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The Two Reasons Your Baby Will Only Take 45 Minute Naps

Are you frustrated by only 45 minute naps from your baby older than 5 months of age?

1. Sleep Crutch

Recently I consulted with a parent of a 9 month old who was at her wits end with her baby who was a “bad napper”.  He would only take short naps, 30 -45 minutes at the most.  At 9 months, he could not transition to 2 naps, clearly, since he wasn’t napping enough during the day to get him to bedtime without another nap

After further inquiry, we realized that her baby did not know how to relax himself into sleep.  She was nursing him before sleep and then putting him down “drowsy but awake”.  

She thought he was being put to sleep awake, but the fact that she is nursing or bottle feeding him right before being put down is his “sleep crutch”.

I know all the books say put them down “drowsy but awake”, but if we are putting a baby down “drowsy but awake”, then we have already done the work of relaxing for them, and that baby is not learning any self soothing techniques.  Drowsy but awake applies to newborns not older babies.  This client’s baby would often get a bottle if he woke at night.  He uses the nursing or sucking motion to relax him so he can drift off into sleep.

Does any of that matter?  Only if it’s not working for Mom and/or Mom and Baby.  And in this situation it’s not working because a 9 month old waking up 3 times to eat per night is cutting into his overall night time sleep.

Many people can get away with nursing to sleep for a long time, but for others, often around 7 months, nursing to sleep becomes less effective and there is more frequent waking at night, and/or difficulty settling at bedtime and naps.

Why does he wake up at 45 minutes?

When napping, a baby will surface at the end of a 45 minute daytime sleep cycle and not know how to relax himself back down into the next sleep cycle, and he will cry out looking for the same method that put him to sleep in the first place.  That’s often a pacifier, a breast, a bottle or being rocked.

2. Timing Matters

Timing is very important in getting good naps, you need the time between naps to be not too long, but also not too short.

However, before you can fix timing, you have to assess your situation more clearly and look at the nights.

Can your baby wake in the night and then put himself back to sleep?

Does he have a bottle, soother, or nurse at bedtime? If he has any of these things he will be looking for them at the end of a 45 minute sleep cycle.

You’ll have to address these issues first before your naps will improve.  Short nappers are always a symptom of something else and you usually have to fix bedtime and night time and then naps come next.


45 minute naps alone aren’t such a bad thing, but when your baby is 5 months or older and will only take 45 minute naps things get challenging as you’ll have difficultly ever making the transition from 4 naps down to 3 naps around 5 months, and getting down to 2 naps sometime around 8 months of age.

If your child is only taking 45 minutes assess whether your child could be put down calm (not drowsy) but awake in the crib and then put herself to sleep.  If not, then you need to fix naps by starting with bedtime.

Bay Area Sleep Consultant

The other thing to consider is your nap timing.  If the nap is too early or too late that can impact the length of the nap and ease of put down.  You can check my Sleep Summary by Age Chart to see how long your baby can stay awake between sleeps.

You can download the chart here.

I have so much more I want to teach you about your baby’s sleep!  I can teach you about how to teach your baby to sleep, get more sleep and tackle nap transitions and sleep regressions.  Check out my online class, A to Zzzss, and online class and community.


Online Sleep Class for ages 4-24 months: Tell Me More

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