What is a false start?

Are you placing your baby down to sleep, and then 20-60 minutes later they’re calling out for you again? This right here is known as a ‘false start’!

They’ve just got settled and BAM, they’re up and may be looking for support to get back to sleep again. This can sometimes happen once, or a few times, before they settle for the rest of the night. False starts can happen as a one off, however, they can also develop into a habit.

So, let’s have a look at a few reasons why they may be happening, and what we can do about them:

  1. Is your baby overtired?

The most common culprit for false starts is over-tiredness. This can be due to a lack of overall day sleep, or a too long wake window at the end of the day. By the end of the day, your little one may be quite exhausted and struggling to settle into a deeper sleep.

Try moving bedtime forward by 15 minutes, or work on consolidating their day sleep and aiming for an age-appropriate total of day sleep.

  1. Are they having micro naps?

Did they fall asleep whilst they were feeding at bedtime and wake to finish their feed 30 minutes later? If so, try bringing your feed before bed a little earlier to ensure they take a full feed before settling down for the night.

  1. Are they under tired – Is bedtime too early?

Are you simply trying to settle your little one for the night, when they’re not quite ready? They’re treating bedtime as a nap, then getting up raring to go for another few hours. If your baby is still taking 3 naps, consider if they need this to be shortened, or if they need a bit longer awake before putting them down for the night.

For little ones below 3-4 months, they tend to settle down for the night a bit later (7-8pm), in which case, try having another short nap and heading for a slightly later bedtime for a bit longer.

  1. Are environmental factors causing a false start?

Is your environment conducive to sleep? Ensure your baby is dressed appropriately for the temperature, and no lights or sound could be waking them. If you’re not yet using one, I recommend introducing a white noise machine to block out external sounds that could disturb your sleeping baby.

Also, during the summer months, your baby’s room may still be quite light when you’re placing them down at bedtime. So, try using some blackout curtains or shades, as light sends signals to your baby’s brain that it’s time to be awake.

  1. Are they overstimulated before bedtime?

Can you look to dim lighting before bed or introduce a wind down routine? Is there too much screen time at the end of the day, interfering with melatonin? If so, try to avoid exposure to screens for 1-2 hours before bedtime.

  1. Are you experiencing settling issues?

Is your baby having difficulty settling and resettling independently? If your little one needs lots of assistance with rocking/feeding/patting to sleep, they may wake after one sleep cycle and look for this input to get back to sleep again.

Are they calling out and seeking support to get back through to another sleep cycle? If so, now may be a good time to work towards some independent settling, with some guidance.

If you need more support navigating false starts, please get in touch for a consultation or a FREE 15 minute chat to see how we can get your little one back on track.

We can get to the bottom of your false start, and put together a plan to reduce bedtime anxiety and help your baby/toddler consolidate this first part of the night again.