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 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: 4 Months
Naps: Four 20 minute naps a day
Nights: Unsettled throughout the night
“At 4 months Tommy was having four 20 minutes naps a day with around an hour awake time between each nap. I used white noise and swaddling, but he struggled to settle for each nap, he would cry a lot and I would have to rock him to sleep for up to 30 minutes every time to settle.
When he eventually did settle at bedtime in the evening, he would wake up numerous times throughout the night and I found it difficult to get him settled and back to sleep.
After a long night of being unsettled he would also wake early around 5AM. I was suffering from postpartum depression at the time and not knowing how to get my LO sleeping better made me feel like a failure as a mother, which led to my depression worsening.
I felt like I was going around in circles, so I started to google ‘baby sleep routines’. It was very difficult to find any consistent routines that worked. I felt like I had tried everything and nothing was working, and then I found Little Ones. I bought their 3-12 Month Sleep Program, and it was here that I discovered what was impacting my little one settling - his awake windows were too short but then he was overtired from poor napping!
I introduced him to a complete dark room and made sure it was at optimal temperature and after following the Program to a T, Tommy napped and stayed asleep until I had to wake him. I couldn’t believe it, he went from waking many times throughout the night to waking only when he needed to eat (breastfed).
When he turned 4.5 months we started looking at self-settling. Using the gradual methods in the Program, it took him a week to be able to settle on his own. The key to this being successful was maintaining the correct awake time, nap length, dark room, white noise and right temperature and clothing. He is now 16 months old and I’ve never looked back, he naps once a day and sleeps right through the night, waking between 6:30-7AM. The best part is I still have the confidence that I know what I’m doing and what my baby needs, which has helped to ease my depression tremendously.
I often think how would I have coped if I hadn’t found LO. It really saved my sanity. I never felt like I could enjoy motherhood before and now I’ve been able to enjoy my beautiful son, and watch him grow without the worry and stress sleep brings!”
An awake time of just 1 hour is really only appropriate for very newborn babies (in the first couple of weeks of their life). As they grow, week on week, babies' awake times need to also be extending to keep up with their development. Their need for awake and alert time allows them to be tired enough to settle easily and nap well. Very frequently we see babies who aren’t napping well or whose parents are spending a long time settling them to sleep, and thinking their baby’s sleep is “broken” or that they need sleep training, when the only thing “wrong” is an awake time that is too short for their age!
Little Tommy’s main challenge was that his awake windows in the day were too short causing him to not settle when napping - which was leading to his mother having to rock him for a long time in order to get him to sleep. Because of his undertiredness, he was only napping in short stints, but that meant that throughout the day, due to this poor napping, he was becoming very overtired come bedtime at night. This was contributing to his frequent night waking. Once Jane was following our 3-12 Month Sleep Program, she was able to stretch out Tommy’s awake windows and introduce a dark room, which meant Tommy could settle easier during his naps, nap for longer in the day and would only wake for feeding overnight - gone were the overtired wakes all through the night!
By looking at Tommy’s awake times and tweaking his sleep environment, Jane was able to make a huge change to not only Tommy’s sleep routine but also to her own confidence and health as a mother.
If you'd like a hand getting your baby's awake windows spot on for their age, our comprehensive Sleep Programs have all the information and methods you need to see drastic improvements in your little one's napping and night sleep. Simply click here!
For more advice about baby sleep at this age, read: