*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: 5 months
Naps: 30-40 minutes at a time in the day
Settling: Fed to sleep
Emma was a fabulous little sleeper but had decided she didn’t particularly want to sleep during the day for longer than 30-40 minutes at a time (if her mum Kirsty was lucky). She was still sleeping well through the night and generally only waking twice for a feed, but Kirsty wisely suspected that sooner or later the lack of day sleep would have to catch up overnight. Kirsty was also becoming incredibly frustrated that it was getting harder and harder to get out of the house because she never seemed to be able to judge when Emma should be going down for a nap, or Kirsty would put her down only to have her
wake again after 10-15 minutes. This was despite following the guidelines from the Maternal Health Nurse about awake periods and overall sleep times (feed, play, sleep routine).
Kirsty had also started feeding Emma to sleep, as it was the one thing that consistently worked (particularly for bedtime), but this then became a problem because she felt she was the only one who could settle Emma for sleep. She contacted Little Ones to see if we could help with Emma's settling and napping.
Once Kirsty had downloaded our Sleep Program she found out all about the 4 month sleep regression and the reasons why she had a serial catnapper! She realised that although Emma was beginning to show tired signs (around the 1.5 hour mark), she hadn’t been awake nearly long enough to stay asleep for any decent period of time and this was majorly contributing to the short naps and poor settling.
Straight away Kirsty started sticking to the recommended timings in the Program and immediately saw an improvement in the length of day sleep; Emma actually stayed asleep! Kirsty was apprehensive about teaching her baby to self-settle, but ultimately knew that it needed to be done to avoid continued catnapping and to stave off the impending increased night wakes as part of the regression. Kirsty and Emma followed our gradual method specifically for fed to sleep babies, using cuddling to soothe if necessary, before gradually backing off on that too. Within a week she reported she was making great progress! Within 2 weeks Kirsty's persistence had paid off and she had a baby who was self-settling and sleeping for the nap times in the Programs!
Kirsty was completely right that eventually poor daytime napping would start to impact on night time sleep and she was wise to want to get better, more predictable naps happening before the night sleep took a hit! Because Kirsty was still using awake windows more suited to a younger baby, she was trying to put Emma to bed before she was truly ready for a decent nap - this had resulted in 2 things happening:
1. Emma was catnapping due to undertiredness
2. Kirsty had resorted to feeding Emma just to get her to go to sleep, which had resulted in a strong sleep association of Emma needing to be fed back to sleep between sleep cycles. Again, causing catnapping.
Between 4-6 months a baby's night time sleep cycles shorten to be just 2 hours in length and at this point they can start fully waking between cycles, every 2 hours, and require the same settling association they had when they went to sleep at the start of the night in order to go back to sleep again. For Emma, this would have meant she would have started waking more overnight and needing Kirsty to feed her back to sleep each time.
Because Kirsty was able to work on helping Emma learn to fall asleep on her own when she was perfectly ready to, she effectively skipped this night time regression before it even happened! Better still, she was able to do it in a gradual, respectful, hands-on way without needing to let her baby cry.
"Using the Little Ones Program has definitely helped us all to get better sleep, and has given me the confidence (and knowledge) to be able to make positive changes to my baby's sleep patterns which continue to mean we're always ahead of the game!"