45-Minute Intruder

Cutesy name. Not-so-cutesy problem.


The “45-minute intruder” is a term that I believe was coined by the …Babywise authors, but is not exclusive to Babywise babies. It’s the habit of some babies to wake up early from their naps, about 45-minutes in. Ezzo talks about this in chapter 6 of On Becoming Babywise and says that the 45-minute intruder “might stick around for a day or two or decide to take up residence for a week.” If only. For us, the 45-minute intruder has been around for about 3 1/2 months.

You can almost set a clock to it… I can feel it in my internal rhythms now, too. I know just when to start tiptoeing around the apartment, when to sneak in and press the Sleep Sheep button again in hopes that this nap she’ll sleep all the way through. We get a “visit” from this intruder at least once a day, usually more.

What’s wrong with a 45-minute nap? Nothing, really, if Cora woke up rested. ┬áMost of the time, though she doesn’t wake up well-rested or ready to eat, she wakes up fussy and tired and she just can’t get back to sleep.

In the same chapter, Ezzo lists gobs of reasons that naps can be disrupted, and I’ve addressed or considered most of them. She needs less waketime! More waketime! She’s overstimulated! understimulated! The routine is too strict! The routine is too loose! I’ve let her cry-it-out, I’ve kept her from crying-it-out, I’ve rocked, bounced, swung, left her alone… I have some theories as to why, but really there’s just no telling and I haven’t picked up on a pattern as to why it happens some naps and not others.

We do know, though, that babies have shorter sleep cycles than adults at about 45-minutes each (adult sleep cycles are about an hour and a half), and that sometimes babies just have trouble transitioning from one sleep cycle to the next. Dr. William Sears states that researchers think this active sleep is designed with purpose, and perhaps he’s right. As a Babywiser, I don’t read a lot from Dr. Sears (their philosophies often clash), and I bet some of you never thought Ezzo and Dr. Sears would be quoted in earnest in the same place! But, I found this quote in another book I’m reading and it makes sense. ┬áHe’s writing mainly on nighttime wakings, but I think it can apply here, too:

Suppose your baby sleeps like an adult, meaning predominantly deep sleep. Sounds wonderful! For you, perhaps, but not for baby. Suppose baby had a need for warmth, food, or even unobstructed air, but because he was sleeping so deeply he couldn’t arouse to recognize and act on these needs. Baby’s well being could be threatened. It appears that babies come wired with sleep patterns that enable them to awaken in response to circumstances that threaten their well being[…]

So, for us at this point, it is what it is. As long as it’s her normal mid-nap crying and nothing out of the ordinary is going on, we’ve settled on letting her cry it out with interventions at timed intervals, because that seems to help her the most. Sometimes she goes back to sleep within 5 or 10 minutes, and sometimes she’s just up until the next nap. And even though I’ve made the choice not to obsess about it any longer, I’ll be pretty excited when this “intruder” leaves for good!

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6 thoughts on “45-Minute Intruder

  1. Oh I looove Dr. Sears. Maybe that’s why I’m not too into Baby Wise. But anyway, Liam was always a short napper. It was awful! But when he fiiiinally settled into a predictable nap routine (around six months) he kept having a problem with his morning nap that he would wake up after only 30 minutes. I could also time it perfectly! What worked for us was me going in quickly and shushing and patting him and he would usually go back to sleep. It’s funny how we mommies become experts in our little ones. It’s like I have a PhD in Liam and you have a PhD in Cora.

    1. I know! Only Jesus knows our babies better than us! :-P

      The Sears excerpt made me realize that maybe I’ve written him off a little more than I should have. It was in this book I’m reading called “Spirit-Led Parenting.” It has been pretty awesome. Can’t wait to write about what I’ve gained from it, but I’m taking it in slowly and prayerfully, so it’s taking some time.

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