3 month old wakes after 40 mins

by Lisa

Question: My 3 month old has 3-5 naps per day depending on how long he sleeps. Most days we'll get at least 1, 2hour nap but when that nap occurs varies. Usually he will wake up on the dot at 40 mins. He goes down drowsy but awake, and I know that the 40 mins wake up is usually him completing a sleep cycle and waking up. I usually let him fuss for about 5 mins to see if he puts himself back to sleep. The thing is, I know that he CAN make it through a sleep cycle because he can have a nap longer than 40 mins.

We have a great bedtime routine: bath, feed (sometimes just a top up), a little cuddle and then into his crib. He used to be able to make it through straight until 11pm-12am, however for the past month 4/7 days he wakes up at the 40 min mark and needs to be resettled. I am just unsure why sometimes he wakes up at the 40 min mark and why sometimes he does not.

He wakes to eat anywhere from 1-2 times per night and will wake up between 6:30am-7:30am for the day.

Any advice would be great, because whenever he is down sleeping I feel like I am watching the clock like a hawk waiting for the 40 min wake up.

Heidi's Answer: Hi Lisa,

You're absolutely right that he's waking at the end of a sleep cycle, transitioning to the next. And it is a good sign that he sometimes does sleep through that delicate moment. It shows that he is capable of doing it and that is a great start!

The reason why he does wake up at times can be little things: a small discomfort like a little cold, a little hungry feeling or a wet diaper can be enough to keep him from sleeping on. It can also be be too little or too much light, noise around the house or from the street, or even the lack of noise ...

So I suggest you start with checking these possibilities and try to avoid them. Make sure he keeps nice and warm (never too hot of course), a wearable blanket or baby sleeping bag can work wonders.

Use an extra layer or a different size diaper to help avoid the wet diaper, and of course always change it right before he goes down.

If there are noises that are not constant, a white noise machine can be a good option (check the free white noise downloads for a simple way to quickly try it out).

Other than this, there are two sleep-through-sleep-cycle methods you can work on:

1. 35 minutes into his nap/sleep: quietly go to his crib so as not to wake him, but place your hands around his shoulders, place your hand on his tummy, gently stroke his forehead, ... choose something you know he finds comforting.

Of course all very softly so he does not wake up. Continue for at least 10 minutes, until you've helped him through to the next cycle. Do this as often as you can manage, for a week or two and you should see improvement.

(I describe this technique, and others, in full detail in No-Tears Sleeping Through the Night.)

2. At naptimes, why not put him in a baby sling every now and then and go out for a walk that takes longer than 40 minutes? It gets you both outside and it's another good exercise for him to sleep for longer than those 40 minutes.

If you want to use nap time to get things done around the house, you can use the sling too of course. As long as you're moving a bit so he stays asleep easily.

Good luck,

Comments for 3 month old wakes after 40 mins

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Follow Up
by: Lisa

Hi Heidi:
Thanks for getting back to me. We have room darkening shades in Jack's room as well as a white noise machine which definitely has always helped his napping style.

After reading your respond, I've been making a more concious effort to change my little guy's diaper before going down for his nap and that has seemed to help at some of his naps as he's had more 1+ hour naps lately; however, he still has at least 1-2 40 min naps per day, with some days that being all of his naps(which then is 5-6 naps in a day).

I tried going in before he wakes up to help him get back to sleep like you suggested, but he just smiles at me and starts talking.

Whenever he does wake up at 40 mins he's always happy, so I'm wondering if maybe that's just his biology and his napping style. Hopefully once he can stay awake for longer periods of time (right now we're lucky if he gets to 1.5 hours, with him usually wanting to go to sleeping after about 1 hour and 15 mins), his naps will naturally extend.

It's just tough sometimes because I never know what time he'll go down for a nap, or for how long. But again, I'm hoping that as he gets older that will fall into a natural pattern

He sleeps amazing at night so it seems like he is getting enough sleep during the day, he just breaks it up. He goes to bed at about 6:30-6:45pm and will sleep until 6:30-7:00am waking 1-2 times for a feeding, but goes down right after eating.

If you have any other suggestions, please let me know. Or any suggestions on how to help him slowly start establishing a consitant napping schedule (he's 15 weeks).


Good progress
by: Heidi

Hi Lisa,

Glad to hear that he's sleeping so well at night now, that's definitely something to cherish.

For naps: also some progess there. And if he's happy and content, why not keep it at that for now. Indeed, in a month or two things will settle into regularity more consistently, typically around 6 months old.

If you do want to try to make the naps longer: When going in: if he smiles at you, you may need to go in earlier when he's still deeper asleep.

And/or really try the baby sling trick (as in the video at the link in my original answer), maybe at one nap.

Good luck!

Same baby
by: Karen

My baby does EXACTLY the same! As I'm typing this I am nursing her back to sleep from waking from her 2nd 40 min nap of the day and it's not even 10am yet! Her awake period is right at 1 hour and then she's done.

I can't see when you posted your question.... Has it resolved yet? Any tricks or just time and being able to be awake longer?

by: Katie

I just read this article in hopes for help for myself and 13 week old. The biggest problem with all of his short 40 minute naps, is that he’s so exhausted with swollen eyes by the end of the day that we’re both in tears.

by: Heidi - BabySleepAdvice

Hi Katie, sorry to hear that you're going through a similar rough patch. I hope my answer above will be of help. Also keep in mind that it's ok at this age and with this going on, more than ok even to help your little boy to settle and stay asleep by holding, rocking, carrying etc. etc.

Also be sure to look into all possible discomforts that may be keeping him from staying settled.

Have a further browse starting here:


and here


All my best! Kindly, Heidi

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