How can I get my babies to sleep longer than 1 sleep cycle during they day?
July 2, 2011 5:41 PM   Subscribe

Baby hack filter: Are there any tricks in getting babies to sleep longer than 1 sleep cycle (45 mins) during the day?

We have 4 month old twin boys. Due to the inherent difficulties in looking after 2 little babies at once we've just spent a few days at sleep school where things have improved markedly. The little guys are now going 4-5 hours between feeds over night with very minimal settling required. They also go to sleep very easily in their cots both during the day and at night now that we are putting them down according to the schedule we learnt at sleep school. Amazing progress. The routine we are using during the day for bubs is 1.5 -2 hours awake/play time, followed by 1.5 - 2.5 hours sleep.

Our trouble now is that during the day the bubs wake after exactly 45 mins after putting them down and are almost impossible to resettle. The only thing that seems to work is both of us going in and rocking them for about 30 mins in our arms then sneaking them back in their cots. I would be more than happy to do this if there were just one baby, but seeing as their are two of them and there are many times that there is just 1 adult available for baby duty, we need another solution.

Their room is dark and we have tried white noise/lullabies playing or silence. I have read various books: No Cry Sleep Solution, Health Sleep Habits Healthy Child, Save Our Sleep, Contented House with Twins. Nothing has really worked so far. I will not be using any 'cry it out' techniques so please only suggest gentle approaches.

Tips, tricks or other thoughts would be very welcome thanks.
posted by bingoes to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Are they swaddled?

Is this 45 minute thing just during the daytime? If so, I wouldn't be too worried. My baby and a lot of other babies just don't take long naps in those early months.
posted by k8t at 5:46 PM on July 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

If it's exactly 45 minutes, try waking them at 35 minutes and resetting them?
posted by snickerdoodle at 6:19 PM on July 2, 2011

Happiest Baby on the Block-read it....and yeah, swaddling...which is talked about in the book.
posted by hal_c_on at 6:19 PM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I will not be using any 'cry it out' techniques so please only suggest gentle approaches.

CIO is what it is colloquially referred to, but the Ferber method isn't just dropping a baby in the trunk of a car and letting them stay there till they're asleep. Look it up if you aren't familiar. Using the ferber method has saved this household from MONTHS of crying rather than the few hours we had to endure as we were going through the process.

But what it comes down to is: What do YOU feel comfortable with?

Good luck to you and your baby twins.
posted by hal_c_on at 6:22 PM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

CIO is what it is colloquially referred to, but the Ferber method isn't just dropping a baby in the trunk of a car and letting them stay there till they're asleep. Look it up if you aren't familiar. Using the ferber method has saved this household from MONTHS of crying rather than the few hours we had to endure as we were going through the process.

I'll just point out that Ferber says very clearly that his technique is not appropriate for very young babies, and 4 months falls just at the very outer edge of his "old enough" area. It's probably not appropriate for these babies.

I can't imagine what "sleep school" is, but is this something you could talk with the folks there about?
posted by anastasiav at 6:31 PM on July 2, 2011

Yes, they are swaddled. We used a lot of the Happiest Baby techniques earlier on and found them very helpful. We were taught some similar methods of settling them in their cot at sleep school which work well at other times APART from the 45 minute automatic wake.

By no CIO I guess I'm saying that I am going to go in and try to settle them when they start getting upset (not just grizzly) rather than leave them for even a few minutes. Things may change in the future but for now I'd rather not.
posted by bingoes at 6:33 PM on July 2, 2011

Seconding k8t that some babies just don't take long naps.

Our daughter took 30 minute naps during the day. You could set your watch by it. Didn't matter what we tried or did (and we went through a bunch of techniques) her internal alarm was set for 30 minutes and that's when she woke up. She didn't grow out of that until 8-9 months when her naps starting lasting 1.5 to 2 hours.

You may just have to deal with shorter naps and faster cycles for a bit.
posted by pixlboi at 6:37 PM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't know, 45 minute naps sound about right for that age. Can you wait it for for a couple weeks? Things shift so rapidly at that age, by next week you may have a whole new routine to manage. You might just try seeing what happens if they cry for 5 minutes or so. I did that and was shocked to find that my daughter fell back asleep for another 45 minute cycle after just a brief squawk.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 6:42 PM on July 2, 2011

You should go to and search her archives for this very topic. She talks about the 45 minute cycle quite a bit and what can be done to mitigate it.
posted by Mimzy at 6:44 PM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

my kid is almost nine months old and he JUST this week started taking longer naps. there wasn't much i could do about the 45 minute naps before now, and as far as i can tell, i didn't do anything to make them start. it actually scared me a little the first few times he slept for two hours. hang in there.
posted by woodvine at 7:09 PM on July 2, 2011

Some babies just don't sleep much. My daughter slept a total of 5 hours out of every 24 for the first several months of her life. Which made my life hell, of course, but she's in her thirties now and it doesn't seem to have hurt her.
posted by MexicanYenta at 7:23 PM on July 2, 2011

"Sleep school"...Australian? I suspect you probably already have been doing a little of ye olde fuss-it-out, yes?

Why not try putting your mattress on the floor and putting them both in bed with you and nursing/rocking them to sleep whenever needed, and just generally enjoying your babies' infancy? This will pass in the blink of an eye and babyhood will be gone forever, and you will have spent it fretting about "cycles" and coming up with hijinx to limit the cuddles. Not good (see link). For you, either.

God knows what the "45 minute sleep cycles" nonsense being peddled to you is, but, loads of young babies simply take short naps. Pretty certain to stretch out by itself over time, regardless of what you do. (I'm sure a lot of the books, advice, schools, and associated whatnot "works" because to some extent, it does what babies do anyway; parents just think 'Ah, finally, the naps have lengthened because I did XYZ' when they would've done just that no matter what.)

I understand that two is quite a challenge, but, lots of twin parents get by without these sorts of fiddles. I think you would all be happier if you just let your babies nap for the forty-five minutes they want to nap for, and throw out all the books, and stop listening to stuff about "resettling" or going for advice that tells you to not rock or nurse your baby to sleep. Bedtime is very simple for small children: stories + cuddles + milk. Very pleasant for parent and child, unlike stuff with leaving them to cry, or leaving them to get upset, or stressing over...I mean, I'm not even sure why it occurs to somebody to clock-watch their wee baby's nap. It'll be different soon. Just chill, make with the cuddles, stop stressing this stuff.
posted by kmennie at 8:33 PM on July 2, 2011 [7 favorites]

Kmennie: I in no way want to limit the cuddles. It's just that after 4 months of breast feeding two babies on demand (up till now it's been every 2-3 hours around the clock) we experienced too many days where the logistics of trying to rock two babies to sleep ended up with all three of us getting far too over-wrought to cope. They desperately wanted to sleep, but weren't able to unless they were in my arms so I felt like I was torturing them whenever I put one down to pick up the other. It's precisely because I want to enjoy every single moment of these two adorabubs that I went to get some help with stretching out the feeds a bit now that they are a bit older so we can all cope a bit better and actually remember these precious early months. 'Sleep school' (not its real name - I used that so people would would get the gist easily) wasn't about fuss-it-out, but very hands on comforting and my babies seem much more content as a result of getting some good daytime sleeps

The 45 min sleep cycle seems way more than a theory. Having spent a few days keeping an eye on the time, they both wake pretty much exactly 45 mins after they go to sleep. It's uncanny.

But I like the mattress on the floor idea.
posted by bingoes at 10:33 PM on July 2, 2011

I've also done sleep school (the other one, not Karitane), though not with twins.

Please, please go to Amazon and order Marc Weissbluth's 'Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Twins'. Ignore anyone who says he's a CIO monster. He's not so much a 'method' person and can be difficult to read, but he does canvass different options for the big sleep problems, and crucially he understands that there are different types of babies vis-a-vis sleep, and some need sleep training more than others. I find Ferber a bit confusing on naps, by comparison. Most of what Weissbluth says will correspond to what you learnt at Karitane, but he explains it more thoroughly and without the "different nurse" confusion. One big difference is that he doesn't believe there's anything necessarily wrong with nursing to sleep at night.

It's a terrible shame his books are not sold in Australia.

However: at your twins' age, it is true that there may not be a way to get them to nap longer until they are ready to. Which could be as soon as next month, so don't lose heart! Pretty sure it was around the 5 - 6 month mark for us when naps finally began to become more reliably 1 hour+. Then, shifting to 2 naps/day led to (or coincided with) even more improvement. Two - four months was the absolute hardest time with naps.

Another thing that helped a bit was experimenting with different swaddles. For naps at that age I used the Lil Fraser swaddles. Crazy expensive, but you can wrap them very firmly without too much fancy technique required. At night we used the wrap-me-up swaddle as she didn't need to be wrapped so tight then. We spent a fucking fortune on swaddles. But, worth it.

Anyway, you guys sound like you're doing a great job. Hang in there!
posted by 8k at 5:05 AM on July 3, 2011

I seem to recall reading that if they get 45 minutes, your chances of getting them back to sleep are slim. When my twins were this age, I was desperate to get some 'me time' when they were asleep, but if you were able to nap with them, that might make you all feel a little better. I think I had it set up so that I was in the middle of the bed, and they were swaddled perpendicular to me -- one level with my midriff, one level with my neck -- with one of those toddler side rails attached to the bed over their heads. That way I wasn't going to roll on anybody and they were equally close to me.

4 months is a typical age for a growth spurt, maybe that's waking them up?

Also, have you tried nursing them both at once yet? I think I would lay on my side and have one in front of me, and one laying over my side, nursing upside down (with milk bubbling out his nose, lol!). Duel nursing was a good way to get them both fed pre-nap quickly . . . it might buy you an extra 10 minutes from the beginning of the nap-time ritual.

But basically . . . twins are hard. Mine were 9 months old before I got a 4 hr stretch of sleep -- but that night was the best night of my whole life, EVER.

Hang in there, mama! You can do this!
posted by MeiraV at 7:22 AM on July 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

In my experience, there is very little you can do to elongate naps at this age. They're probably on the way to outgrowing swaddling, but if they're in a quiet and dark room, all you can do is hope. On the plus side: If you don't like something your kids are doing, wait a week -- it'll change. (Hopefully for the better.)
posted by incessant at 9:04 AM on July 3, 2011

If rocking works, have you tried a swing? Sure, Weissbluth and others say that sleep-in-motion isn't as good as sleep-in-crib, but IMHO it beats the heck out of not-enough-sleep. I used to put my son in swaddled tightly, and it worked pretty well for extending naps. We're big fans of the Fisher Price swings, and the new ones can even be plugged in so you don't burn through lots of batteries.

Also, one of my favorite practical mom-bloggers has several posts on the subject of "the 45 minute intruder" and a list of various things to try: baby might be hungry, baby might have been up a little too long beforehand, temperature, teething (there's a checklist) ... or maybe it's just one of those things. Not sure it'll all be to your taste (she does apply some CIO, but it's not her be-all and end-all answer). In any case it may give you some good ideas and at least some comfort that you have a LOT of company.
posted by CruiseSavvy at 10:13 AM on July 3, 2011

I have 26 month old twin boys, and I hate to say it but things never got better for us. We tried everything you listed and more. In fact, I'd have killed to get the sort of sleep you're getting at times.

What eventually helped was realizing that my partner and I are terrible sleepers and that we come from long lines of terrible sleepers, and that maybe it's just better to forget that whole sleeping through the night or taking a long nap things and focus on resting with them when we need it. It does get better, they do sleep more (a bit anyway) over time, but the expectation that they'd be sleeping for 12 hours straight with a nice long multiple hour nap (or two) in the middle of the day just wasn't in the cards, so when we stopped stressing out about it... things got "easier."
posted by togdon at 12:26 PM on July 5, 2011

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