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 baby sleeping longer.
What is the 45-Minute Intruder?
The 45 minute intruder is when your baby wakes early from their nap, usually 30 to 45 minutes after going down. Babies’ sleep cycles are about 45 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 the 45 minute intruder 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 undertired and take a short nap. (I know, it’s so confusing trying to figure out if they are overtired or undertired!).
- 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. 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!
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.
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.
Tweak the schedule: If your baby is consistently waking early from her nap, there’s a good chance she could be undertired or overtired. Look at your schedule and make small changes if you think this is the case. 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.
Transition them: We would put Evelyn down for a nap in her crib, but when she woke up 45 minutes in, we would transition her to her swing. That girl loved her swing so much and almost always fell back asleep to the soothing motions.
I was worried about creating a mega sleep prop and used to joke that Nick would have to build a swing big enough for her as an adult. But dropping the swing was no big deal. She grew out of it—and the 45 minute intruder—around 5 months.
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.
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.