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: 3 months
Room: Dark room, Love to Dream swaddle, musical mobile
Naps: Very random/sporadic catnaps throughout the day
Jacob had never been a very good sleeper. His mum Laura had been told since birth that this was very normal and there was nothing she could do about it. Laura was doing the best she could with the information she had, however by 3 months old, when everyone said he would have settled down, Jacob's behaviour during the day and sleep/napping was getting worse. He was catnapping in 30-45 minute naps all day long, at different times each day. This meant Laura was unsure what was coming next in her day and was reluctant to plan outings too, because when he was awake Jacob was quite unsettled and grumpy.
By the late afternoon, Jacob was noticeably very tired and would have a nap at around 5PM for 45 minutes to an hour, waking cranky. Laura was endeavouring to get him in bed by around 7PM, however he would "amp up" at this time and absolutely resist settling. It was taking Laura between 1-2 hours to get Jacob to sleep each night.
Overnight Jacob would wake at random times, sometimes 3-4 times a night and sometimes Laura struggled to get him back to sleep.
Often he was awake for the day at 6AM.
Laura purchased our Baby Sleep Program (3-12 Months) and started Jacob on the Sleeping and Feeding Guide for 3 month olds. She could see from the information in the Program that there were a few contributing factors to Jacob's poor napping and unsettled behaviour - mostly linked to his nap timings and lengths. Laura made some changes to Jacob's room too - turning off the musical mobile which she'd been using at bedtime and introducing some calming white noise. Laura also introduced a soothing bedtime routine to help Jacob wind-down in the evening.
With the tweaks to his nap times and working towards encouraging Jacob to sleep for longer at his midday sleep, within a few weeks he was napping better, more settled in his awake periods and settling quickly at bedtime. His night sleep consolidated some more and he was only waking once more after a dreamfeed for a quick feed, then straight back to sleep.
We could see straight away that Jacob needed some more structure to his napping, which would then lead to a settled afternoon/evening and a pleasant bedtime. Because of his catnapping tendency, Jacob had been getting very overtired during the day and this meant he definitely needed a later afternoon sleep. The problem though, was that this sleep was then too late in the day and for too long to allow him to be tired enough to settle well at bedtime and sleep deeply overnight. Following our Program, Laura could adapt Jacob's nap times and lengths to be appropriate for his age and not having too much sleep in the late afternoon made so much difference to his bedtime settling. Adding in a nice relaxing bedtime routine helped Jacob understand what was coming next and meant he was in the "zone" for sleep.
We suggested Laura use continuous white noise rather than the musical mobile because white noise playing all night long helps babies link their sleep cycles and sleep more soundly. Coming up to the 4 month sleep regression, you want to be establishing positive sleep associations, like white noise, to help your baby through!
Jacob was a perfect age to adapt easily to these changes and having more consistent naps in the day was the key to him consolidating his night time sleep.
To get your baby napping and sleeping better, our Sleep Programs have everything you need.
Make sure you read NAPS: the art (and importance) of good day sleeps and There is nothing cute about a catnap for more baby sleep advice.