Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The 45-Minute Intruder: Hidden Benefits of Short Baby Naps

When I had my baby, I was a sworn Baby Whisperer (Tracy Hogg) follower. Tracy Hogg's three-hour E.A.S.Y. routine (eat, activity, sleep, "your time") made a lot of sense to me, and as a straight Type A personality, having my baby on a semi-structured schedule from the beginning alleviated a lot of my new parent anxiety. There was just one problem. The E.A.S.Y. routine was based on the premise that my baby would take 90-minute naps. And around the time she turned three months old, my baby would not take longer than 45-minute naps.

The authors of the Babywise books refer to this phenomenon as the "45-Minute Intruder." Long about the end of a baby's sleep cycle of around 40 minutes, two things can occur. The first is that the baby successfully transitions through to the next sleep cycle. The other is that the baby wakes up and is unable to go back to sleep on his or her own.

There are many soothing tricks, environmental tweaks, and routine techniques all the experts suggest to help the baby make it onto the next sleep cycle, but all failed for my kid. And so, I had to stop trying to fix her nap schedule, and rather, embrace it. Routines can still work, even when the naps that are part of it end up shorter than average. Here are the hidden benefits to my baby's short naps I've discovered.

1. Short naps make for easier daytime travel.

My baby's tendency toward short naps makes us more flexible with our daytime travel. If she were a one- to two-hour napper, I imagine I would have to build my schedule around her naps so that she could be in her bed for the duration. Because her naps are so short, we can often plan trips so that she catches her 45-minute snooze in the car seat, or she'll sleep on me in the Moby wrap while we're out and about. I'm not sure whether those techniques would work if she needed to sleep for a longer period of time.

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