You may find that you’re little one has been cruising along with relatively stable sleeps at nap time or night time and suddenly you find they have hit the brakes and their sleep has come to a screaming halt. Perhaps, they are waking up multiple more times during the night, fighting their naps, cutting their naps super short or starting the day with a loud party at 5am.
If this sounds like something that is going on in your house, you may be pleased to know that I can guarantee that this is nothing you have done. You have not done anything wrong and will not be to blame. Infant sleep is not a linear process and, sadly, does not travel in a downhill (or uphill) trajectory. Infant sleep often changes just as they do and there are many reasons for them hitting the bedtime brakes.
Here are my top 5 reasons why your little one might hit the bedtime brakes:
If you support your little one to sleep perhaps by feeding, rocking, walking etc try to just use one method of sleep support and stay consistent with it. If you feed your little one, then pop them in the front carrier for 10 minutes, then get frustrated and bounce them, then put them in the stroller for 20 minutes (and they still aren’t asleep), then pop them in the cot and pat them this can get incredibly overwhelming for them. However you choose to support your baby to sleep is absolutely fine just try to keep your supports consistent to not overstimulate your little one when they need to wind down.
Consider whether your little one is ready to drop a nap or transition to one nap for the day. Perhaps they are now able to stay awake for longer periods in between each sleep so reassess the gaps between naps. Perhaps your little one is snoozing for too long at their morning nap which may be creating the early morning party. If the nap fight is happening try moving your nap a little earlier and if that doesn’t work, try moving it a little later. It can be a bit of a balance to find the right bedtime.
3. Bedtime Boundaries
These are the things that you do before each sleep to set the stage for bedtime, try to keep this consistent at each sleep. This could be a series of 3-4 things such as; dim the lights, turn on white noise, put on sleeping bag and have a snuggle in the rocking chair or whatever is that you do that works for your family. This predictability will help you little one to understand what is coming next and help them to feel secure with familiarity.
Don’t get caught up thinking that bedtime is a regimented time and that it needs to be at the same time every night. If your naps have fallen apart for the day and you are all getting a bit grumpy, try bringing bedtime forward and making it earlier. Likewise, if your little one is not ready for bed at the usual time try pushing bedtime out by 10-15 minutes. You don’t have to strive for a time on the clock if that isn’t working for you.
5. New Tricks
Aka trick progression. Perhaps your little one has learnt to roll, started to pull themselves up to stand or learnt some new words. Little ones develop at an exponential rate and so there are often phases in your little one’s worlds where they really don’t want to sleep and are determined to master their new skill or practise their new trick. FOMO much?
Whilst it may be very frustrating if they are pressing hard on the bedtime brakes, just know that it will be a phase and your little one will get back on the bedtime accelerator. Remain consistent and predictable with your routine and your bedtime boundaries and try not to create much change during these times. The bedtime brakes can often be released with just a few tweaks using bedtime biology and you are very unlikely to need to make any drastic changes and you certainly don’t need to change bedtime boundaries to do anything that feels instinctively wrong.