CASE STUDY: 5 months old, early morning waking
*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: 5 months
Room: sleeping bag, white noise
Naps: 1.5 hour morning nap, 45 minute midday nap, 45 minute late afternoon nap
Night: bedtime at 7:30/8:00pm, waking at 2am then up for the day at 5:30am
Baby Chace was in a fairly good routine: 3 naps each day and sleeping pretty well at night. He settled well for his naps and at bedtime, woke for a feed at around 2am but then woke for the day at 5:30am and wouldn't settle back to sleep. Fiona had tried feeding him when he woke early, and he would often take a feed but just wouldn't go back to sleep. He seemed wide awake and ready to go! As a result of this early wake, Chace was getting tired by 8am and ready for a nap, where he would sleep for 1.5-2 hours. He was then only sleeping for one sleep cycle for his other 2 daily naps, which meant he was often quite overtired come bedtime.
After a while, these early wakes were taking their toll and Fiona turned to Google to figure out what was causing them. She came across the Little Ones website and read our blog on early waking (read it HERE), deciding to purchase our Sleep Program to see if it helped Chace's mornings.
Fiona was quite hesitant about the nap structure in the Program, because she felt the shorter morning nap would mean Chace couldn't catch up on his early start and she was certain he wouldn't sleep for 2 or more hours in the lunch nap. After some advice and guidance in the Facebook Support Group, Fiona decided to try it and see. We also advised her to make sure Chace's room was PITCH black as some babies are more sensitive to morning light signalling that it's time to wake up.
To her immense surprise, Chace easily adapted to the nap times in the Program and by tweaking his early morning and late afternoon naps as well as having a really dark room, his 5:30am wakes very quickly disappeared!
We saw two things going on here - Chace was stuck in a bit of a cycle where his early waking was impacting on his daily napping, which was then causing the early waking! Also the fact that his room wasn't completely dark meant when he was coming out of his night time sleep cycles at around 5:30am he could see daylight, which signalled to his body/circadian rhythm that it was time to wake up. The purpose of having a dark room is to create a sort of "false night", allowing babies to sleep a bit longer.
For Chace's naps, having the morning nap quite long means a baby learns they can catch up on any missed early morning sleep at this nap. It also means they get used to having a long nap first thing, so they start waking earlier, needing more awake time before they have that long nap. By following our Program, Fiona was able to offer Chace his morning nap at the perfect time and we encouraged her to have more control over the length of this nap in order to stop his early waking. This shorter nap also meant he was able to then have a nice long restorative nap across the middle of the day, staving off a build-up of overtiredness leading into the afternoon and bedtime. Lastly, Chace's late afternoon nap had been a tad too long, which would also have contributed to that early wake.
After having adjusted these things, his early waking disappeared almost straight away.
"I actually can't believe it - just a few little changes had such a big difference! Thank you guys so much, I wouldn't have come up with this solution on my own and I was getting pretty desperate!"
To get your baby's napping or early waking on track, our Baby Sleep Programs are right here.