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Why is my baby having false starts?

False starts are when your baby does just that, falls asleep at bedtime but then next minute - just tricking, they are awake again within an hour of going down for the evening.

Argh so frustrating! Just when you’ve settled them for the night, poured a glass of something refreshing and your bum has hit the couch (like literally the minute it touches the cushion!) you hear your baby stir.

There are a number of reasons little one's have false starts. Figuring out what might be causing your baby to wake within the first 45-60min after bedtime and how we can troubleshoot these and get them down for a consolidated sleep stretch will totally change your evenings.

There are any number of reasons your baby might be waking so soon after bedtime;

  • Overtired

  • Undertired

  • Sleep environment

  • Pain or discomfort

  • Sleep associations

  • Developmental

Sleep pressure is the drive to sleep which is accumulated during awake windows. The longer your little one is awake the bigger the sleep pressure accrued! Sleep pressure is also referred to as the homeostatic sleep drive. This works alongside our circadian rhythm to find the balance between being awake and building up enough sleep debt to be ready for a nap or bedtime.

Sleep pressure changes as your baby grows and their awake windows lengthen. Although we want to beat overtiredness by finding the right wake to sleep balance across their day sleeps we can also use sleep pressure to encourage longer, consolidated naps and a better settling at bedtime.

Undertired or overtired? Sometimes trying to determine which is tricky! Having a great day routine and wake to sleep balance is really important.

If your baby is waking within the first 30-60min of bedtime they may well be overitred and need either an earlier bedtime or shorter awake window after their last nap. If they have recently transitioned from 3-2 naps it can take time to rebalance and get used to a longer awake window. You'll be right there to support them back to sleep should they need you.

If they take some time to settle at bedtime then they may need more sleep pressure to drive their readiness to nod off.

Having a great sleep environment will help cue to your child that it's sleep time & aid in their readiness to fall asleep and stay asleep.

  • Offering a dark sleep space aids in the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone.

  • Having white noise can help calm a tired, overstimulated baby

  • Using sleep associations like sleeping bags, comforters (age appropriate) and dummies can also create a comfortable sleep environment that cues to your little love that it's time to zzzz.

Discomfort - If you're baby is unwell or uncomfortable this may affect their sleep and settling.

  • Ensure your baby is well winded before placing them in their sleep space so they aren't waking due to trapped gas

  • Offer pain relief if your baby is sick or teething (as directed by a medical professional)

  • Make sure you are offering the right foods at dinner time and allowing enough time for their little stomachs to digest food before bed. This can often be the culprit if your baby has recently start solids dinner or you've introduced protein at the last meal.

Sleep associations - If your little love is reliant on you to assist them to sleep they will look for this association when they false start, stir between sleep cycles or startle awake.

If you are currently rocking, feeding, bouncing or bedsharing for example your baby will likely have a strong association between this and their settling. If the sleep association isn't there when they wake they will need you to support them back to sleep.

If this works for your family and you are happy to continue the association great! If it's something you want to change Little Dreamers has a number of ways to support you to do so responsively.

It is normal to see false starts during periods of developmental change. This could be heightened periods of separation anxiety, practising new skills like rolling, seeking more connection or the like.

If you can rule out any of the previous reasons for the false start then it's likely your little love's little mind is in overdrive; reflecting on the day, spending sleep time practising tricks or having a touch of FOMO.

If you need more support to navigate a great day routine, support independent settling or you've hit a speed bump in your little one's sleep - reach out. There are a number of ways I can help your family so you can all be well rested.

Book a discovery call and let's chat about your little one's sleep and which service will suit your family needs best.

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