When you use babywise or any sort of feeding and sleeping schedules with your baby, 45 minute intruder talk is always a huge focus. The 45 minute intruder is something that happens to all babies at some point or another.
It’s the dreaded 45 minute nap. One day your baby is taking nice long naps, and the next, the 45 minute intruder has snuck in and is disrupting your baby’s nap schedule.
Parents using the babywise method are going to notice the 45 minute intruder pretty quickly, since we are so in tune to our baby’s schedule and needs.
First, we need to understand WHY the 45 minute intruder happens.
Second, we need to know HOW to address the 45 minute intruder so we can correct the schedule and get back on track.
This post will discuss both why the 45 minute intruder happens, and how to correct it.
There is a free printable at the end of this post to help you keep this list of ideas handy!
9 Reasons Why the 45 Minute Intruder Happens
The 45 minute intruder can be a difficult problem to solve. You have to figure out which of the many possible reasons is causing your baby to wake up early, before you can start fixing the issue.
Babies have a 45 minute sleep cycle. This means that after 45 minutes, they enter a lighter sleep before transitioning back to a deep sleep. If ANYTHING is bothering them, they can wake up at this time of light sleep.
When the 45 minute intruder creeps up, it can feel like you spend all day off schedule and trying to get your baby back to sleep. It can be super frustrating!
Here are 10 common reasons that could be causing your baby to wake around the 45 minute mark.
Make observations for a couple of days and see if you can figure out why your baby is waking early.
1- Growth Spurt
Growth spurts happen pretty regularly in your baby’s development. When hey happen, your baby can be super hungry, super early compared to what their normal schedule might be.
This hunger can cause them to wake early. Growth spurts can last for about a week.
If you think your baby might be in a growth spurt, go ahead and feed them, and adjust your schedule accordingly for the temporary time.
For detailed information on when growth spurts happen and how to deal with them, check out this post.
If I am uncomfortable I have a hard time staying asleep. For your baby, this can also be true.
Maybe your baby always has a poopy diaper during naps, and that is making her uncomfortable.
Perhaps she’s too hot or too cold.
It’s possible that she’s no longer liking the swaddle or sleep sack that she’s in.
Make sure you pay close attention to your baby’s behavior and see if you can find anything that might be making her uncomfortable and waking her up early.
Teething is hard. It affects baby’s differently.
For some, they notice the pain and can tend to wake because of it.
For others, they hardly seem impacted.
If your baby is teething, you can try giving the correct dosage of ibuprofen to see if that takes the edge off of the pain for them.
When a baby is sick, it can be hard for them to sleep. We all know that feeling!
Don’t even worry about your schedule when your baby is sick. If they wake, feed them. If they need more sleep, let them sleep.
When she’s back to her usual self, the schedule will fall back into place!
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Where can you get your copy of these resources?
Baby Sleep Solutions Book
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Baby Schedule Tracking Sheets
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Baby Sleep Solutions Book
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Schedule Tracking Sheets
These sheets are not only a great place to record YOUR baby’s schedule and observations, they have the recommended schedule, wake times, nap times, etc. for each age listed out for your reference!
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Reflux is such a tricky thing to manage. It can definitely keep your baby from sleeping, and cause them to wake.
Two of our children had “silent reflux”. When they are sleeping, you can hear it come up, and go back down, but you never see the spit up.
They were both on Zantac to manage it.
The tricky thing with Zantac, however, is that baby’s outgrow their dosage over and over again because of those growth spurts we mentioned above!
If suddenly your baby is having reflux issues again, go in for a weight check at the doctor and see if the dosage needs to be adjusted.
An overstimulated baby is one that is awake for the correct amount of time, but has had too much stimulation, causing them to be overtired essentially.
Even babies need down time.
It’s near impossible to get a baby to sleep if they are overstimulated. They are hyper and restless.
Try giving them independent time on the mat, or just some low key time if this is the case.
By the same token, and understimulated baby isn’t going to feel tired or stay asleep for long.
Babies need interaction, practice doing sitting, tummy time, time to look at toys, “read” books, etc. If they aren’t getting to “do” much, they’ll be undertired as a result and waking up early.
8- Wake Time isn’t long enough
I’ve mentioned wake time above. Babies have an ideal wake time that is just right for them.
It’s not exactly the same for each baby, but it’s close at the same ages.
If your baby is not getting a long enough wake time, she will be undertired, and will wake up early.
If it’s happening for every nap and your baby seems wide awake, it’s a good chance you need to adjust the wake time length.
Our baby was doing this, and also seemed wide awake for his nighttime feeding. That was a sudden change, so we my guess was that he’d outgrown his wake time.
Check this post for the ideal wake time chart based on age. It’s possible your baby just needs the time lenghtened.
9- Learning New Skills
This is a huge reason for early wakings! If your baby is learning to sit, grab, roll over, or any of the big skills, they wake up early to practice.
I saw it happen with every big skill that our daughter went through. Her naps were always disrupted until I realized and corrected the issue…
Which gets me to the next part of this post which describes how to correct the 45 minute intruder and get your baby napping well again!
How to Easily Correct the 45 Minute Intruder
Once you’ve observed and troubleshooted the reason WHY your baby is waking early, it’s time to correct the issue and get your baby back to sleeping well!
A few of the issues are super easy to correct. Others take a bit more effort.
1- Growth spurt
If you suspect that your baby is in a growth spurt, feed your baby early.
If it’s truly a growth spurt, it will be temporary and they will be back on track soon. Keep the eat, wake, sleep routine going, and keep wake times the correct amount.
You may end up with an extra cycle and an extra feeding throughout the day during this time. That’s ok!
It goes without saying that if you figure out your baby is uncomfortable, that you need to get them comfortable.
Get the temperature in the room correct, get the room dark enough, etc.
As a last resort, change your baby’s diaper and see if she’ll go back to sleep. Some babies just really hate dirty diapers!
Try giving your baby a frozen teether prior to their nap to see if that helps them to get through.
Try alternating ibuprofen and tylenol throughout the day. You’ll want to check with your doctor on the correct dosage for the age and weight of your baby.
Often you’ll see immediate results with this if it’s going to help.
Don’t even worry about solving the problem if your baby is sick. Just comfort and get your baby better. Worry about the schedule after!
If your baby is already on reflux medicine, and you are noticing increased symptoms, take her in for a weight check and dosage adjustment.
If your baby is not on reflux medicine, you may want to consider it and talk with your doctor.
Other ways to help your baby with reflux are:
- Raise one end of the crib mattress to elevate your baby’s head
- Hold upright after feedings for at least 10 minutes
- Have tummy time to help just get up whatever is going to come up before nap
Incorporate some down time into your baby’s awake time. You do not need to entertain your baby the entire time!
Let your baby just take in the world around her. Starting in the first few months, we even do independent time on the play mat.
When their is an older child to attend to, it can take away from your time with your baby. It’s ok, but it does happen.
Make sure that if you are tied up a lot and unable to do too much, that you put your baby in stimulating situations.
I try to do tummy time every cycle, and sitting practice every cycle.
Even 5 minutes of talking time is super stimulating to your baby.
Engage with your baby and have conversations. You can even plan out some basic sensory play ideas.
Rotate your baby’s toys so they are seeing new things.
Take your baby outside.
Get creative. Every little bit will help!
8- Wake time isn’t long enough
To start with, check the average wake time for a baby at the specific age your baby is at. See the chart here.
If all signs are pointing to the wake time not being long enough, you need to decide if you are going to simply increase the wake time, or try a whole new schedule.
Refer to our sample schedules page to get a better idea of the ideal schedule for specific ages.
Find printable schedules in my SHOP:
If your baby was really struggling with the last nap of the day, in addition to waking early for the others, I tend to drop a nap and move the schedule around.
Give the new schedule and new wake time a good shot. Try for several days to see if it’s going to work. Your baby may need a few days to make the adjustments and get used to things.
9- Learning new skills
If your baby has been learning a new skill, the biggest advice I can give is to practice, practice, practice.
The timing of your practice is also key… practice right before your baby’s nap. They’ll feel satisfied with the time spent on the activity, and not wake up wanting more.
In addition to all of the above direct responses and adjustments that you may need make, there are 2 other things to put into practice.
These two things are not going to fix direct issues above, but they are key to having a healthy nap schedule
2 More Nap Fixes to Keep In Mind
1- Allow your baby to put themselves back to sleep.
Give your baby a chance.
A baby can literally scream for 5 minutes, and then go right back to sleep. I’ve seen this happen with both of our children.
It’s as if they aren’t fully awake and just need to cry out and fuss through it.
And the reality is that’s exactly what it is. They are transitioning sleep cycles and just aren’t fully awake.
As a result, I’ve learned to just look at the clock and allow for 5 minutes before I go in to assist. The amount of time that I allow changes by age.
You can read how I handle early nap wakings by age here.
Waiting has allowed my children to extend their naps and was an amazing learning experience for me!
2- If your baby wakes up happy, leave her in the crib
Your baby will cycle through times of just waking up early, and being content and happy.
Nothing needs to be changed and nothing needs to be done.
Let your baby have quiet time in her crib. I still count it as nap time since it’s super restful!
The 45 minute intruder is hard. It’s hard to figure out why it’s happening. As you can see, there are so many reasons that can cause the 45 minute intruder to become a problem.
The key is to really take your time and observe.
And I know it’s stressful. The in and out and in and out of your baby’s room to help put them back to sleep.
Go easy on yourself. Don’t forget to stop and let your baby try. 5 minutes can be a game changer for your sanity and their nap time!
And know that this phase will pass.
It is a frustrating one. For us it happened right at 3-4 months for both children.
Once you get past this, things fall into place and you’ll get right back to smooth sailing with a great schedule and a great napper!
How to Troubleshoot the 45 Minute Intruder (Baby Taking Short Naps)
- Start by letting your baby cry for 5 minutes. Look at a clock or set a timer.
- Observe. If your baby does not go back to sleep after 5 minutes of crying, and the problem has persisted for several days, start making observations about the 9 potential causes of the 45 minute intruder.
- Make one change at a time so you can know the impact.
- Observe for at least 3 days if you made a big change (wake time increased, or a schedule change).
- Repeat the process of making one change at a time, observing and giving your baby time to adjust to the change.
Don't forget to continue to allow your baby to work through things for 5 minutes. This can be the difference of a 2 hour nap or a 45 minute one if you rush to go in and help too early.
9 Reasons Why the 45 Minute Intruder Happens
- Growth Spurt (baby will be extra hungry)
- Uncomfortable (too hot, too cold, consistent dirty diapers, etc)
- Reflux (listen for "silent reflux" where you may not see any spit up)
- Wake time isn't long enough
- Learning new skills
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