Written by: Nicky Barker, Founder of Little Ones & Paediatric Sleep Specialist
*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: 12 weeks
Room: Love to Dream swaddle, white noise
Naps: Short naps in the day (35-45 minutes) after awake times of 1 hour
Little Eva had a bit of a catnapping habit. She used to be a good daytime sleeper as a newborn, however once she hit the 8-week mark she started sleeping only in 35-45 minute chunks throughout the day. This meant she was having around 4 short naps and would get quite cranky come bedtime in the evening. She usually went down for the night ok, however, would always wake 45 minutes after bedtime and take a while to be resettled again.
Eva's mum Hayley was worried about letting Eva get overtired during the day and so, after some advice she'd been given, was putting her to bed an hour after she woke from her last nap. Eva was being rocked/cuddled to sleep because if she was put in her bed awake she cried and was very unsettled.
Hayley introduced white noise at around 9 weeks after reading that it can help babies settle and sleep, however, she hadn't really seen an improvement in Eva's nap lengths or settledness at bedtime.
Frustrated and unsure what to try next, Hayley bought our Baby Sleep Program. After reading through it she could see the big difference was the awake times for a 12-week old baby were more than what she had been giving Eva and the cumulative daily nap hours were greater than her daughter's short catnapping added up to.
After some discussion in the support forum, the Little Ones Village, Hayley worked out that:
- Eva wasn't having enough awake time between naps to allow her to be tired enough to nap for longer than one sleep cycle
- Eva's wake 45 minutes after bedtime in the evening was most likely due to a build-up of overtiredness from not napping very well in the day
- Eva's room could be a bit darker to promote the release of the sleep hormone melatonin which would help her nap better too
- Putting Eva down for her naps after an age-appropriate amount of awake time would mean she was far more likely to happily drift off to sleep without needing to be actively settled
After implementing these changes and stretching out Eva's awake times during the day bit by bit, Eva started napping for more than one sleep cycle at a time and after 5 days the bedtime wake had totally vanished!
Eva was now 12 weeks old which means her sleep needs had matured since she was a newborn, but Hayley was still only giving her the awake time recommended for a very new baby. This meant Eva simply was not tired enough come nap time to have a longer nap. But, as a result of the constant catnapping, Eva was then actually overtired by bedtime in the evening and this was causing the wake 45 minutes after going to bed. This is very very common and easy enough to fix by simply getting the napping sorted first.
We encouraged Hayley to make Eva's room a bit darker because it was quite bright in the day and the dark definitely promotes good settling and sleep in a baby over 8 weeks old.
Hayley had been rocking Eva to sleep for her naps because when she had been putting her down, after an hour of awake time, Eva hadn't been very happy about it and had been crying and unsettled. This was because she wasn't quite ready for a nap yet but because Hayley was rocking her, Eva was going to sleep (ready, or not). Simply by hitting the perfect nap/awake times Hayley found that she was able to pop Eva in her crib, nice and ready for a nap, and she was far more relaxed and able to drift off to sleep with minimal settling and no crying.
Eva is now established on three consistent, decent naps a day and Hayley can't believe the difference:
"I actually didn't think it could be this easy and painless! All we did really was make some small gradual changes to Eva's daytime and napping and it's made all the difference. I'm kicking myself I didn't do this sooner!"
Our tips: How to beat the 45-minute intruder:
- Make sure your nap/awake times are age-appropriate
- Before settling your little one to sleep, create a good sleep environment for them (A dark room can promote the release of the sleep hormone melatonin, which would help your little one achieve better naps.
- Respect your child's sleep development - This means working with your baby's changing sleep maturation and giving them the chance to master new sleep skills when they're ready.
- You can find out more information about why your baby isn't napping well here.
If you need help with your baby's napping, our comprehensive Sleep Programs give you all the information to make positive changes to your baby's sleep.