Jonathan’s sleep story…
Initially, baby Jonathan would settle for naps and sleep relatively well. However, by 3 months old he started to resist naps and by 4 months he was fighting sleep both day and night!
Every nap felt like a battleground and Jonathan’s awake times were stretching out longer and longer. He was becoming increasingly overtired and irritable and his mother, Steph, was exhausted and frustrated.
Not only was Jonathan refusing to nap in the day, but his night sleep continued to get worse and worse too. He would wake every 1-2 hours throughout the night and Steph would feed him back to sleep each time. She was eager for them all to get some form of sleep and this was the quickest and easiest way to resettle him.
When Jonathan was 9 months old, Steph heard about Little Ones from a friend. Her friend’s baby slept so well and was happy and calm, so she decided to give our Older Baby Program a try.
Reading through the program, Steph learnt so much about baby sleep that she just hadn’t known before! She felt empowered to change things for the better, not just for Jonathan, but also for herself.
The first change she made was making sure that Jonathan was put down to nap in a dark room. As a new mum, Steph had been given some well-meaning advice that a bright room for naps would help Jonathan to distinguish between day and night sleep, so that’s what she had been doing! However, this advice was actually making it harder for Jonathan to nap well during the day.
Day and night confusion is a real phenomenon but it only affects babies during the newborn stage, before their circadian rhythm, or body clock, matures. And even then, we still recommend a dark room for naps!
To reverse day and night confusion and help “set” your baby’s body clock, the key is to expose them to lots of natural light during their awake time. Then when it’s time for sleep, keep things dark. A dark room promotes the release of the sleep hormone melatonin, which leads to easier settling and longer naps.
Light is very stimulating for babies, which is why Jonathan was having a hard time falling asleep in his bright room. Light also inhibits the release of melatonin, meaning that a baby is unlikely to be able to sleep longer than one sleep cycle of 45 minutes.
With Jonathan’s room set up for sleep, Steph then began following the sleep schedule for his age. She noticed that the recommended awake times were much shorter than what Jonathan had been doing and was concerned he wouldn’t be tired enough to go to sleep. So she was pleasantly surprised to find that he was actually quicker and easier to settle to sleep at his nap times.
After just a week of following his new sleep schedule, Jonathan was no longer resisting naps and was a much happier baby overall. Steph finally had some time for herself during the day and was able to enjoy her time with Jonathan more now that he was well rested and content.
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Due to poor napping in the day and too much awake time, Jonathan had been irritable and overtired come bedtime and that was partly contributing to him waking so frequently overnight. Once he was getting an appropriate amount of day sleep for his age, his night sleep started to improve too.
Although Jonathan’s night sleep had improved a little, Steph felt there was still a way to go. Armed with the knowledge from our sleep programs, she knew that teaching Jonathan how to self-settle was the next step towards a great night’s sleep.
Since Steph had been feeding Jonathan to sleep at his naps and overnight, this had become his dominant sleep association. This meant that when he woke between sleep cycles overnight, he genuinely could not get back to sleep without being fed again. Steph chose to follow the Fed to Sleep Method from our program to gently guide him towards self-settling, focusing on his naps first.
Despite her best efforts though, it just wasn’t clicking for Jonathan. Steph knew that something wasn’t quite right, so she reached out to our sleep consultants in the Little Ones App for further guidance and support. With their help, Steph was able to identify that there was an unexpected factor impacting Jonathan’s ability to settle and sleep well… food allergies!
It took a few months to get Jonathan’s food allergies correctly diagnosed and to make the necessary changes to his diet. When he was 14 months old, Steph finally felt like they were on top of his allergies and decided to try self-settling again. This time, Jonathan picked it up quickly and easily! Within three days, he was fully self-settling at his naps and bedtime and, as a result, his overnight sleep greatly improved.
Steph was relieved to have finally resolved Jonathan’s sleep challenges:
Our mental health improved because we could sleep more. I found it helpful to have clear directions to follow because I wasn't able to make him sleep before. Once starting him on the suggested routine, sleeping in a dark room with white noise, in a sleeping bag, his sleep improved. This program helped me improve his sleep with just the sleep routine and helped me realise there was something else going on that he needed help with.
Having seen how well our sleep program worked for Jonathan, Steph knew exactly what to do when she had her second baby:
We used the recommended routines for our second son since he was 6 weeks old because we didn't want to go through the same issues we did with our first and his sleep is much more settled and regular.
There are a lot of factors that can impact your baby’s ability to settle and sleep well, but the three main ones are their awake times and nap lengths, their sleep environment and their feeds (milk and/or solids).
If you feel these factors are lined up but your baby is still having a hard time settling, or they continue to catnap or wake frequently overnight, there may be something else at play.
Steph knew something wasn’t quite right, so she trusted her maternal instinct and pushed for answers. With the help of our sleep consultants, she was able to identify signs of a food allergy, which was confirmed and diagnosed by an allergy specialist.
If you feel like something isn’t quite right with your baby’s sleep, download our Little Ones App where you have the option to reach out to one of our friendly sleep consultants. They are experts when it comes to troubleshooting sleep challenges and would love to guide and support you in improving your baby’s sleep.