CASE STUDY: 3 months old, catnapping all day, unsettled at bedtime
*this is a case study from a real-life mum who reached out for help. We share our case studies in the hope it may help other mums who are in the same, or similar, situations. Not everyone parents in the same way, so please do not judge, criticize or demean these mothers and the parenting choices they have made in the best interests of their babies and their families.
Age: 3 months
Room/naps: Swaddled, white noise
Baby Ella had been a pretty good newborn for the first couple of months. Once she hit around 8 weeks her newborn "sleepiness" wore off and she started catnapping during the day - napping for 30/45 minutes at a time, each time. Her mum Louise tried feeding her more, tried resettling her when she woke to see if she'd sleep for longer, tried sleeping Ella in her baby swing, in the stroller. Nothing seemed to make her nap for longer. Assuming it had to be overtiredness, Louise tried putting Ella to sleep an hour after she last woke. She was requiring a LOT of settling to get to sleep and then still catnapping.
What started happening is that Ella would catnap all day then finally crash out for a longer nap at around 4pm. Sometimes she would sleep for 2 hours here. Ella was then extremely unsettled come bedtime at 7-7:30pm and, once asleep, would often wake 45 minutes later and want to party.
Unsure of what to try next, Louise got in touch with us. She was able to see from the extensive information in our Sleep Program that Ella's napping structure needed some tweaking and the timing and lengths of her naps were affecting her settling, her ability to stay asleep, her unsettledness at bedtime and the wake not long after.
Through some troubleshooting in our Facebook Support Group, Louise was also advised to use blackout blinds in Ella's room, which would make it easier for Ella to sleep for longer stretches in the day and also to settle well at bedtime in the evening.
A week into the programme and Ella was a different baby!
Ella's catnapping was caused by her having too little awake time between naps in the day; she simply wasn't ready to sleep for longer at each nap. Unfortunately catnapping isn't a very restorative form of napping though, and because of this, come late afternoon she was shattered and was having a very long afternoon nap to catch up. This then meant she was actually UNDER tired at bedtime, leading to her not settling well and waking after one sleep cycle.
Ella needing to be actively settled during the day for her naps was also due to her not quite being ready to fall asleep on her own. A lot of babies will actually go to sleep if you do something to settle them, whether they're properly ready for sleep or not. By following our Sleep Program, Ella was being put to bed at the right time to allow her to fall asleep easily and stay asleep for longer. Keeping the afternoon nap short meant she was good and ready for bed come 7pm and was able to do a longer stretch overnight as a result.
The advice from the Support Group to use blackout blinds was really valuable. All humans need the dark in order for melatonin to be released in our bodies, which is the biological signal for sleep. Ella's room was quite light in the evenings and she wouldn't have been getting a good dose of sleep hormones to allow her to fall into night time sleep cycles (contributing to that wake 45 minutes after going to bed).
Louise wrote in our group a couple of weeks later:
"I wish I had found you guys sooner! Your Program has made all the difference to my little girl's sleep and it was a lot easier than I thought it would be. The support in this group has also been amazing and I will be recommending you to everyone I know!"
To get YOUR baby sleeping better, our Sleep Programs are the best place to start.
Make sure you read Baby sleep series: 3-6 months and There is nothing cute about a catnap for more baby sleep advice.