CASE STUDY: 9 month old, frequent 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.
Room: Dark, white noise, sleeping bag
Naps: 9-10:30 AM, 1-2:30 PM, 5-5:30 PM
Thomas was an okay sleeper early on. Did the "usual" things babies do at each age - catnapping from around 3 months onwards, then waking quite frequently in the night once he hit 4 months. His mum Layla did some self-settling work with Thomas and it initially helped his waking at night and his catnapping during the day. Then around 7 months old Thomas started waking more at night again...
7 months old: Thomas started waking more frequently in the night, after going from 1 night wake to 2 or 3. His mum was confused because he had been able to self-settle for a while. She would give him a bottle for one of his wakes and would try to resettle for the others, which would end up sometimes a very long time. Some nights Thomas would be awake for an hour or more. He continued to sleep well in the day.
8 months: Thomas was STILL waking a lot at night and started resisting settling, getting upset and being really difficult to get back to sleep. After receiving some poor advice that babies this age only wake in the night out of habit, Layla decided to try some "sleep training" with him. She used a method where she would verbally check in with him to reassure him of her presence, but essentially leaving him to go back to sleep on his own. He didn't. After several nights of failed attempts and Thomas (and Layla) getting very upset and refusing to go back to sleep, Layla gave up the sleep training attempts.
9 months: A very frustrated and exhausted Layla got in touch with us about her baby's night wakes. The first thing we did was look at his total day sleep hours and quickly ascertained that he was having too much sleep in the day for his age and too late in the day to promote a good night sleep, thus resulting in him being wakeful in the night. Layla got Thomas started right away on our Older Baby Sleep Program and after six days, he had stopped waking in the night altogether.
Thomas had started waking more in the night because his daytime sleep needs had changed as he got older and Layla was still giving him more naps than he needed. He was having a bit too much day sleep and his last nap was happening too close to bedtime, meaning Thomas genuinely wasn't tired enough to sleep well at night. He was waking because he simply needed some awake time.
When Layla was trying to do sleep training with him, it wasn't working because he wasn't ready to go back to sleep, not because he was being "naughty" or resisting the sleep training. You should NEVER try to sleep train or teach a baby to self-settle unless they're established in a good sleeping pattern first and are genuinely ready for sleep at the times they are being put to bed. So so often night waking is a result of poor daytime routine - too much or too little day sleep, naps that are too late in the day or too long or at the wrong times. If you're working to reduce night wakes with your little one you absolutely need to make sure their night waking isn't as a result of their day sleeps, which is completely out of their control and you won't be able to "fix" their nights until you first address their naps.
After a wee while on our Sleep Program, Thomas was napping at the best times and for the right amount during the day, meaning he quite quickly consolidated his nighttime sleep and didn't need to stay awake in the night anymore. Layla was astounded with the result just by changing the times and lengths of his nap and that this could be achieved in such a short time with no need for any actual sleep training!
Remember once you’ve got awake times sorted, you need to look at the second part of the equation, nap lengths, and check that your baby is having the right amount of nap hours to lead to a well-rested baby who wants to sleep well at night. Here is a guide to help you (allowing for 12 hours overnight):
Tips for parents: nap schedules for older babies
- 4-6 months - 3 hours across 3 sleeps
- 6-9 months - 2.5 hours across 2 sleeps
- 9-12 months - 2-2.5 hours across 2 sleeps
- 12-24 months - 2 hours across 1 sleep
For more on the connection between wakeful babies and day sleeping read “The art (and importance) of good day sleeps”.