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PLEASE NOTE: I have revised and updated this post since its original publishing. See the revised post for the most current advice. For this reason, comments are turned off for this post.
This is a topic I see more problems with than any other. Here is a list of things I would check if I were having problems with naps. If there is anything in BW I have down it is creating a good napper. Both of my kids nap perfectly, no matter where they are, how sick they are, how many teeth they have coming in, etc. Yes, there are naps that aren’t the ideal, but they are few and far between. I have had difficulties getting to that point, though. So here are my thoughts.
- Easy fix number one is to analyze the amount of waketime. If your baby is up too long, he will wake up early. For a young baby, 5 minutes too long can do it. BW suggests moving your waketime back by 15 minutes if your baby isn’t sleeping well. Try it. It is an easy thing to fix. (see Easy Nap Fix for more information on this topic: http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/01/easy-nap-fix.html)
- I have heard some moms say that the child needed more waketime, and then started napping well. This is always a possibility, but I would first try cutting waketime back before I lengthened it. Adding waketime would be one of the last things I tried while trying to fix a napping problem.
- Growth spurt? See the growth spurt post (http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2007/12/growth-spurts.html) for more information on the subject.
- Maybe the baby is hungry and just needs the food increased. This happened with Kaitlyn around 8 months. On day two of short naps, I started troubleshooting. She wasn’t at a growth spurt where she needed more food for a while then backed off, she just needed more solids offered at each meal. Then the nap situation was fixed.
- Another simple thing to consider is sickness or teething. Children handle these situations differently. Both of mine don’t really get phased. They will sometimes wake up early, but it doesn’t affect their naps consistently. It might affect one nap a day. Some babies, however, could wake up early. Do what you can to soothe and wait for the pain/sickness to pass. See the Comforting a Sick Baby/Toddler post for more information: http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/01/comforting-sick-toddlerbaby.html
- Environmental factors. Is there some noise that could be waking the baby up? A dog? I have a friend whose son woke up whenever she cooked. The smells got him up. Pay attention to your environment.
- Is the baby too hot? Too cold? Be sure to dress the baby appropriately for the season and for your home.
- Babywise points out being sure they don’t need to burp (see page 176).
- Babywise also says a common problem for early nap waking is over stimulation (see page 176). I kept a log of our waketime activities so I could see if there was a common trend with good naps and waketime activities and bad naps and waketime activities.
- Gas? See Got Gas post: http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/01/non-bw-tips-and-tricks-got-gas.html
- Are you consistent with your schedule? I will write a post dedicated to consistency, but for now let’s think about if you are home for naps or if you are usually out and about. A baby won’t sleep as well out and about as at home, so if he is used to being out and about, his body will be trained to short bursts of naps.
- I am a firm believer in Cry it Out (CIO). Did you do it? For real? If not, and you are willing, do it. Once he is capable of soothing himself, he should start making it through the transitions (which typically happen 45 minutes into a nap).
- 45 minute intruder? http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/01/45-minute-intruder.html
- Sometimes they just can’t sleep. I have nights like that. I am not personally a napper unless I just gave birth, and in those times I also have days I can’t sleep. Babies are humans. Therefore, they aren’t perfect.Even if she is really good at something, she is going to have difficulties at it at times. Even my husband who can pretty much sleep anywhere, anytime, has a night that he can’t sleep every so often. This is rare, but it does happen. So if an adult who wants to sleep can have a hard time on occasion, then a baby will, too. They are just learning.
- Are they learning a new skill? Sitting, standing, walking, a new word or consonant….babies like to practice their skills, and many times those new skills take precedent over their naps. See Nap Disruptions for more information on this topic: http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/01/nap-disruptions-rolling-standing.html
- Is your baby comfortable enough? I sometimes have Kaitlyn nap in her play yard, and those naps often are not as good as her naps in her crib.
- If you are on a 3 hour schedule, remember that BW says a normal nap is 1-1.5 hours. Maybe your baby is on the 1 hour end.
- Once your baby hits 5 months, he should wake up happy if he is well-rested. If he is waking early and crying, something is wrong.
Now some commonly asked questions:
- My baby only sleeps one hour for the last nap–is this okay? Yes, it is okay and it is normal. If your baby is going to sleep only one hour try keeping them up until it is one hour before the last feeding. If they are too fussy for that, put them down when they need to and just play with them after they wake up until dinner time.
- My baby is waking early from naps. Should I get him up or let him CIO? First, let’s address all of the issues listed above. Let’s be sure the early waking can’t be fixed easily before we move to more emotional tactics. When Kaitlyn was a young baby and waking early, sometimes she would wake after 30 minutes of sleep. At one point I decided she needed to CIO, so she did. After a few naps of that, she was fine. Other than that, I have never done CIO to get back to sleep after a nap. Emotionally I just can’t hack it. The book says to do it, so there is nothing wrong with it, but I couldn’t make them CIO twice for one nap. There is only so much I can take! I would give it 10-15 minutes to see if they are just having a rough transition and were going to fall back asleep. If not, I got them. I am going to do a post of what I did when the child woke early. Coming after this one.
- My baby is waking early but is happy. What do I do? This is a nice thing–when the baby is a the point that they wake up and play and wait for you to get them. If it is early and they are happy, I leave them there. A baby will be more patient for food if he isn’t staring in the face of the one who provides it. It is also more relaxing and restful in a bed than out playing and getting stimulated. Don’t leave your baby in there forever, but give them more rest time if they are happy. If it is earlier than normal but close enough, get him up and feed him and move on with the day.
- My baby just can’t seem to sleep through the cycle. Why? So far as sleep through a cycle goes, I thought about this when Kaitlyn was not sleeping through, and came to a conclusion. I think it is nearly impossible to expect a baby to sleep through on a 3 hour when they are so young. The way the cycle is described in the book seems impossible to create in the real world. Here is why.The routine is 2.5-3 hours. Your young baby can stay awake at best for 1 hour. The nap is to be 1-1.5 hours on the routine. So, if they are awake for 1 hour, the best you can expect according to BW would be 2.5 hour routine all day, and that is if they took the 1.5 hour nap. Some babies can only be awake 45 minutes. What is the answer? Don’t sweat it. Keep to the schedule as closely as possible and with time your baby will get it.
Something good to realize is that sleep issues are not the main and end-all point of BW. It is more about raising children who have self control, are respectful, are able to focus and self-entertain, are moral…I would bet things will just work out as far as sleep goes so long as you stick to the schedule the best you can.
Is it important to have good sleep habits? Yes! Is it worth working on? Absolutely! You will have much bigger fish to fry as your child gets older. If they are good sleepers, they will have an advantage. But remember Babywise is more than sleeping. Sleeping is the first stepping stone to bigger and better things.
Enjoy your baby. Cherish every moment. Pretty soon he will think you are so lame, then soon after that he will realize you are wise, but will be off on his own with his own children. Don’t get so caught up in things you forget to enjoy what is in front of you at the moment.
Poll Results: Did Baby Seem to Experience Any Kind of Sleep Troubles Around 4 Months of Age?
Yes! Naps!: 23 votes (42%)
Yes! Night!: 9 votes (16%)
Yes! Naps & Night!: 19 votes (35%)
No: 3 votes (5%)
Total of 54 votes
95% of responders experienced sleep problems around 4 months of age.
- Courtney said…
Thank you so much for your blog. I really appreciate the help. I have a son, Ethan, who is 14 weeks old. We’ve been doing CIO since he was 9 weeks. He does very well at going down for naps and bed time, needing to cry only a few minutes (at most 10). He has been waking up, however, after 40 minutes of sleeping. I can set my watch to him. He’s not hungry, not wet nor soiled. I’ve tried putting him down 15min earlier. I’ve tried keeping him awake 15min longer. I’ve let him CIO when he does this but I can’t bear to do it three times a day. And it happens at every naptime. Thankfully not at bedtime! He will sleep from 7pm – 5am without a sound. Why the short naps? And any other suggestions for making them longer? He’s been doing this now for about 6 weeks. I know you’ve posted a few times about this occurance, but I can’t seem to get it to work.February 1, 2008 7:29 AM
So I am guessing you have read the troubleshooting naps post and other posts similar.Once you have tried everything, the best advice I can give is to just keep trying but relax about it. As I have said many times, 4 months seems to be a difficult time for people. Keep working on it and trying different things, but chances are one day it will click and you will have no idea why it did. That is what happened with my son. He just suddenly started sleeping well. I can only guess the reasons why, and those are the resons I list. Many people say one day it just clicks! Good luck!
February 1, 2008 10:11 AM
Courtney,My son Blake just turned 5 months. I had the hardest time getting him to take naps longer than an hour. Just like you, I tried to follow all the advice from BW. I didn’t see any immediate results. But I am so happy that just this week he’s caught on. He’s consistently napping for 1.5-2 hours. I would love to say that it’s because of the expert mother I am…but my guess is that it finally just clicked for him. This is meant to be an encouragement. Stick with it, and he’ll get it!My one piece of advice: keep a close eye on him near nap time. I’ve noticed that Blake starts “squawking” when he’s ready for his nap. I used to think he was just talking. But now I have begun to use those as my cues for naps. This has worked great for us. For his first waketime, Blake can only stay awake for about 1 hr 10 min. I hear the “squawks” and then put him down for a nap. This is his 2 hr nap. Other waketimes I don’t hear the “squawks” until 1 hr 40 minutes. He takes 2 other naps that have consistently been 1.5 hrs. Keep observing and learning, but don’t stress. I’m saying that to myself as much as I am to you.
February 8, 2008 8:36 PM
- sharonsaad said…
I am completely discouraged about my kids naps. Can you really train a baby to take longer naps? and regularly? Daily? What am I doing wrong? She is 4 months old, she nurses, she sleeps in her own room, she takes a pacifer some of the times (can often fall asleep without it), she does very well at night but daytime naps she wakes frequently and I either put her pacifier back in, or reposition her. In all of these cases she usually will go back to sleep for a total of a 2 hour nap -but in that two hours I can be in there 3 or 4 times! Some times I will let her cry it out – some times she will go back to sleep – I don’t let her cry longer than 10-15 mins. As her brother is sleep in the next room. I guess this kind depends on her volume. So much for mom get daytime rest. I also have a two year old (just turned two) he takes 1.5 hour naps. Some days I wish it was a little longer. He also sleeps well at night. Any suggestions? I guess it is more the little one that I am frustrated about.
February 1, 2008 2:19 PM
Sharonsaad, yes, you can. It might take time and effort, but your baby will get there. I would watch the paci use. Moms who use a paci and report it as not posing a problem to sleep habits say they either don’t reinsert the paci during a nap or at night, or they only do so once. If you are reinserting the paci several times a nap, baby is not learning to sleep on her own. You can continue the “game” if you want to, but you will have to wait several months for her to be able to do it on her own. Or you can either drop it or limit your reinsertion so she learns some self-soothing. I put my daughter in a pack and play in my room so neither child can wake the other. It seems one of them decides to be noisy at some point in the nap!Your son’s naps do seem short, but if he is happy afterwards, that must work for him.
February 1, 2008 8:34 PM
So you think I should allow her to cry it out once she wakes in a nap? How long do I let her cry? Another q. I am laying her down for naps about 2-3 hours from her last wake up time. Does this sound right? sometimes it is longer other times she can’t hold on that long. What can I do to keep these consistant? I feel so wishy washy.
February 1, 2008 9:47 PM
What you do after she wakes early from a nap is going to have to be your call. I have never done a full CIO with my kids consistently. I have given them 10-20 minutes. See the Waking Early From Naps post for more ideas:http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/01/waking-early-from-napswont-fall-asleep.htmlBy 2-3 from her last wake-up time, do you mean that is how long she has been awake? At that age, Kaitlyn could only be awake for 1 hour total to have a successful nap. At 9 months, does 1.5 hours, 2 hours, then 2.5 hours for her long wake times. Her last wake time is less than an hour right now–I am weaning her off of the last nap. Wake time will vary from baby to baby, but I would guess three hours is too long for a 4 month old, at least for the first couple of wake times.
February 2, 2008 10:37 AM
At 4.5 months old, how long should the naps be? How many naps? How long should wake time be?
February 2, 2008 12:24 PM
That depends on the feeding schedule more than the age. 2.5-3 hour schedule is 1-1.5 hours of sleep. As your schedule gets longer and baby gets older, naps would range from 1.5-2.5 hours.I base waketime on 1-how long baby can stay awake happily and also take a good nap and 2-the feeding schedule. If you are on a 3 hour schedule, you want baby to go down anywhere from 1-2 hours after waking (some babies will do a 2 hour nap on this schedule). You want to calculate the time naps starts so that baby has enough time to get a long enough nap in.Number of naps also depends on the feeding cycle, but my guess is that most 4 month olds are ready or will soon be ready for 3 naps a day. If you are on a 3 hour schedule, this will mean that there will be one interval there is no nap between feedings (that wake time around 5 PM). This will only last until you move to a 4 hour schedule. Then you will be back to eat/wake/sleep between feedings until baby is ready to drop nap 3.
February 2, 2008 1:35 PM
- Aggiemom said…
I have a sleepyhead 6 week old who is still having trouble getting in any waketimes, except for maybe one a day.Also, we are comfortable with CIO from our 3 other kids. My problem right now is the first cycle of the day after morning waketime. If I miss the “good window” of getting him down and he cries the whole time, then he falls asleep as soon as I start nursing him at the next feeding time. This means he doesn’t get a good feeding and it throws off the whole day. Any recommendations? He hates the swing and will not sleep in it.
February 19, 2008 12:42 PM
This post will likely be of help to you: Waking Early From Naps/Won’t Fall Asleep For Naps: http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/01/waking-early-from-napswont-fall-asleep.htmlIf I missed that window with Kaitlyn, I just went straight for the swing. If I knew I would just be getting her out of her bed, I didn’t put her there. I figured fewer bad things would be taught that way.
February 19, 2008 1:39 PM
- swanny said…
I have a 11 week old daughter. The last three days she has not been going down well for her naps and waking up early. She hasn’t seemed tired for her naps, but I don’t want to keep her up too long. I have had her on a 3hr schedule, but when it is time to feed her, she doesn’t seem exceptionally hungry even though she has been up for 0.5hr before I feed her. Nothing has changed much in her routine except for her sleeping pattern. Is it time to move her to a 3.5 hour schedule even though she is not sleeping through her feedings like the book says that she should?
March 14, 2008 6:09 PM
There are a few possibilities.One is that she just finished a growth spurt and needs to get more sleep now, so her waketimes would need to be shorter.Another is that she is entering a growth spurt. Babies have one around 3 months, so watch for that. Have you tried feeding her as soon as she wakes? I guess, though, that she would eat at the 3 hour mark if she really were hungry.Another is simply the time change. My baby has been thrown off by her times being off. They take some time to get used to changes like that.Another is that she is ready to extend her waketime. Does she have good nap cues? My daughter doesn’t, so every now and then she will take a long time to fall asleep. If nothing else has changed, I try extending her waketime by about 5 minutes to see if she needs a longer waketime. Sometimes all she has needed is an extra 5 minutes. You don’t want to extend by too much at a time because you could add too much and she would still wake early because she was up too long.You could try a longer schedule, or combo 3-3.5 hour schedule. Some moms do find a longer schedule fixes their nap problems. However, I personally wouldn’t do it until I had tried everything else and it had been going on for a while. Sometimes they just go through phases of not sleeping well, and the recent time change could be your culprit. I just think adding 30 minutes to your schedule when she isn’t sleeping long enough already is going to throw you way off. Your eat/wake/sleep patter will be off and everything. Good luck in your problem solving!
March 15, 2008 10:12 AM
Thanks for your advise! I cut her wake times back by ten minutes and now she is back to her old ways of sleeping well(2+hrs). She is still talking to herself for about 10 minutes before she falls asleep, but there is no more crying and she is back to sleeping until I wake her to eat:)
March 22, 2008 2:06 PM
- sawyersmom said…
I have a 4 week old infant who simply *won’t sleep*- I would estimate he sleeps MAYBE 7 hours a day- usually a good 3 hour session at night, followed by a 2 hour session, and the other 2 hours spread out in VERY short naps throughout the day. It’s probably a little early to try the BW schedule, but was hoping to get the eat, play, sleep cycle started…. the sleep part is missing. I love the awake time, with exception of the 6-8 fussy hours in the evening which I understand are fairly unavoidable, he’s very alert, and fairly pleasant and curious about his environment- as long as he’s being held or carried somehow most of the time.I am breastfeeding and am of course not consuming caffeine- I have also eliminated almost any other potentially irritable food, I’ve now eliminated dairy, citrus, and most all spices, etc. He does eat well- but of course tends to want to eat more often b/c he so rarely sleeps. I can sometimes (not always) get him to sleep with a carseat ride, swing, or by carrying him in the bjorn- but those are always very short-lived and really only a bandaid to the problem which I can’t figure out. Plus, all of those require active supervision, and that doesn’t help me sleep. I’m running on about 3 hours sleep total each day for the past week- and rarely shower- I smell terrible.Do you have any suggestions or ideas?
May 6, 2008 5:52 PM
by the way- regarding my last post… he is getting a full feeding each time and eats roughly every 2 hrs in afternoon/early evening and 3 hrs for the rest of the day. Not on a real schedule yet…
May 6, 2008 11:04 PM
sawyersmom, Your son sounds just like mine was before we started Babywise. He would sleep very little for days and then crashed every few days. It is definitely not too early to start the Babywise schedule if you want to; I started at birth with my daughter. When I started with my son, we did the eat/wake/sleep cycle at first. Once he starts to get some rest and more of a routine, he will be less fussy in the evening. See this post: Starting Babywise Late: http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2007/12/starting-babywise-late.html
May 7, 2008 8:32 PM
- Sassycams said…
First of all, thank you for your blog! It has been very helpful over the past few days. My son AJ is 13 weeks old. We loosely followed BW from birth and had him on a 3-hour schedule since then. We’ve come upon a few issues recently, and I decided to post my questions under Nap issues. At week 10 I decided to do CIO- I couldn’t take the constant rocking to sleep/not taking naps, etc. We had five hard days of sleep training and then it seemed like he “got it”- naps were going well and he started sleeping through the night (from 11pm-7am). Then right at 12 weeks, it seemed like he was going through a growth spurt. We fed every 2.5 hours and added a feeding or two and he seemed more content (still slept through the night throughout the spurt). Then we had a few days of almost hibernation-type napping, extra sleepy. Then back to screaming his head off when going down for naps. I give him 1.5 hours of wake time (which includes his usual 45-min feeding), then down for a nap. He either goes right to sleep with hardly any fussing or screams his head off for a while- then sleeps 40-45 minutes on the dot and wakes up. What did you do with your son when his naps were this long? Feed him right away? Play with him? Extra wake time? I’m going nuts trying to figure out what’s going on.We don’t think it’s a hunger issue either. When he’s awake for the feeding, he seems to be eating faster (rather than the normal 45-min, he’s feeding in 25 or 30). In the midst of this, we tried one day of 3.5 hour schedule and while he had terrible naps, he fed well and slept through the night. The past two days has added another issue. We are still on 3-hour schedule (I thought the 3.5 day might have screwed up his naps so we went back to the norm)but when I go to feed him, he’ll feed like an animal for a few minutes and then abruptly stops and screams his head off. This can go on for however long, and sometimes I can get him back on the same side and other times I have to switch sides completely. Have you ever heard of this? It’s quite frustrating. Then, once he starts feeding, he’ll fall asleep if he’s had a bad nap (or no nap at all because we let him CIO and he never went to sleep). He has pretty much lost all his early hunger cues too- no rooting, etc. He’s constantly sucking on his hands/thumb (his new toy) so I can’t tell if/when he’s doing it because he’s hungry.I feel like we had a great thing (for the most part) up until we started CIO. The STTN is a total blessing, and I wouldn’t trade that, but my days are spent in tears (both of us) trying to figure out what to do with him. Other than crying during naps and now these “crying spells” during breastfeeding, he is a really good baby- always “talking” and smiling and looking around at his new world. (Oh, he’s also a big kid- he’s gaining weight and growing above par.)Any advice would be much appreciated.
May 11, 2008 6:58 PM
Oh, and to add to my previous post. Because of his crazy nap/wake times and crying spells while eating, my normal 7-10-1-4-7-10 times are all screwed up. Help!
May 11, 2008 8:01 PM
sassycams, You are welcome! It sounds like your son went through a textbook growth spurt.I would recommend trying a shorter waketime. I would also recommend a log to analyze the situation. See:
Easy Nap Fix: http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/01/easy-nap-fix.html
45 Minute Intruder: http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/01/45-minute-intruder.html
Problem Solving Tip: Detailed Log : http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/03/problem-solving-tip-detailed-log.html
For early waking, see:Waketime When Baby Wakes Early : http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/04/waketime-when-baby-wakes-early.html
Waketime When They Wake Early: http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2007/11/waketime-when-they-wake-early.html
Waking Early From Naps/Won’t Fall Asleep For Naps: http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/01/waking-early-from-napswont-fall-asleep.html
Do consider a medical reason for him pulling off (like reflux), but it also might just be that he is more proficient. See:
Nursing Woes : http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/03/nursing-woes.html
Also, see this post: CIO Bootcamp: http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2007/11/cio-bootcamp.html
and this: Getting a Consistent Schedule: http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/01/getting-consistent-schedule.html
May 12, 2008 2:06 PM
Valerie-Thanks for your reading suggestions. I’ve read your WHOLE blog over the past few days, and have read some of your suggestions over and over already. As I am typing this, AJ started crying at 45 minutes on the dot again from his nap. He calms himself for a few minutes and then is back to crying again. I am crying again as well. I am overly stressed by trying to get his schedule “right” and it almost makes me want to go to demand feeding. I don’t know what else to do.Today, I’ve been testing his waketime and putting him down when he shows cues- fussiness or rubbing eyes. This morning, he was awake and happy for 2 hrs- then fussy and I put down with no crying. Took a 40 minute nap. This past nap, he was awake and happy for 1hr 40min- then fussy and I put down with no crying. Now he’s awake after 45 minutes. Again, thank you for your suggestions but I still haven’t found an answer for what’s going on with him. This BW thing seemed “easy” until last week, and now I feel hopeless in trying to figure out what to do.
May 12, 2008 2:47 PM
Sassycams, I am sorry you are having such a rough go of it right now! I would recommend the post I just did today. Do be aware that around 4 months is a common time for babies to have difficult sleeping patterns, even babies who had been textbook up to that point. You sound like you are working through your problem wisely and systematically. Hang in there! You will get it figured out.
May 13, 2008 3:48 PM
Thank you for your concern. Last night, he totally refused to nurse. We took him to Urgent Care and he was diagnosed with reflux (GERD). After one dose of infant Zantac this morning, there has been minimal (normal) spit up, no screaming/crying, went down for both naps without crying and slept for 2 hrs. each. He’s been on a normal BW schedule all day and has been very happy. Thank you for your advice!!
May 13, 2008 4:54 PM
I am glad you got that figured out! Medication makes a big difference for babies. Kaitlyn had reflux, and I actually just took her off her meds completely about a week ago. The reflux will be good for you to know!
May 14, 2008 1:52 PM
- djwagaman said…
My daughter is 7 weeks old and for the past week she has been consistantly waking up 30 minutes into her nap. She takes a pacifier to sleep, and previously once she was asleep she wouldn’t wake until it was time to eat or until I got her up to eat.I know she is still tired because I put her pacifier back in her mouth and she immediatly quiets (her eyes are never open yet). Is there anything I can do to help her nap better? The rest of her nap after that first 30 minutes is broken by fussing every 10 minutes or so.
May 12, 2008 1:36 PM
djwagaman, I would consider the possibility that the pacifier is the culprit of your nap problems. See this post for more on that:Pacifiers : http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/04/pacifiers.html
May 12, 2008 2:07 PM