Is your baby taking short naps? Learn how the 45 minute intruder can ruin a good nap and get some tips for how you can beat the 45 minute intruder and get your baby to sleep longer.
Sleep problems are at the top of most new parents’ struggles.
I was an absolute nut about my daughter’s sleep schedule in the beginning. We followed popular sleep training books, Babywise and The Baby Sleep Whisperer to get Evelyn on a good sleep routine. Those two books first introduced me to the idea of the dreaded 45 minute intruder.
Many parents just accept that their baby takes short naps, but it doesn’t have to be that way! With a little detective work and perseverance, you can troubleshoot why the 45 minute intruder keeps popping up and fix it to get your baby sleeping longer.
Is your baby struggling with short naps? To help you better, grab my free guide to solving short naps to get practical tips of how to get your baby to take longer naps every single day. Click here to grab it, it’ll be super helpful.
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. 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.
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 including:
- Something waking your baby up like a loud noise or dirty diaper. The 45 minute intruder can present itself if your baby is unable to connect sleep cycles and fall back asleep.
- Too much wake time before the nap making your baby overtired. You would think being extra tired would lead to an extra long nap, but an overtired baby can have a hard time going to sleep and staying asleep.
- Not enough wake time before the nap. If your baby isn’t awake long enough before the nap, they might be under tired and take a short nap. (I know, it’s so confusing trying to figure out if they are overtired or under tired, which is why I created my Baby Sleep Schedule Binder! The Baby Sleep Schedule Binder gives you age appropriate wake windows for ages Newborn through 4 years old! Check it out here!
- 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.
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. Wake times for 6 months old typically extend, and by this time they are able to connect their sleep cycle better and fall back asleep.
How to Beat the 45 Minute Intruder
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 and blackout curtains in the nursery to help your baby stay asleep. If they haven’t started rolling over yet, you can swaddle them as well. See some of the best baby swaddles in this post.
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.
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 Evelyn 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.
4. Tweak the schedule
If your baby is consistently waking early from her 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!
Look for signs of overtiredness. Evelyn would yawn and act sleepy, but if I extended her wake time by even 15 minutes, it could help us beat the 45 minute intruder. If wake times are the issue, changing baby’s wake times can also help with sleeping through the night.
5. Extend it
We would put Evelyn down for a nap in her crib, but when she woke up 45 minutes in, we would transition her to the stroller or let her lay on me.
You could also try the steps of the Soothing Ladder and see if baby falls back asleep.
Babies will often fall back asleep on a caregiver for a contact nap or in a stroller that’s moving.
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 cries, 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.
You could also try getting your baby back to sleep by doing the Shush Pat method and see if that helps.
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 kick it. 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!
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