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Baby Treating Bedtime as a Nap?

A full day of looking after a baby can seem like a marathon. You are responsible for keeping this little human fed, rested and happy. Mix that with house chores, cooking, work or the care of other children, you are well and truly ready for bedtime when it arrives.

For many Mums, this peace and quiet is short lived. Just as you start to relax, or switch on to whatever it is you needed to do, baby cries out. What?! You are baffled! Baby was tired. Why are they waking again? Ugh!

There are a few possible reasons why your baby may be waking shortly after going to sleep. The two most common culprits are an overtired baby or a baby who did not willingly fall asleep alone.


If your baby was awake for too long before bed or if they did not reach anywhere near their daily sleep quota, their cortisol levels might be a little too high to slip into that deep sleep that occurs between 6/7-11pm.

This is often the case when baby has woken early from their last nap before bed and in aim of holding them out until an acceptable bedtime, you hold them out for a little too long. You might notice in this case that they are quite cranky and tired but during bathtime, they appear to catch a second wind. This makes it hard for them to then sink down into that deep level of sleep. False starts are also common for cat-nappers, where naps are unstructured. Their body is used to getting really tired and then sleeping for a short 20-40 minute period. If naps are not aligned with their circadian rhythm, baby might treat bedtime as another mini nap.

They key to solving this problem is by implementing a daily routine and setting a consistent bedtime. Once you have set a bedtime between 6 and 7pm (for babies 3m+) you will re-settle any wakes that occur after bedtime. You are teaching baby their bedtime!

If false starts have been occurring since dropping a nap, you may need to re-instate that nap and cut it down to 15 minutes.

Sleep Association:

You love your bed right? Imagine falling asleep in bed for the night and rolling over after 20 minutes to realise you are on a mattress on the kitchen floor. You’d probably get up and walk to your beloved bed right? Mmm imagine if you couldn’t walk…or talk. You’d cry…or I would anyway. Herein lies the problem of rocking/ feeding/ bouncing/ holding to sleep. A protective mechanism both babies and adults possess, are multiple

arousals throughout the night. Wake, check surrounds, fall back to sleep. If a baby is rocked to sleep and placed down drowsy or asleep, they are likely to wake shortly after bedtime (and rightly so) to demand you provide those luxurious conditions they fell asleep in.

So, you want to keep rocking baby to sleep but you don’t want the false start? When baby wakes shortly after bed, firstly leave them for a few minutes to see if they are able to fall back asleep alone, then if crying is escalating, you can start rocking them back to sleep. Again, we need to guide our children and make it clear through our re-settling, that it is night sleep time. That first deep sleep of the night is the most restorative sleep your baby gets in 24 hours. This will help them to grow and develop. There is nothing cruel about showing your baby how to sleep well. If you feel uncomfortable with the concept, please reach out and I’d love to have a 15 minute no obligation chat with you.

Other reasons for a wake shortly after bedtime:

  • Undertired (baby hasn’t been awake long enough either just before bed or throughout the whole day)

  • Bedtime too early (Bed before 6pm)

  • External noises (Mum and Dad cooking or talking very loudly)

If you have a baby who wakes shortly after bedtime I’d love to hear from you! Did this information help you?

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