When Baby Wakes Early From Nap, Wait 10 Minutes

Use this simple trick to get your baby to go back to sleep when waking early from a nap. Find out why this works as well as reasons babies often wake early from naps. Learn alternative methods to helping baby fall back asleep after waking early.

Baby awake in the crib

When my first child was a baby, I would rush to him when he woke early from a nap. I really did not want him to fully wake up and be hard to possibly get to go back to sleep.

Little did I realize that was the wrong thing to do.

When my second child came along, it didn’t take long for there to be a day that my newborn woke earlier than I expected from her nap. My 22 month old was in the bath, so I had to take the time to get him out of the tub, dried, and dressed before I could attend to my newborn.

By the time I was done getting him out of the bathtub, my newborn was back asleep.

Back asleep!

This got me thinking and experimenting.

Wait 10 Minutes Before Responding When Baby Wakes Early

When your baby wakes early from a nap, one of the best responses you can have is to wait 10 minutes before going in to your baby.

Waiting 10 minutes gives your baby a chance to resettle and go back to sleep. Your baby will do this independently, which will help your baby to develop independent sleep skills.

It is really that simple.

This method can work for middle of the night wakings as well as early morning wakings, also.

Simply wait 10 minutes.


Of course there are caveats.

If you can tell something is really wrong and your baby needs immediate attention, respond immediately.

If you can tell your baby is in pain, respond as fast as you can.

If your baby is hungry, you also want to respond right away.

Otherwise, wait that 10 minutes before going in.

Understanding Sleep Transitions

A sleep transition happens every 45 minutes while your baby sleeps. This is when your baby moves from one type of sleep cycle to another type of sleep cycle.

Some babies will be noisy when going through a sleep transition. Some are still asleep but fussing or even crying as they transition.

Others are awake, but still quite groggy and sleepy.

If you step in, you help bring baby to be fully awake and alert.

If you wait 10 minutes, however, you give your baby the chance to fall back asleep and into that next type of sleep cycle.

>>>Read: What is a Sleep Transition (and How Does It Impact Naps)

What Does Waking Early Look Like

You might not be sure how long of a nap is a “full nap” and how long of a nap is a “short nap”.

Babies of all ages should typically have a nap that lasts 1.5-2.5 hours long. The last nap of the day can be only 30-60 minutes long.

Once your baby moves to only 2 naps a day (6 months or older), those two naps will still be 1.5-2.5 hours long each.

Reasons Babies Wake Early from Naps

If your baby is frequently waking around 45-60 minutes into a nap, you will want to address and solve the short naps. Some common reasons include:

  • Hunger or Growth Spurt
  • Baby Unable to Sleep Independently
  • Sleep Regression
  • Habit
  • Wake Time Length is Wrong (also known as wake windows)
  • New Skills

I have many posts that will help you fix these short naps. Be sure to read these for help:

You can also sign up for my FREE email series that helps you solve baby’s short naps.

Other Options for Helping Baby Go Back to Sleep

You might feel uncomfortable with waiting 10 minutes to see if baby will go back to sleep. You might also feel fine with it, but wonder what to do if baby does not fall back asleep in that 10 minute window. Here are some options for you.

Sleep Training

If you sleep train your baby, your baby will develop the skills necessary to be able to fall asleep independently. This will mean that when that sleep transition happens at 45 minutes, your baby will move between sleep cycles without crying.

Gentle Sleep Training: The Four S’s is my favorite no-cry sleep training method. You use it in the newborn months, so it works for young babies!

You can also use various forms of Cry It Out (CIO) sleep training.

Resettle Baby

You can also resettle your baby and get your baby to fall back asleep with your help. Be forwarned that if you resettle baby or use sleep props to resettle baby, your baby will need your help for a longer period of time.

You can help resettle your baby until you feel comfortable with some form of sleep training. You can also hope that your baby will eventually stop needing your help mid-nap to resettle. While there are a small number of babies who will do this on their own, most will not.

You can rock your baby back to sleep, put baby in a swing, put your baby in a carrier, or do a contact nap where you hold baby until it is time to get up.

>>>Read: How to Put Baby Back to Sleep


Waiting 10 minutes before you get baby up from a nap when she wakes early is a very simple way to allow your baby to learn to be an independent sleeper. It helps you avoid developing habits you will have to break later.

It will help your baby take solid naps and start as you mean to go on. We are aiming for long-term gains, not short-term solutions. Waiting 10 minutes helps you meet your long-term sleep goals.

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3 thoughts on “When Baby Wakes Early From Nap, Wait 10 Minutes”

  1. My son is about 2.5 months old. I have him on a three hour schedule. He tends to do better with more awake time, so usually he’s awake for about 1 hr 20 min between feedings. He schedule is waking up at about 6 and then eating at 6, 9, 12, 3, and 6. He sleeps through the night with a dream feed at 10, which I always have to wake him up for. Actually, last night he didn’t even eat even though he woke up when I got him so I’m thinking it might be time to drop it? Anyway, he has struggled with the 45 minute intruder, but has gotten a lot better. However, the last nap when ideally he would nap from 4:25 to 6, he ends up waking up at 5 or 5:30 and can’t go back to sleep. How do I keep to the three hour feeding schedule when he wakes early? I end up feeding him and putting him to bed at 6:45, when ideally bed time would be 7:30. He then sleeps until 6:20 the next morning. Any thoughts would be appreciated!

    • It is very common for the last nap to be 30-45 minutes long. I would consider doing some longer intervals earlier in the day so bedtime can be closer to the time you need, especially with him staying awake for 1 hour 20 minutes. So if he wakes at 6 and goes down at 7:20, you do the next feeding t 9:20 or 9:30. Then down at 10:40 or 10:50. So you aim for longer than 3 hour feeding intervals earlier in the day so that the last feeding interval being shorter is fine.


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