You know those “what’s next” questions you get every time you hit a life milestone? As a high school senior, the question is “Where are you going to college?” You meet a boyfriend, and the question is “Is he the one?” After the walk down the aisle, you get, “So when are we going to see a little one from you two?” Sigh… you get the jist. Then you have your little one. Following the courteous “How are you (guys) doing?” is the age-old question “Is baby sleeping through the night?” It doesn’t matter if your baby is days old or weeks old. Your family wants to know, your friends want to know, heck, seems that even the neighbor wants to know. Everyone wants to know.

A “yes” gets you a pat on the back and praises like “awesome!” “great!” and “what a good baby!” A “no,” and that pat on the back turns from congratulatory to sympathetic. People offer you advice on how you can help your baby sleep better and they’ll say things like, “gosh, that must be tough.” Sometimes it’s hard not to feel like your baby is less-than-perfect if he doesn’t sleep through the night. And it doesn’t stop there. Naps are also under heavy scrutiny. After all, they’re usually inextricably linked. Some say that babies who nap too much during the day don’t sleep well at night. Other say that sleep begets sleep, so when babies don’t nap well, their nighttime sleep becomes (negatively) affected as well.

When it comes to babies, few things are more important to parents than sleep. Poor sleeping can be caused by several different factors. Baby could be hungry, too warm, too cold, overtired, over-stimulated during the day, or simply, because they need some reassuring cuddles from mom or dad. There’s also one more culprit; this one, from a more scientific view, says that babies have 45-50 minute sleep cycles, and at the end of a cycle, many have trouble transitioning to the next cycle so they wake up. This culprit is appropriately dubbed the 45-minute intruder. (Or, in our case, the 30-minute intruder. Our intruder apparently runs on Lombardi time).

Like clockwork, I can almost always set my watch according to the “intruder’s visit.” My husband and I have experimented with this many a times and we’ve found that if we peek in on our baby right around the 30 minute mark, we’ll see him starting to stir. Sometimes he wakes himself up and sometimes (if we’re lucky) he’ll self-soothe himself back to sleep after a few tosses and turns. If we’re out and there’s a lot of commotion, we keep a close eye on him right around 30-40 minutes and try to shield him from possible disturbances hoping to help him transition to the next sleep cycle. (This is usually not successful).

At home, what has worked for us is making sure that one of us is at his side right around the time we expect the intruder and we try and prevent him from stirring awake. It’s all about timing. If we catch him right before he goes into major fuss mode, we can usually prevent him from waking up and we’re able to extend his nap. We’ll pat his back and shush, and if that doesn’t work, we’ll pick him up for a little soothing time and (hopefully) once he’s entered into the next cycle, we put him back down without a problem. Again, you have to do these things before he wakes himself up. Sometimes, I’ll even lay down and feed him right around 40 minutes, taking the opportunity to catch a few zzz’s myself. (Hey, you get them however you can). No doubt I’m raising a few eyebrows from the CIO, or self-soothe, proponents – but, this is what works for us.

So if your baby catnaps, check the amount of time he’s asleep for. If he’s consistently waking around the 45-minute mark, then you might have a pesky intruder. Try to feed him, check the room temp, turn on some white noise, put him to bed before he’s over tired, try not to overstimulate him before the nap – or give our method a try too. What my husband and I have come to learn is that parenting and caregiving aren’t just full-time jobs, they’re creative ones. When you’re faced with a challenge, you have to come up with different, often, creative, solutions and try, try, try. Everyone will give you their two cents – and that’s great because perhaps someone’s experiences will help you. But take everything with a grain of salt because all babies are different, and know that ultimately, you have to do what works for you and your family.

Because when baby sleeps, mommy and daddy get sleep too.

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