My Fabulous Life

The 20 Minute Cat Napper

When I was a mom for the first time, I can clearly remember the day that I came back from my weekly mommy-group meeting, sat on the floor in the living room, and cried my mommy heart out.  Elijah was about 4 months old, and up until that point I was somewhat oblivious to the fact that not all babies slept in 20 minute intervals like my son did.  Sure, I knew that some babies might nap longer but I got used to it and thought there wasn’t much I could do.  Then, I went to the mommy group.

In a discussion about nap time, several moms shared how thier little darlings were sleeping in 2-3 hour long stretches twice a day.  Twice a day???  My 4 month old not only didn’t nap longer than 20 minutes at any time of the day, there were only a few times when he’d ever napped longer than that.  It just wasn’t a regular occurance in our household.  Self-doubt started to set in.  I wondered if I was doing something wrong as a mommy, and of course being a new mom I was sure that obviously I’d missed something here and was screwing up my son for life.

And so, I cried.

And then, like most times when I’m puzzled about something, I turned to the internet and started scouring websites and message boards looking for the magic answer.  I bought books, I watched The Baby Whisperer on tv (are reruns still on?) and I tried every tactic I could.  Yet still, I had a 20 minute napper.

Elijah’s naps didn’t increase in length until he was in the second half of that first year, and he was never a 2-3 hour nap kind of kid.  Neither was my second-born, Nevaeh.

So, when Everleigh started coming out of her baby-sleep-coma as I call it (that first month or two where they sleep more than they’re awake) and decided that there were surely more fun things to do than nap, here we were again.

I could lie and say that, as a mom 3x around, I don’t let this get to me and simply shrug it off.  The truth is, I’ve cried this week in frustration over it.  All 3 of my kids seem genetically wired to nap in these 20 minute blocks.  Nothing we seem to do makes much of a difference – oh sure there are days when she will nap longer because we’re out and about or for whatever reason she decides to, but for the most part our day is consumed with holding a (almost!) 3 month old and getting our tasks done with her in tow.

Right now, our method of attack is this – she is learning to fall asleep in her crib (which we just put together last weekend) on her own (without crying it out which I am strongly against) and she’s getting used to a lovie (this Aden + Anais Security Blanket)  I’m also using a sound machine in the room.  As I type this now she is sleeping soundly but I’m getting close to that 20 minute mark which means it’s time to wrap this up!

So, any advice from other moms?  What worked for you to increase nap time?

(seriously, as I was proof reading this post she woke up!  I popped her soother back in, gave her her security blanket to nuzzle, and am watching her move around on the monitor now…sigh…)


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  • Hey there! I went through this too with the last of the 3 that I have she only slept 20min I cried too! sometimes I still do because she just turned a year and she still doesn’t sleep through the night soundly. Now what I did to make her sleep longer and yes it killed me too but I didn’t let her take 20 min naps when she fell asleep I woke her up and played with her kept her stimulated as much as possible to wear her little butt out and that helped tremendously. She went from 20 mins to 2-4 hr naps very quickly… sad to say this but now shes gone back to not napping at all in the day. Hopefully that doesn’t happen to you though.
    Good luck with this frustrating venture.

  • My 4 month old is the same way. Both my older kids napped well, with a consistent morning and afternoon nap at this age. They are 7 & 8 now and looking back, I can’t remember how I got them to do that. This baby doesn’t sleep during the day unless I’m holding him. When I lay him down, he wakes up. He will occasionally nap in the car if he’s exhausted, but only for a few minutes. So you’re not alone. I wish I had some great tips for you, but I don’t! Hang in there!

  • I feel your pain lol, my first was like that, and he was almost as bad through he night,i was a zombie for about a year a never got any sleep. I dont think you are doing anything wrong, all 3of mine had their own sleep patterns but i never had one that slept those long naps that other babies seemed too. I tried everything as well and i wish i had a miracle cure for you, but i dont, but i dont think it has anything to do with you.They pretty much run the show at that age . I remember long walks at 11pm just to get him to go to sleep, and drives in the car , anything to try and put him to sleep, he just wanted to be awake all the time lol.GOOD LUCK and hopefully he outgrows it soon

  • I truthfully don’t know. I’m not sure what is worse, a 20 minute napper or the almost 2 year old that is still sleeping in your bed nursing every 2 hours (which is what I was doing 18 months ago!). I had 2 kids do that to me but I thought, at least they napped good! 🙂

  • Oh gosh… my daughter was precisely the same way…then Noah was a great sleeper, and now Im left wondering what this little princess will be like….

  • Hey, this is all too familiar for me. Logan was the exact same way. And the twins were shaping up to be the same but this time I was determined to try and not let them win. Not only did I need the break from them but so did the big kids and 20 min was not going to cut it for my sanity lol. This is what worked for us. Warning: it took a while and was painful at times but they turned into 3 hour nappers which I never thought was possible.

    I was never one to have strict naps especially when you have older kids to be stuck on a nap schedule is no fun for them especially if you are like me and NEED to get out of the house. So even when my friends 3 month olds were having 2,3,4 naps a day I only focused on one. If they cat napped here and there while we were out especially in the early days that was ok. But the cat naps were never in their beds. I put all my energies into the afternoon nap after we had already been out and doing stuff in the morning (I felt less mommy guilt that way lol). So we only really had one “nap”. it was the same as bed time I would swaddle them up and take them into our dark bedroom and nurse them to sleep (I never figured out the whole putting them to sleep awake thing, I tried but failed miserably many many times then I just got lazy and would nurse, feed, rock, lay with them to sleep) so anyway then I would put them into their beds, crank the sound machine and pray for longer than 20 minutes. As soon as one, or on bad days they both woke I would grab them before they had a chance to fully wake up and I would rock/lay with them until they were back asleep. I had a time in my head and if it was any less than 2.5 hours then I would not let them get up. I would keep them in a dark room (usually our room cause it was dark and away from the other twin) but sometimes I would even take them and lie on the couch and watch TV. Even if they cried I would rock, sing; nurse until they fell back asleep. Like I said there were many afternoons where I spent the whole 2.5 hours just trying to get them back to sleep but then they became to rely on that long stretch and voila they still nap for 2.5 hours. Some times I still have to go any lay with them if they wake early but they don’t fight it and quickly fall back asleep. I hope you can find something that works because it sucks especially when you have other kids who need/deserve time with you. Good luck!

  • I feel your pain! My 4 months old daughter doesn’t sleep in 20 min blocks..she sleeps in 40 mins blocks. I have a hard time getting her to stay asleep..her arms still flail about but she hates being swaddled. So I put her to sleep on her chest every since she was born…I know it’s a taboo cause of SIDS but that’s the only way she will nap. She will sleep on her back for 2-3 hrs at night when in bed with me though…getting up to nurse.

    It was the same way with my son. He’s 2 yrs old now & sleeps through the night except for the occasional nightmare. Just gotta hang in there…good luck!

  • My daughter was a fabulous napper, but we kept a rather strict schedule. However, she was a horrible sleeper at night. I’d give up day time naps for a good night’s rest any day!

  • Is she a spitter upper? lol I ask because if they’re colicky I think that’s a reason why naps can be shorter. Isaac (my baby now 5 months) didn’t sleep through the night until I started letting him sleep in his swing – I think sitting up helped him.) Also, if you’re really desperate trying to make it a routine, like at a certain time each day putting her down in her crib, might help. Just make sure she’s been played with, fed, and changed. I don’t do crying it out, either. But it does take a little bit before he sleeps – he cries and spits out his pacifier, I go put it back in, he cries and spits it out, I go put it back in again. lol Usually we do that three times at the most then he’s gone.

    You may have tried that stuff before – it really just depends on the kids I think! Kids are just not the same and what works for one mom won’t work for another! If you’re like me, you’re just praying you make it through the first year!

  • i agree with the comments made by candace. you have to train your kids to sleep. i did exactly what she did, just didn’t let her get up after a 20 minute nap and would rock her back to sleep and like candace, sometimes it took an hour or longer in the beginning. every day got a little easier and eventually mine had 2 hour naps. you have to be willing to fight the battle to the end though. i also found that because of the consistency around all sleep times, whether its naps or bedtime, the night time sleeping improved very quickly as well.
    one week of hell is worth all the weeks of heaven that will follow.

  • I lucked out with my first son (who’s now 5). He was a 2hr napper twice a day, so when our youngest came along and started doing the 20 min nap deal I was totally blindsided. I assumed that all babies slept as well as my oldest did. I remember calling my mom in tears and telling her that this 20 min nap deal wasn’t what I signed up for. Over time he got better and after the first 9ish months (or so) his naps got longer. I don’t know if I did anything differently to get him to sleep better/longer but now, at 15 months, he naps 2hrs/day twice a day and if he misses either he is a bear – and not the cuddly loveable kind! Good luck!

  • I read the baby whisperer before we had Carter and followed it to a T! He was a great sleeper and we often got told we were just lucky, then we had Josh and while he wasn’t quite as easy as Carter he too was a great sleeper. When our “luck” continued with #3&4 I call it great advice from the baby whisperer and great job to us! 🙂 One of the most important things in that book is to start as you mean to go in which she describes this scenario…it is lovely to rock your baby to sleep for hours when they are brand new and tiny but consider whether that is the method in which you want to be putting your 2 yr old to sleep while trying to also care for a newborn! SO, from day one, all of the kids have slept in their own beds, we always put them to bed awake (with a soother of course!) and swaddled until they were at least 5-6 months old! We followed a routine with our babes until probably around 6 months when they started eating more regularly (ie breakfast,lunch and supper) which was the “EASY” routine in the book…eat, activity, sleep (and mommytime when baby is sleeping). Of course everyone gets out of routine every once in a while…but stick it out for about three days and they’ll be back on track! We both read the book so we were on the same page and could encourage each other through things! She talks alot in that book about different kind of personalities in babies so it might be good to grab a copy to see where yours fits in, if you’re interested! Good Luck! 😉