CASE STUDY: catnapping & frequent night wakes RESOLVED!
Written by: Nicky Barker, Founder of Little Ones & Paediatric Sleep Specialist
*this is a case study from a real-life mother who reached out for help. We share our case studies in the hope it may help other mothers 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: 4 Months
Naps: 30-45 minutes at a time
Nights: 4-5 wakes per night
It was easy early on with Penelope, but I think she was just quite a good sleepy newborn. She had been napping really well, 2 hours per nap, but then around 3.5 months she started only napping for half an hour, maybe 45 minutes at a time. Things noticeably changed and I was really struck dumb by it. I suddenly felt lost and like I didn’t know what I was doing! I guess I was pulled into a false sense of security because of how easy she was in the first few months.
Her nights were also quite bad; she was waking 4-5 times a night, every few hours, then I’d feed her and she’d go back to sleep. Because she was also napping badly in the day I never felt there was a chance for me to have a rest; I’d just put her down, go to the toilet, do a bit of housework and she’d wake up again! We were all beyond exhausted.
We didn’t really know what to do or try, other than just Googling baby sleep at 4 months! I did read about the 4 month regression online but couldn’t see clearly enough how it was affecting us.
I found Little Ones by chance after seeing a post on Facebook and I liked how they talked about baby sleep - it sounded so logical and sensible. I bought the Baby Program straight away.
I soon realised Penelope had gone through the 4 month regression and the catnapping was because of it. She also wasn’t self-settling because I was feeding her to sleep or until drowsy each time. Plus in the day I wasn’t giving her enough awake time between naps, only about an hour or an hour and a half, which is what I’d read somewhere else. I also learnt more about what her room should be like and to use white noise and have the room really dark.
We started following the schedule in the Program to get the nap times right and changed her room a bit so it was darker. We got a white noise machine and started using it for all naps and at night. Once I felt we were getting the swing of the routine (albeit the catnapping routine), we started work on her self-settling. I didn't know how on earth she’d go to sleep on her own and I really thought we would fail in that regard, but we used the methods in the Program for fed to sleep babies and it was so much easier than I thought! I think she was ready to learn and we didn’t even have to have any crying. That surprised me!
It took about 1-2 weeks to see improvements to her sleep, but there has been so much change! I am far less anxious about her sleep now. I have time in the day while she’s napping to get things done or rest myself. I actually feel on top of things, like I’ve totally got this and it makes me quite proud of myself.
Penelope is now napping a lot better because she’s learnt to link her cycles. It took a little while to get that happening in the day, but one day it just clicked! Her nights are also much better now too, she’s having a dream feed and then one more feed before morning. I can’t believe it! She is also definitely happier in the day because she’s a lot more rested. We’re all happier because of that.
Little Penelope's very noticeable sleep change at the 3.5 month mark signalled she had in fact gone through the big sleep maturation that occurs around this age. During this time, a baby's sleep cycles become more differentiated and they can rouse fully between cycles, requiring the same process to go back to sleep that they had when they first went to sleep. For Penelope, this meant she was needing to be fed back to sleep between cycles because that's the only way she knew how to fall asleep.
This big permanent change in your baby's sleep signals a readiness to learn to fall asleep independently, or "self-settle". The very first factor in guiding your baby to this skill is making sure their awake windows are right for their age and that their sleep environment is going to be conducive to good settling and sleep. Little Penelope wasn't being given quite enough awake time between naps to mean she was totally ready for a nap of any longer than one sleep cycle - by extending her awake times, she was far better placed to 1) nap for longer and 2) learn to self-settle without frustration or crying.
Making a few changes to her sleep environment (dark room and white noise) were the final pieces of the puzzle!
Supporting your baby through this big sleep change period means working with their neurological development towards more age-appropriate sleep habits and moving away from Newborn sleep expectations, which is exactly what Kate did.
"Thank you so much for making so much difference to our lives! I thought it was normal to be anxious and sleep deprived and frustrated being a mum, but your Programs and the wonderful support we’ve received has shown me that there is an alternative! I can’t imagine where we’d be without Little Ones and I would recommend you wonderful ladies to anyone."