We thought we had struck gold, having sailed through the first 5 weeks of Hayden’s life with an almost perfect nap record. Hayden had a perfect string of 1 to 2 hour naps, whether in the bassinet, crib, car seat, stroller, swing or our arms. But last week his perfect record was marred by the introduction of the dreaded 45 minute nap monster. What’s this monster I speak of? Well, it’s the one that wakes a perfectly sound-sleeping baby from their nap right at the 45 minute mark, making for a cranky baby and momma. Babies need rest, and mommas need a break, so the 45 minute nap monster can be a real bummer all around. But luckily, we had experienced this two times before, so were a bit more prepared. Here are some tips we’ve found to help conquer the 45 minute nap monster.
Timing is crucial: A baby, especially a newborn, settles best when he’s not over-tired, so learn to read your baby’s cues and do a bit of clock watching to see how long your baby can comfortably stay awake without getting super fussy. Watch for the first yawn and start settling baby then; don’t wait for baby to start screaming and nuzzling his head into your chest – by then they’re usually way too tired. For our 6-week-old, we notice that he can comfortably stay awake, including feeding time, for about 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes before it’s time to settle back down for a nap.
A nap routine: This early on we’re not too concerned about a strict nap routine, but eventually our nap routine will involve a book and a song. For now though, we swaddle Hayden nice and tight and take him into his room where we keep it pretty dark, turn on his noise machine, and rock for a few minutes while patting his back before we settle him down. In the beginning he could easily fall asleep with any amount of distraction and chaos, but we’re noticing that the more he “wakes up,” the more important a quiet, dark room is for settling.
Watch and listen for the 45 minute intruder: Babies start a new sleep cycle every 40 to 45 minutes, which is why they usually wake up around this time; they’re having a hard time transitioning into the next stage of deep sleep. Listen (we keep our monitor on) to see if baby needs help transitioning into the next sleep cycle. You don’t want to rush in, but if you notice that baby is having a hard time and starting to fuss, you can lend a hand and pat his back and/or shush him a bit to help ease him into the next sleep cycle. This doesn’t work all the time, or even on every baby, but we have had some success in extending naps this way with our first and third baby (it didn’t work at all with our middle baby).
If all else fails, take a deep breath and move on: Some babies, no matter what you do, will just have short naps and there’s not a lot you can do about it but wait for their systems to develop a bit more. Eventually most babies will outgrow the 45 minute nap monster, and until then, just take a deep breath and learn when it’s time to move on. Get baby up and try keeping her soothed on a walk, the swing or just some cuddles, and remember that this too shall pass.
So did your baby experience the dreaded 45 minute nap monster, and if so, how did you get through this challenging stage?