The Waking-Early Nap Challenge

How to fix the bewilderment of baby waking early out of a sound nap, contrary to his normal habit of sleep.

You work diligently for weeks helping your three-month-old establish a great feed-wake-sleep routine; and then suddenly one day, he begins to wake 30-45 minutes into his nap with no signs of settling back down.

Why would a good napper do that, and how long will this last?
A few hours or a few days?
How will this impact the rest of his routine?
Is there anything Mom can do to solve her baby’s nap challenge?


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For expecting parents and parents of newborns, relating to babies waking early from their nap is not a challenge they will have to contend with right away. However, this will become a very popular post mothers and fathers will return to many times in the future. That is because we are talking about sleep and nap challenges—not the challenge of initially establishing a good sleep routine with your baby, but the challenges associated with sudden disruptions to well-established nap-time routines. The challenge is real and there is plenty of help awaiting eager parents seeking solutions if you keep reading. 

Parenting has its share of bewildering moments, such as when a baby wakes early out of a sound nap, contrary to his normal habit of sleep. The fixes are fairly easy, but identifying the cause of the problem is not always as clear-cut, especially if a mother is not sure what to look for.

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But what if there was a checklist that parents could work through to help them identify the most likely cause of their baby’s nap disturbance? The good news for the Babywise mom and dad is that a list like that does exist. In the following weeks, you will find a variety of reasons why babies wake early from their naps.

At first glance, the list might seem a bit overwhelming as you begin to count up the number of possible sources for nap interruptions. Fortunately, the number of possible causes is drastically reduced once parents factor in a few variables, such as Baby’s age and primary food source, (breastmilk, formula, and/or solid foods).

Parents will also want to consider the routine nature of the disturbance:
Is this a problem at every nap, only morning naps or just afternoon naps?
Is Baby waking only at nap-time, or is he waking at night also?
Does the problem happen every day or once every three days?
Basically, you are looking to see if there are any patterns developing.

Of course, these insights have little value if the foundations of healthy normative sleep have not been achieved in the first place. We are assuming that Baby is on a well-established 3-4 hour feed-wake-sleep routine, is already sleeping through the night at least 8 hours, and is routinely napping at least 1½-2 hours. These are normal Babywise achievements. That is why waking early from a nap runs contrary to what is “normal.”

Checklists to help you identify why Baby may be waking early from their nap:
* Isolating the Source of Your Baby's Sleep Problem

You can read more articles on Baby Sleep here on to help you make the most of your baby’s waketimes and naps.


Excerpted with permission from On Becoming Babywise by Gary Ezzo, M.A. and Robert Bucknam, M.D., copyright Parent-Wise Solutions, Inc. You can learn more and purchase the book here.

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