Lisima, good tips and I am glad you are finding success!
September 22, 2008 3:27 PM
Reader Comments/Thank Yous:
- Christie said…
This post is amazing! I definitely feel that God has used you both in this post to speak directly to me and other moms that are dealing with nap issues!!! Sometimes I get so overwhelmed in the “perfection” that scheduling sometimes draws me to seek, that I forget that the Lord know what she needs more than I, as Raegan put it. Thank you both!!
September 16, 2008 10:58 AM
- The Traveling Turtle said…
Thank you so much! This post was just what I needed to read. At 6 1/2 months…we have been dealing with a 45-60 minute napper for almost a month now and I was starting to feel like it was something I had done. Our LO wakes up happy and then plays in her crib alone for quite some time, content as can be. So now I just need to stop beating myself up over it. Thank you again! What a fantastic post!
September 16, 2008 11:23 AM
- Lorri said…
I needed this today. My husband made me pack up all my books last night and took them to his office today. I’ve searched everything trying to see if there was SOMETHING I had missed.Someone even told me that it was because he was still on a 3 hour routine and I just needed to switch him to a 4 hour-the day I tried to keep him up for more than an hour and 15 minutes was the day I thought I was going to die-he was unhappy, I was unhappy and dad was mad. I still have trouble because he stays up for an hour, sleeps 45 is up happy-but only for an hour and then sleeps another 45 until nursing time again. The up down has not been fun but this post gives me confidence that I have done all I can and things do get better-even if its later rather than sooner.
September 16, 2008 11:23 AM
- The Traveling Turtle said…
Thank you again. I just read this blog over and over and am so happy it was out here. I am so happy to have found this site. with all the crazy, negative stuff out there about BW, it is nice to know there is a place we can ask questions and give encouragement to others! thanks again!
September 16, 2008 12:04 PM
- melissa said…
What a great post. After 2 BW babies, I found nothing more frustrating than 45 minutes naps. I thought I did something worng too. But, I read in the Baby Whisperer in tandem with BW and Hogg talks about how some babies only need 45 minutes. What a revelation! My friend is due with her first baby girl in 2 weeks. I am jealous of how lucky she is to have resources like this blog to help her. I had nothing! 🙂
September 17, 2008 6:32 AM
Melissa, I am jealous too! lol
September 22, 2008 3:20 PM
- Susanna said…
Thank you for letting me know my child is normal. I’ve struggled with 45 minute naps since birth and we hit the 5-6 month mark 3 months ago and not much has changed! I decided to come to terms with my son not needing more than 45 minutes for a nap and I am truly blessed that he has been sleeping through the night forever. I am also keeping the third nap at 8 months since he doesn’t take long naps during the day. How did you do the 4 hour schedule? My son is only eating 4 times a day; I’m just stretching him as best I can to go 3.5/4 hours in b/w meals. He just isn’t interested in eating sooner….THANK YOU! This was such a pertinent blog to my situation!
September 17, 2008 8:07 AM
- Lisima said…
Thanks for this post. Although my boy is only 2.5 mos. old I feel like it has been forever since he has napped for the full nap time. I will say that it feels somewhat discouraging to know that this “phase” could last for months to come. I have tried everything that I could think of from burping to darkening the room to CIO, etc. but nothing seems to work. As far as CIO goes I think it is a fine line b/w being mean and disciplining him. I just feel so bad sometimes. I guess it will be better once he starts to wake happy and not cry so much. Its funny because just today I was praying and really asked God to take this issue into his hands and to guide me with wisdom in knowing what to do each time he wakes. Please continue to give us tips when you come across them to help us out. Thanks for this blog and all your help! PS. Where is Gary Ezzo when you need him, huh? Looks like BW needs a revised edition with a chapter on “the 45 min chronic napper.” : ) God Bless!
September 17, 2008 12:12 PM
Reader 45 Minute Nap Questions:
- Jaclyn said…
Wow, what a blessing, and an answer to prayer! I was just sitting at my computer trying to distract myself from my crying, no screaming baby, when I came to your post! My 11 month old baby girl has never been a consistent napper. We’ve had consistent naptimes, but she’s never been one to sleep a long time, until recently. However, there’s always problems, it seems. Always crying when I put her down. Sleeping for only one of her two naps during the day, screaming for the whole naptime, etc. I felt as though I wanted to scream and pull my hair out. I really appreciate knowing that someone else deals with nap issues, and that it’s okay to not be “perfect” according to the book. I do have a question though. My daughter seems to do the screaming and refusal to sleep thing primarily when I put her to bed, and not so much when my husband does it. Attachment anxiety? Babywise doesn’t talk about that,that I can recall. Any advice? Thanks again for your post, and keep up the blessed work!Jaci
September 16, 2008 11:56 AM
Jaclyn, I would watch your husband put her to bed and see what the difference is. I would then try to replicate the way he does it. If the only perceivable difference is the person, then it might be separation anxiety. If it is separation anxiety, it should pass.
September 22, 2008 3:18 PM
- Kate and Robbie said…
Ditto to all comments! This is just the post I needed too! Ive been racking my brain trying to figure out why my 5 month old “just wont get it”. So, one question though, when a baby only naps 45 minutes, only has about an hour of awake time before getting pretty cranky (and i don’t want to get him over tired or overstimulated), what do I do to keep him on a decent 3 hour routine? What do I do for filler time? Or do I go to a 2.5 hour schedule…but isn’t that for like newborns?? Help me understand!
September 16, 2008 12:06 PM
- Plowmanators said…
Kate, check out these posts:Waketime When Baby Wakes Early and When They Wake Early
September 22, 2008 3:20 PM
- bethers21 said…
Thanks, Raegan!! Your wisdom is truly helpful as always. I can’t imagine the emotions of going through that for so long. What did you do when Charis woke up? Did you leave her in bed for a certain length of time? This is definitely a post that I’ll read over and over again.
September 16, 2008 1:41 PM
I tried a few different things first, but here’s what I ended up doing. Try different things, but see what works best for your baby.To keep on a decent 3 hour schedule, I did wake time (45 minutes, then one hour as she got older, etc etc) then nap (45 min). That was only an hour and half, so I’d let her cry for a while, try to go in and soothe, then leave, etc. Eventually, when I figured out that going in tended to make things worse, I just left her until the 3 hour mark. That way I got my needed break, and I thought hopefully she’d eventually “get it.” The swing made it worse for her, so her best option was bed. 🙂 Yes, there were many many many days where she cried for the next 45 minutes until I got her up. 🙂 It passes, and you have to see how much you can take. It does get a LOT better once they reach 6 months. I couldn’t adjust the waketime too much even though she’d already been up 45 minutes, since it interfered with eating. Do the best you can.Most days I left her for 30-45 minutes, once I had exhausted my list of things I could try. :)Raegan
September 16, 2008 5:35 PM
Oh, and if she was “happy” I’d leave her longer. 🙂 Just to make it to 3 hours. 🙂
September 16, 2008 5:37 PM
- bethers21 said…
Raegan, when did you put Charis back down or determine waketime? Say you left her in her crib for 1 hour and her waketime is 1 hour.
September 17, 2008 12:30 PM
I started her official “waketime” when I got her out of her crib. Sometimes I would adjust it by 15 minutes, but I tried counting time in the crib and not counting it, and it didn’t seem to make a difference at all. If I left her in the crib one hour, then I’d get her up, feed her (taking about 30 minutes) then I’d keep her up either another 15-30. I did find that as she got older and was waking happy, I could go in and get her and follow more of an eating schedule and just pick the nap times. So no matter how long she napped, naps were at ___ and ___ time. But that was when she was 9 months, I believe.
September 17, 2008 2:02 PM
- bethers21 said…
Raegan, sorry for another question but I just want to make sure I understand. So, you would leave her in her crib for her “desired” naptime, say 2 hours. Then, you would get her up, feed, and then restart waketime once she got a little older?
September 18, 2008 6:37 PM
Yup! I usually kept her in the crib 1.5 hours.
September 20, 2008 2:15 PM
- Rebecca said…
Thank you for this post. This was so helpful. I am struggling terribly to get my son on a consistent schedule. I used to be able to count on him eating the same time everyday at least, but lately since he may or may not take a full nap, he gets cranky and wants to eat early. I know I have not lived by all the BW principles, so that might be part of my problem. I don’t know how to have the same start time every day. Sometimes he wakes up early and sometimes he wakes later. Frankly I need all the sleep I can get and I do not like waking him to keep a start time. He was going until 6, but now he wakes at 5. I have tried to let him CIO, but since his last feeding was at 8 p.m. the night before, he is ready to eat. (At least this is what he is doing THIS week.) I have tried the dream feed off and on about 9:30, but he barely wakes. On top of it all, I think he would eat more before bed, but I don’t feel like I have enough to give him and he won’t take a bottle. He doesn’t take a nap in every eat, wake, sleep cycle. I feel that I can only offer him to lay down, but I can’t make him fall asleep or stay asleep. (Thanks to this blog today, I feel a bit better about it.) How can I get him on a more predictable schedule? Any help would be appreciated.
September 17, 2008 3:36 PM
Rebecca, you didn’t say how old he is…see this post for help with a consistent schedule:Getting a Consistent Schedule
September 22, 2008 3:26 PM
- Abby’s Mom said…
Wow, I needed this post a long time ago. My 9 month old has been a short napper since she was 6 weeks old. Now that she is down to 2 naps it can make some days very challenging. We have tried EVERYTHING to get her to sleep longer and nothing works. Every now and then she will take a long nap (long for us in 1.5 hours). However, nothing has changed when these longer stretches happen, so I am not sure why sometimes she will sleep longer. Raegan – Just wondering if it has gotten any better now that she is 15 months? Also, wondering what your schedule with her looks like? I know you said you put her down at set times. What time does she get up, nap and go to bed?
September 18, 2008 10:25 AM
She did a miraculous turn around around 13 months. She started napping at least an hour and 15 minutes, but most days an hour and a half or more. It is sheer bliss! Her naptimes at 13 months were 9:30 and 1:30/2:00. Then at 14 months she needed a longer waketime, so we changed it to 10:00 and 2:30. Now we are at a transition again, and naps are at 10:00 and 3:00. I tried both waking her after an hour in the AM and just letting her sleep. Either way she won’t fall asleep until 3:30ish and I wake her by 4:30 at the latest, depending on how good her nap was earlier. Her bedtime is IN BED by 8:00. When we go down to one nap, I have a feeling we’ll have to have a 7:30 bedtime. She gets up in the AM at 7:00. I usually have to wake her in the AM. I’m hoping that once we go to one nap she’ll take at least a 2 hour nap. (pretty pretty please) :)I’m so glad we kept with a good consistant schedule.
September 18, 2008 5:42 PM