Is your baby taking short naps? Learn how the 45 minute intruder can ruin a good nap and get our tips for how you can help your baby sleep through the 45 minute intruder.

45 minute intruder - baby crying

Babies under 7 months old frequenlty struggle with short naps.

Some popular sleep books like Babywise refer to this as the 45-minute intruder.

See why your baby is taking short naps and how you can help them extend their sleep past the 45 minute cycle.

What is the 45-Minute Intruder?

The 45 minute intruder is a Babywise term, meaning when your baby wakes early from their nap, usually 30 to 45 minutes after going down for their nap.

Babies’ sleep cycles are about 20 to 50 minutes long so if your baby wakes up in the middle of their nap and can’t connect their sleep cycles, the nap might be over.

Essentially, the 45 minute intruder “intrudes” baby’s nap times, perpetuating a cycle of short naps.

The 45 minute intruder usually starts around 8 weeks old and can last until 6 or 7 months old for some babies.

Trying to figure out why the 45 minute intruder happens can be extremely frustrating and drive you crazy!

Follow these tips to help you beat the 45 minute intruder, but remember that babies are humans and can be very fickle.

You can try different things to help extend nap times, but for some babies it just takes time for them to be able to extend their sleep cycles and sleep longer.

What Causes the 45 Minute Intruder?

Many things can cause your baby to only nap for 30 minutes or 45 minutes. These are the most common causes for short naps.

Noise or Discomfort

Your baby may wake up during their nap time if they have a wet or dirty diaper or if a loud noise such as a dog barking, sibling, or doorbell interferes with their sleep.

If your baby slept for 30 to 45 minutes, it may have been just enough time to take the sleep pressure off and prevent them from being able to fall back asleep.

Overtired

If your baby has too much wake time before the nap, it could make your baby overtired. You would think being extra tired would lead to a long nap, but an overtired baby can have a hard time going to sleep and staying asleep.

Undertired

Similarly to too much wake time before a nap, your baby not having enough wake time before a nap can cause them to be undertired and take a short nap.

If your baby isn’t awake long enough before the nap, they might be under tired and take a short nap. This is where following baby’s wake windows are key.

Growth Spurt / Hunger

Your baby could be going through a growth spurt. Babies will wake up out of hunger and need a feed if this is the case.

Development

It can be really hard for babies to connect those sleep cycles. If your baby is under 6 months, a shorter nap can be pretty typical. Sometimes it just takes time and develepment for them to be able to link their sleep cycles.

How Long Does the 45 Minute Intruder Last?

Every baby is different, but most babies outgrow the 45 minute intruder around 6 to 7 months.

How to Beat the 45 Minute Intruder

Around 7 months, most babies are ready to transition from 3 to 2 naps and it’s around this time that they are able to connect their sleep cycle better and fall back asleep.

Wondering how you can beat the 45 minute nap? Try these techniques to help move past the 45 minute intruder, so your baby gets a longer nap.

1. Check the sleep environment

Make sure you are using white noise to help drown out any noises that might wake up your baby. Create a dark nursery by using blackout curtains in the nursery, which will decrease stimulation and can lead to longer naps.

If your baby hasn’t started rolling over yet, you can swaddle them for naps as well.

2. Feed your baby

If you think your baby is waking because they are hungry, then of course, feed them. Just get them up, feed them, and adjust your schedule for the rest of the day.

If this pattern continues, try to offer your baby full feeds 30 minutes before nap time to fill their tummy before sleep.

3. Wake to sleep

If your baby is consistently waking up around the same amount of time after going down for a nap, you can try the wake to sleep method.

This method can be really terrifying to try but also very effective.

Essentially, you go in and “wake” your baby a bit before their regular wakeup time.

For example, if your baby is waking up at the 45-minute mark, try rousing them at 35 minutes. The hope is that they will wake up slightly and re-set their sleep cycle, going back to sleep and taking a long nap.

We did this with my daughter a few times and it worked! She didn’t always wake up from the 45 minute intruder, so I was hesitant to do this method too often.

I have had clients try this when nothing else has worked, and some of them have seen success.

4. Adjust the schedule

If your baby is consistently waking up early from a nap, there’s a good chance she could be under tired or overtired. In those early days sleep begets sleep so pay attention to baby’s sleepiness.

Look at your schedule and make small changes if you think this is the case. Grab my Baby Sleep Schedules if you aren’t sure where to start.

Evelyn would yawn and act sleepy, but if I extended her wake window by even 15 minutes, it could help us beat the 45 minute intruder.

If wake windows are the issue, try adjusting them slightly and see if that helps.

5. Extend the Nap

You can extend the nap by helping baby fall back asleep or helping baby take the remainder of the nap on you.

I would put my daughter down for a nap in her crib, but when she woke up 45 minutes in, I would transition her to the stroller or let her lay on me.

Babies will often fall back asleep on a caregiver for a contact nap or in a stroller that’s moving.

You could try using the steps of the Soothing Ladder and see if that helps your baby fall back asleep.

You could also get your baby back to sleep by doing the Shush Pat method.

I was worried about creating bad sleep habits but dropping those extensions naps were no big deal. She grew out of it—and the 45 minute intruder—around 5 months.

6. Give them a few minutes

When you hear your baby cry, give her a second. Moms who have two or three kids will tell you that sometimes they can’t get to their crying baby right away. They are busy dealing with a toddler on the potty or tossing laundry in the dryer.

If left for a few minutes, babies will often fall back asleep. I really like how the Bringing up Bebe book deems this “the pause.” Do what you are comfortable here, but most babies are fine if you aren’t able to immediately rush in.

If your baby is older (around 6 months or more) and can put herself to sleep, you can also practice crib hour.

7. Sleep Train

Some parents will use a sleep training method to teach their baby to go back to sleep. Make sure your baby’s schedule is really dialed in before doing this.

8. Roll with it

If you’ve tried everything and your baby consistently wakes up 30 to 45 minutes into their nap, it could just be developmental. Remember that this is a short stage and they will grow out of it.

Keep fiddling with wake times but also try not to let the 45 minute intruder ruin your day.

Time and development can be a big factor and some babies just take longer to be able to sync sleep cycles. Short naps don’t mean that you are doing anything wrong as a parent.

Troubleshoot as much as you can, but know that some babies just take time to outgrow the sleep interruption!

Video on Short Naps and the 45-Minute Intruder

Watch the video below where Amy will answer the most frequently asked questions surrounding short naps and offer tips how to extend them. Sometimes it helps to hear someone explain it versus reading a blog post.

45 minute intruder
Amy Motroni

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9 Comments

  1. My almost 3 month old falls asleep and wakes up after 45min or 1hr. Than she falls asleep around 1:30am I have try everything, she sleeps in the morning 8am to 11:00am
    1pm to 3pm and than 6pm to 7 or 8pm on till bedtime which is 11pm

    1. Hi Wilda! Short periods of sleep can be quite the challenge, though it can be a normal thing for babies her age. If you can, it might help to try to shorten her wake times between naps. Sometimes, being awake too long between naps can result in those wake ups. I would also encourage you to look at the Newborn Sleep Course, for babies 0-3 months.

      Here’s the link:
      https://thepostpartumparty.lpages.co/newborn-sleep-options/

      Lauren, The Postpartum Party Support

  2. Hi there,
    My lo turns 6 months this Sunday. She has been waking up 40 mins after she goes down at bed time & has for the last 3 months. I have done sleep training, we got rid of all the props, we have a bedtime routine, sound machine & everything else. I have fiddled with the wake windows and I can’t seem to get her past it no matter what I do. Any thoughts or suggestions? Thank you!

    1. Hi Jocelyn,
      I need a little more info to help troubleshoot. How do you respond when she wakes up? Is she getting drowsy at the bedtime routine or feed at all? What does her daily nap schedule look like?

    2. @Amy Motroni,
      7:30
      -wake & feed

      9:00-10:30
      -nap

      12:30-2:30
      -nap
      -(usually wakes within 40 minutes of this one)
      -shows signs of being tired and falls asleep under 15mins

      4:30-5:30
      -naps(sometimes 30/40 minutes usually and can range from 4-5)

      6:30/6:45(bedtime routine)

      Between 7-7:30 bed.

      I have tried doing some feeds(exclusively bf) at 5:30 or before bedtime routine.

      Lately I have been sleep training, letting her cry for 3 minutes level 10 cry and going in and patting her. This can take between 15 mins – 2 hours depending.
      She goes into her bed awake but tired. It has been 3 months of this. She knows how to put herself to sleep and self sooth etc.
      I don’t usually ever go past 2 hours of wake time. She gets very grouchy when she’s tired.

  3. What would cause a toddler (19 months) to fall back into this 45-minute nap pattern? Mine keeps waking up super early from her naps (which generally last 1 hr 30 to 2 hrs), and she is ANGRY and not at all ready to be awake. What gives?

    1. Hi Anna,
      You might need to push nap time back a little bit. It sounds like your toddler may need a little more wake time before nap to help extend that nap!
      Hope that helps!
      Amy

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