A habitual waking happens when your baby falls asleep independently, but still wakes up at the exact same time night after night and needs nothing OR they are waking early during naps. Typically with naps we see them waking at 30 or 45 minutes.
Wake-to-Sleep: For a habitual night waking, try Tracy's wake-to-sleep method. You sneak into your baby's room an hour before baby habitually wakes up and gentle stroke baby until baby barely stirs. You are attempting to pull baby from deep sleep and restart a sleep cycle thus avoiding the habitual wake. You would use this technique 4 or 5 nights and then stop and see what happens. You can try wake-to-sleep for a night waking if you are certain it truly is habitual. You cannot use wake to sleep for a night waking that is driven by a need.. ie hunger.
**For additional information about night time wake-to-sleep, see The Babywhisperer Solves All Your Problems by Tracy Hogg and Melinda Blau, Chapter 5: Teaching Babies How to Sleep, the section entitled, "Habitual Waking."
If your baby is habitually waking early at the same point in his or her nap, there are a few strategies to try. In each case, it's best to observe a nap or two and write down the times they move and wake so that you will know when to intervene.
Wake-to-Sleep Option 1: This method may be most effective for a younger infant who is accustomed to the shush/pat method. "Instead of waiting for her to wake, go into her room after thirty minutes, because that's when she first starts to come out of deep sleep. (Remember that sleep cycles are usually forty minutes.) Before she comes all the way up to consciousness, pat her gently until you see her body relax again. It could take fifteen or twenty minutes of gentle patting. If she starts to cry, though, you'll have to send her back to sleep [using your usual settling technique]."
Wake-to-Sleep Option 2: This method may be more effective for an older baby who has begun to find shush/pat distracting. Stir baby 5-10 minutes before baby tends to wake. You go in the room 5-10 minutes before they tend to wake up and gently rub their cheek, head etc until baby BARELY stirs and then you let go. You are attempting to pull baby from deep sleep to then start a new sleep cycle. You do not actually wake baby up. If you are not totally sure if baby moved, wait a minute or two and do it again. This is better then doing it too much and waking baby fully. A bare movement usually works. If your baby still wakes up, you can try doing the wake-to-sleep a few minutes sooner the next nap. You really have to experiment with the timing. A few babies have a hard time stirring. These moms have had some success with just turning them over or moving their entire body in some way.
Pressure at the Jolts: This method is different than wake-to-sleep, but may help get your baby through a habitual waking, particularly for an unswaddled younger infant who twitches a lot during sleep transitions. You place one hand on your baby's legs, the other on baby's chest and attempt to assist baby through the jolts. You would do this a few minutes before the jolts that wake baby occurs. You apply pressure until baby stops jolting, plus about 5 minutes. If, after 5 minutes, baby hasn't moved any more, you can stand back and see what happens. If baby wakes fully, you will have to employ your typical method of sleep to send them back to sleep. Some babies you have to also shield their eyes with your hand to stop them from looking around. If you use a paci you can reinsert the paci when and if your baby looks for it. This would be when baby is searching for it with his or her mouth.
**For additional information about addressing habitually short naps, see The Babywhisperer Solves All Your Problems by Tracy Hogg and Melinda Blau, Chapter 6: Pick Up/Put Down, the section entitled, "A Few Words on Naps."