When mum of a seven-month-old, Fiona called in to speak to mothercraft nurse and Kinderling Helpline expert Chris Minogue, her baby’s sleep cycles were top of mind.
Patchy day sleeps
Fiona’s little boy sleeps really well at night – from 6.30pm to 5.30am – but he consistently wakes up very early – and during the day he’s quite wakeful.
Fiona isn’t quite sure whether she should attempt to transition her bub from three day sleeps to two. She also wonders if hoping for a slightly later morning wake-up time is too much to ask.
Mothercraft nurse Chris Minogue says that Fiona’s little boy is doing brilliantly, but is often in danger of being awake during the day for longer than he is asleep at night.
Tired little bunny
Chris says at this age, it would be great if this baby got around 3 hours sleep across his day naps, whether that was over two or three sleeps.
“His day is 13 hours long and his night is 11 hours long,” she notes. “So if he’s spaced two hours [sleep] over 13 hours you could end up with a tired little bunny at the end of the day.”
“I think if more often your days are swinging towards three hours sleep then you’re okay because at nine months he only really needs three hours sleep.”
Read more about sleep:
- Co-sleeping but want out? Here’s how to do it successfully
- 10 sleep truths from a mothercraft nurse with 30 years experience
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Are you interrupting your baby’s sleep cycle?
Chris flagged interrupting a baby’s natural sleep cycle as one potential reason for the patchy day sleeps and an early bedtime. She recommends leaving babies in their cot for a little longer than many parents might tend to because this is how they can learn to put themselves back to sleep.
In Fiona’s case, Chris says shifting her approach might help transform two of her baby’s day naps into one longer nap.
“I would suggest, is if he’s quite happy in there, give him a little bit longer [before you go in to check his nappy.] What he might do is he might be just wearing himself out over about 20 minutes. Then when he has a little cry you might be able to go in and give him a pat, and then he joins the other half an hour to the sleep and then eventually he combines the two sleeps … Maybe [parents are] just going in a little bit too early and interrupting.”
Listen to Mothercraft expert Chris Minogue on the Kinderling Helpline:
Turn your baby monitor off?
It’s not just eager mums and dads who might be butting in on the nap process before the time is right. Chris explains that baby monitors are also contributing to interrupted sleep patterns in babies. She says monitors alert parents to the fact that their child is awake earlier than ever, and may prompt them to head into the nursery when they’re potentially not yet needed.
Chris suggests turning the monitor off if you’re struggling with your baby’s day sleeps.
“Turn it off,” Chris urges. “You might be interrupting the process because lots of babies wake up in their sleep they play for a short period then they even grumble for a little while and they put themselves back to sleep. So you might be just interrupting that.”
“I know it’s very tempting to look, but maybe if you just turn it off and distract yourself, cook, clean, whatever you’d like to do. He might just be able to link those two sleep cycles together.”
“If he’s just in the bedroom down the hallway you will be able to hear him if he cries. But you might be watching him. He looks like he’s having a good time in there. You’ve convinced yourself he won’t go back to sleep so inadvertently that’s what’s happened.”
Brilliant – and quite surprising – advice which is definitely worth a try if you’re struggling with patchy day naps like Fiona.