CASE STUDY: 5 months, short naps, night 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: Baby sleeping bag, white noise
Naps: Catnapping in 30-45 minute stints throughout the day
At just about bang on 4 months old Cerys started having noticeably shorter naps in the day, or catnapping as it's referred to. Prior to this she had been napping for 1-1.5 hours at a time and had started to sleep really well overnight. Once the catnapping started, her mum Katie wasn't too worried because Cerys was still doing her good sleep overnight, usually only waking once for a feed. Katie didn't mind the shorter naps because she was still getting decent sleep overnight...
Until she wasn't.
By 5 months Cerys had started to wake every 2 hours from about 11pm onwards and Katie was having to rock her back to sleep each time she woke. During the day, Katie noticed Cerys was harder to get to sleep for her naps, needing to be rocked to sleep for 15-20 minutes before she'd drift off and she'd then only sleep for 45 minutes (which is one sleep cycle).
Katie was at a loss as to how to approach the night waking, seeing as Cerys had previously been sleeping so well. She received some advice that she needed to sleep train her baby overnight, to teach her to go back to sleep on her own, but Katie wasn't comfortable with the method recommended to her (a verbal check-in, hands-off method) and so she contacted us to see if we could help.
We could see exactly what was going on with Cerys and it was simply that she'd reached the 4 month sleep regression. This period marks a permanent neurological change in your baby's sleep cycles and patterns and is characterised by catnapping and more frequent (2 hourly) night waking. It looked to us like Cerys needed some small changes made to her daytime structure first, to make her awake periods more appropriate for her age, and from there we suggested Katie have a look at our gradual methods for guiding her baby to independent sleep.
Katie started Cerys on our Baby Sleep Program, joined our support group the Little Ones™ Village, and within 2 weeks reported a huge difference to Cerys' night waking!
The 4 month regression happens to all babies, however it is definitely "worse" for some babies than others. This regression is a time when babies become a lot more conscious about how they go to sleep and as a result they depend completely on whatever method of going to sleep they have become accustomed to, to go back to sleep when naturally rousing between sleep cycles - every 45 minutes in the day and every 2 hours overnight.
Cerys was used to being rocked to sleep and so for her, this was the only way she knew to go to sleep. When her sleep cycles matured at that 4 month mark, she started fully waking at the end of a sleep cycle and because she was no longer being rocked, she was unable to go back to sleep on her own. This was causing the short naps and the night waking. Helping your baby learn that they are capable of falling asleep on their own, when they're good and ready for sleep, is the key to getting longer naps and longer stretches at night.
All babies are capable of this skill, because sleep is a completely natural process!
Katie wasn't comfortable with the cry-cased method she'd been recommended previously and we completely understand that! Which is why we offer nine gradual methods which work with your baby's existing sleep association and allow you to comfort your baby in a hands-on way. Our Sleep Program helped Katie extend Cerys' awake times between naps so they were more appropriate for her age and meant she was totally ready for a nap come naptime. Katie also chose to use our method for rocked-to-sleep babies, which gradually weaned Cerys off needing that sleep association in order to fall asleep. Katie could soothe Cerys if she got distressed and be present with her while her baby learnt this new skill.
"I am in total shock! I knew I needed to change something but I also knew I wasn't prepared for any cry-it-out or similar methods. This has been amazing and gentle and I haven't once questioned that I was doing the right thing for my baby. She just needed a chance to show me what she was capable of! Thank you thank you!"
To get your baby's naps or night time sleep on track, our Baby Sleep Program has all the tools you need.
To learn more about baby sleep at this age, read: