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Conquering The Forty-Five Minute Nap

It's Babywise Friendly Blog Network Week, and we have been talking about all things SLEEP. Today, I'm going to share with you my adventure in conquering the 45 minute nap with Archer.

This fourth born baby of ours has given me a run for my money when it comes to sleep. The 45 minute nap, or "short nap", or not-long-enough-for-me-to-even-catch-up-on-laundry-much-less-my-sanity nap, is one of the most dreaded things with a newborn. At least it has been for me.

LK was my perfect, textbook Babywise baby, perfect sleeper and never took short naps. She was a dreamy first baby when it came to sleep.

We experienced this a little bit with Shepherd when he was 2 months old and it lasted two weeks, and the swing cured it for him. He would wake up at the 40 minute mark, would fuss for about 15 minutes but couldn't put himself back to sleep, and I would put him in his swing and he would fall back asleep for the rest of his nap. After that amount of time, he started falling back asleep on his own within a few minutes and eventually stopped waking up at all.

With Fischer, letting him cry it out worked perfectly for him. He would wake up around the 45 minute mark, would cry for maybe 10 minutes and then be back asleep. Literally crying one minute and out the next. This happened sporadically throughout his infancy.

And then there's Archer. My little fourth-born baby. He has been my chronic 45-minute napper. I tried so many things and nothing was working. The only thing he wanted was to snuggle and rock. He would cry unproductively in his crib, he would cry in the swing. So I would rock him and he would fall back asleep and I would lay him back down and he would wake immediately.

As is the issue with most 45 minute nappers, I knew the problem was that he wasn't good at self-soothing yet. And part of me was ok with that. I know he is my last to get to snuggle and rock, but there comes a point when you have to remember to make decisions based on the good of the WHOLE family, not just one member. This is the #1 reason why Kyle and I love Babywise. It helps keep the whole family in mind and doesn't just revolve around 1 member.

In both of our defense, Archer was born at a busy time of year and on the brink of moving our whole family halfway across the country. (There has to be grace for people who move. That's what I decided. Grace on me the mom, grace on him the snuggly baby.)He also was the first baby to sleep in our room. I tried to be as consistent as I could, but it was definitely less than more. Finally, after moving and getting settled, I was able to really work on things and figure out a game plan that eventually worked.

Here is how we conquered Archer's 45 minute nap:

1. Stay consistent with feeding times.

One thing that kept tripping me up was trying to stay too closely to Eat-Wake-Sleep cycle. Now, obviously if you follow BW, you know this is the meat of the system. But what was happening with Arch is he ended up snacking because he would wake up too soon and would root when I would rock him. Because he wasn't getting his full feedings, I absolutely think this contributed to his sleep problems. So I decided and wrote down what times he would eat. So for the first couple weeks of this, our schedule looked a lot like Eat-Wake-Sleep-Wake cycle.

2. Pay attention to awake times. 

One of the best-known "tricks" with the short nap is to remember that more sleep = more sleep. Most of the time a baby is over-stimulated and that contributes to the short nap. So when we were trying to figure things out, I tried shortening his awake time because this had worked in the past for me and I know this principle to be true. Sleep begets sleep. But it back-fired big time with this one. I figured out that Archer is the rare kind who needed longer awake times to really get tired before sleeping.I extended his awake times instead of shortened them and it made a huge difference.

3. Set a specific "nap-time" routine and stick with it.

I think babies pick-up on sleep cues so it's important to set some and stick with them. This should be as close to the same as night-time routines as possible. We follow the 4 -S's from the Tracy Hogg and "The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems". (If you'd like a good summary, read Valerie's post about it here). What this looks like for us is we turn out the lights and turn on a noise maker. Archer is still in a woombie sleep sack, so we zip him up in that. We rock him and sing one stanza of his lullaby, and then sit still with him for a few minutes. He typically squirms a little bit and then stills. I put him down awake with his passy (yeah... we totally use it even though its a sleep prop!). And then we shush-pat if needed. Most of the time, this fourth S isn't needed or it isn't needed until about 10 minutes after we put him down.

4. Do the same thing for a long time.

I think when we are in the throws of sleepless insanity we are so desperate for a fix all that we end of trying a million different things and nothing works. I wonder if one of the reasons is that in the middle of trying a million things we lose any consistency. I think this was true for me with Archer. So after we moved and he was in his own room, I started doing the above things and I stuck with those same three things as closely as I could. It took close to two weeks, but I can finally say we have conquered the 45 minute nap. Some times it is just a little over an hour at a time or sometimes it is the full 2 hours but it isn't the consistently short nap he had made a habit of!

It is Babywise Friendly Blog Network week! You will be hearing from these lovely ladies this week, all on the topic of sleep:

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    1. My 9mo has always had issues with this. He naps in a swing for an hr in the morning and in afternoon 40min at best. But sttn in his crib. When he wakes up early he doesn't want to go back to sleep no matter what I do (sigh) Everytime I try to switch to his crib for naps I cave in bc it messes with him even more so I end putting him back in his swing...I'm at the point were I take what I can get from him and be happy that he sleeps 12hrs in his crib..

      1. I definitely feel your pain! I'm so glad he is sleeping 12 hours for you at night! Hope things start ironing out for you soon!

    2. That's exactly where we're at this week! The EWSW cycle. One weekend out of town and my lovely napper has gone crazy.

      1. I bet if you stick with it, things will switch back to normal soon! Hang in there!

    3. My 5 week old has started the 40 minute naps. How old was your son when it started? It you do EWSW, what happens after the second W? Back to sleep? My older son was the same with short naps and I hope I don't have to go through it again!

      1. My son did it from the get-go. What the EWSW looked like was 7:00 - feeding [wake time] 8:00 nap [8:45 awake w/intruder ... would try to rock back to sleep/put in swing/etc... but most of the time that was unsuccessful so he would just be awake]10:00 feeding time --- this is when it gets tricky bc you have to take into account the whole wake time from before the feeding too, so the wake time after the 2nd morning feeding is shorter bc he's been awake for an hour before... does that make sense?

        I would definitely try other things first though, like shortening his awake time...especially at 5 weeks. It is likely he is overstimulated.

        Hope you find some success with it!

    4. My son used to be a great sleeper for EWS - but recently (at 10 weeks or so), he started napping for only 30-45 minutes and doing EWSW. We've spent the last week putting him down a bit earlier, and it hasn't made any difference. He's not cranky or anything during wake time, despite the new shorter naps. But I don't understand why his sleep patterns all of a sudden changed.
      My son started sleeping from 11p-6a at 9.5 weeks for about a week, then went back to one nighttime feeding. The nap intruder started about a week later.

    5. My son just recently started the EWSW cycle. He's currently 11.5 weeks old.
      We've been following Babywise since he was 1 week old. He's currently feeding every three hours from 7a through 7p; and he was always good and solid on the EWS cycle. Until last week...
      At 9 weeks, he began sleeping through the night from 11-6am. A week later, he began waking up again for a middle of the night feeding. And a few days later, he went from napping 60-90 minutes to waking up 30-45 minutes into every nap. He still has a sunny disposition when he's awake and it's not making him cranky, but I'm concerned about the continuous changes to his sleep schedule. We almost always put him to bed drowsy but alert, and he used to be pretty good at self-soothing and getting himself back to sleep. Is there something going on with him developmentally right now that may be affecting his sleep? What can I do to help him get back to good rest (and hopefully sleeping through the night again?!)