Poppy, 6 months: A quick fix for early morning waking!
Poppy's sleep story...
By the time she was 6 months old, Poppy was actually a pretty good sleeper! She was napping quite predictably and her mum, Anita, had done a bit of self-settling work with her, so she was now linking her sleep cycles and no longer catnapping. She was even sleeping through most of the night, with just a quick feed around 2am.
There was really only one problem... Poppy was waking between 5-5:30am every day and refusing to go back to sleep!
Anita had tried leaving Poppy in her bed when she woke early in the morning, however, she refused to go back to sleep and would soon get upset. Anita had also tried actively resettling Poppy back to sleep but it never worked, no matter what she did!
Eventually Anita resigned herself to the fact that Poppy wasn't going back to sleep, so would just get her up and start their day early. Poppy would then have a long morning nap of around 2 hours at 8:30am, followed by 2 shorter naps later in the day, around 45 minutes each. Her last nap would be around 4:30pm, with bedtime around 6:30/7:00 pm in the evening.
Anita figured that an early morning wake wasn't so bad, considering how well Poppy was sleeping during the rest of the day and night.... but at the same time, she knew it wasn't going to be sustainable for them long-term.
After a recommendation from a friend, Anita purchased our Baby Sleep Program and began implementing it. She could see right away that the morning nap in our Program is a lot shorter than what Poppy had been having and she was unsure how Poppy would cope - especially after having such an early start to her day.
Anita was also nervous about aiming for the longer midday sleep, seeing as Poppy had never slept for very long at that time of the day. She reached out to our friendly sleep consultants in the Village for some more personalised guidance.
We explained that Poppy's early morning wake had most likely been caused by the long late afternoon nap she'd been having, and then also reinforced by a long morning nap. She was caught in a bit of a cycle and we needed to get her out of it because an early waking habit, if left, can be the hardest sleep habit to break.
In our Baby Sleep Program, we recommend a short morning nap, followed by a long lunch nap, then a short afternoon nap (if needed). This is for two main reasons...
1. The morning nap being too long or too early can trigger and then reinforce an early wake, as your baby needs to wake earlier in the morning to be tired enough to have that longer nap! The first nap of the day is often the easiest one to achieve and your baby will probably be quite happy to sleep here for as long as you let them, BUT, as mentioned, it can end up causing that dreaded 5 am wake up.
2. If your baby has a long nap in the morning, it can also mean they won't nap for as long later on in the day, causing them to become VERY overtired by bedtime. OR they will end up having a long nap late in the day, which is then going to mean they aren't tired enough to settle well at bedtime or sleep well overnight. Beyond 4-5 months of age, afternoon naps that are too long or too late in the day can really mess with bedtime, night sleep and the early morning.
After some reassurance from our sleep consultants, the first thing Anita did was use the troubleshooting notes in the Program to adjust Poppy's morning nap based on what time she woke in the morning. Getting the timing and length of the morning nap spot on, helps to promote good sleep later in the day. Because Anita had a bit more control over this first nap, Poppy then easily achieved the longer second sleep, much to Anita's surprise!
We also advised Anita to really cut down on Poppy's late afternoon nap because over 6 months, any sleep past 3 pm can start to interfere with a baby's nighttime sleep and early mornings. Some babies at this age can drop the afternoon nap altogether if they have napped well at the lunch nap, bringing bedtime forward a bit to compensate. Other babies need to hold on to the afternoon nap until closer to 8 months, especially if they're not doing a decent nap at lunchtime.
After Anita tweaked the length of Poppy's morning nap, she was then able to have a good long sleep across the middle of the day, meaning she didn't need a long, late afternoon sleep anymore. With just a short afternoon nap, Anita noticed Poppy was much easier to settle to sleep at bedtime!
For the icing on the cake, Anita also introduced some gentle white noise so that when Poppy came into her lighter sleep in the early morning, she had a nice soothing sound to tune in to and help her drift off back to sleep.
In just a week, Poppy's early morning wake was gone and she was making it to at least 6:30 am every day! Anita couldn't believe how just a few small changes could make such a big difference.
Our comprehensive Sleep Programs can help you eliminate early rising once and for all, and lock in excellent sleep habits for years to come. Get started today and before you know it, you could be enjoying a lovely sleep-in too!