Is your baby waking up early? 10 Tips and Tricks to prevent baby from waking too early, and get everyone back to a healthy sleep schedule.
Back when I was pregnant, people warned me about the sleepless nights and early mornings.
After all, newborns need a fair bit of care and attention, and being awake two, three, (…more!?) times per night to cuddle and nurse is the norm when they’re very little.
So when our baby finally got into a routine of sleeping through the night (without being held!) and waking up before the sun, it almost felt like a blessing.
But I also found myself wondering if this change in sleep pattern was normal. And on several occasions, I definitely found myself Googling, how to stop my baby waking up at 5am.
Early morning waking is natural in babies. Unfortunately for late rising parents, there’s not a lot that we can do to change their circadian rhythm.
However, at around 6 months old, there are a few tricks and nifty sleep tips you can try to push back those early morning wake-ups by an hour (or two!).
This article will explain how to stop your little one from waking up too early, and hopefully let you BOTH sleep a little bit longer in the mornings!
Is My Baby Waking Up Too Early?
When you became a parent, you likely accepted your sleep schedule will never be quite as it was in those pre-child years.
But super early morning wakings are not necessarily part and parcel of being a parent.
So the first question to ask yourself is how early does my baby wake each day?
There’s a fair amount of difference between being a typical early rising baby or toddler, and being awake before the cockerels crow, so to speak.
This couple of hours difference can have a massive impact on your day and routine, especially if you find yourself with a groggy and unsettled little one later in the day.
If your baby is getting up at 5am every morning and won’t go back to sleep either by self-soothing or after feeding/diaper changing, that generally means your baby is waking up too early.
Why is my child suddenly waking up so early?
But if it’s happening all the time, it can be frustrating.
For the point of this article, I consider “early morning wakings” to fall anytime between 4am and 6am. I consider wake ups prior to 4am to be “night waking”.
With that said, a baby that’s waking up any time after 6am is pretty much par for the course once you’re a parent!
Generally speaking, you can count on babies to wake between 6am and 7am, according to their circadian rhythm.
As a parent, you ideally want to align your baby’s sleep schedule to support their natural wake time to be between these hours.
What Causes Early Morning Waking?
It’s natural to wonder why your baby is waking up too early. Even once you manage to figure out perfect sleep schedules for night time sleep, early wake ups can still affect you.
If this is the case, your baby may be getting too much sleep, so that they aren’t tired, or too little sleep, which means they’re overtired. (Who said being a parent was easy, right!?!)
Your first job in this parental balancing act is to think of which of the two camps your little one falls into: not tired or overtired. You can then adjust an age appropriate sleep schedule from there.
A average 6 month old needs about 12 to 15 hours of sleep over a 24 hour period. This works out to about 10 to 12 hours of night sleep and 3-5 hours of daytime sleep, split across two or three naps.
The times of the day during your little one sleeps is another important factor in your baby waking early. It’s possible that they could be going to bed too late, taking their afternoon nap too late, or having their complete sleep journey set to too early a time frame.
What To Do If My Baby Wakes Up Too Early?
The first step if baby is waking up too early is examine your baby’s sleep schedule to check their awake time, and confirm they’re getting enough quality sleep overall.
While it sounds completely opposite of what it should be, an overtired baby won’t be able to sleep well.
#1 – Try an Earlier Bedtime
The ideal bedtime for a 6 month old is between 7-7:30pm.
If your bedtime routine doesn’t more or less fall within these hours, switch it up and make bedtime earlier. Go ahead and give the 7pm to 7:30pm schedule a try.
To change your baby’s nighttime sleep cycle, gradually move up their bedtime by 10 minutes each night, then give it time (a week or two) once you’re on the new schedule.
This will give you enough time to decide whether the new schedule is a success, and whether this new bedtime has helped your baby sleep longer in the mornings.
#2 – Make Bedtime Later
If too much sleep is the reason you and your baby see way too many early morning hours, you may have to take an opposite approach, making bedtime later.
When doing this kind of sleep training, move bedtime later by about 10 minutes each night until baby sleeping an hour later (or your goal time for night sleep).
Sometimes you’ll also need to adjust your mealtime schedule too, so hunger doesn’t cause early waking either.
#3 – Plan Your Nap Schedule
Along with how long and when babies fall asleep during the night, young children who get too much or too little sleep during the day will find it harder to get a good night’s sleep.
The length and also the timing of naps matters. If you baby’s morning nap is too early in the day, it can lead to them going to bed earlier at night. This can lead to those dramatic wake up times early in the morning. Conversely, if baby’s last nap of the afternoon ends too close to bedtime you might find it a challenge to get then to fall back to sleep so soon for their night time snooze.
When you make changes to your nap schedule, move it earlier or later by in 10 minute increments each day to support sleep training and let your little one’s body clock become used to the times.
#4 – Speak with a Health Professional or Pediatrician
If you can’t quite put your finger on the cause of your baby’s early waking, talk to your pediatrician, too. They will have more tips for adjusting sleep schedules in younger babies and can make sure that there is nothing else that is causing the early wakings.
A world of warning for any parent adjusting babies sleep times and wake windows. Whenever you juggle your little ones sleep schedule, you are opening your baby to the chance that they might not get enough sleep. (For example – if you cut down their daytime nap hours but then they still wake early).
If your baby seems tired, overtired, or finds it hard to fall asleep independently at night, talk to your pediatrician. It may be that this is just a passing stage, or a sleep regression.
6 Ways to Prevent Early Waking
Changing your baby’s sleep schedule is the best way to take your early morning wake routine from being up before the sun, to an early rising that is reasonable. But there are a few other factors to consider that can also help to deter an early wake up.
#1 – Too Much Light
It may be that your child wakes from the light of the sun entering baby’s room in the morning. The dawn, literally calling for your child to open their eyes and begin the day. Once they’re awake, a bright room ensures they’re going to stay awake.
If you feel that their room is light in the morning (and a lot of nurseries are!) try investing in some blackout curtains or blinds to keep the sun out and see if that affects your early waking.
#2 – Too Noisy
As well as the light of dawn suddenly waking your sleeping angel, it can also be the dawn chorus causing an unreasonably dramatic wake time! Early morning sees birds tweeting, dogs barking, the mailman whistling, and the rumble of cars and trucks begin as the world starts to go about its day.
If your baby is a light sleeper, they may wake up to all these sounds of the neighborhood and find it hard to fall back to sleep. Prevent noises by keeping the nursery windows closed, and having thicker, heavy curtains can also block out some sound.
You may also be able to cover the sound by using a fan or a white-noise machine.
#3 – Give Them Chance!
As tempting as it is to comfort your little one, try not to rush in to see your baby for morning cuddles and starting the day at the very first sound of movement and stirring from the crib. Wait for 5-10 minutes (unless your baby is really sobbing, of course!)
Some babies can self-soothe themselves to go back to sleep, or can at least entertain themselves while you try for an extra few moments of dozing!
This self-soothing is a good skill for babies who wake earlier to learn anyway.
#4 – Hunger
If you have an early rising baby, if can seem only normal to begin to whole day routine earlier, which includes breakfast. When your baby wakes before the sun, hold off on giving her breakfast. If they become accustomed to eating at 5:30am every day, hunger will continue to be the cause of your early wake-up call.
Gradually delay the first feed of the day by a few minutes over the course of a couple of weeks so that baby is less likely to wake up early for it.
If your baby is younger and huger is causing early rising, you may also consider a dream feed. This is where you creep into their room and quietly feed them at around 11pm, or just before you sleep, taking care not to fully wake them.
#5 – Use a Pacificer
If your baby uses a pacifier to fall asleep at night and for daytime sleep they might just need it to be popped back into their mouth to fall back to sleep from their early waking.
When they wake up, leave it a few minutes before going in to see them, and then quietly (without talking) put their pacifier back into their mouth. Give a reassuring gentle pat or stroke on the head and leave the room. Most babies will then snooze for a little longer.
#6 – Morning Activities
Before the age of 12 months or so, your baby’s crib should be pretty empty for safety reasons. After this age, you can get some toys which can attach to the sides of the crib — like a soother, mirror, or keyboard, that can allow your little one some quiet play time on their own, before you even get out of bed. Obviously this needs to be monitored and factored into your sleep schedule if their morning wake time is earlier than the time they actually get out of bed.
Final Thoughts On How to Prevent Baby Waking in the Early Morning Hours
Hopefully this article will help you to balance the sleep pressure of having a baby with the realistic expectation of early wakings, and when an early wake up is normal vs problematic.
It’s not normal to be awake before the sun, just because you’re a parent, and early rising that is too early (along with frequent night wakings!) aren’t good for you and baby in the long run.
Balance their sleep schedule, in correspondence to baby’s circadian rhythm, and check on if they are having too much or too little sleep. Make adjustments in the nursery too to be sure you’ve found exactly what is causing the dramatic wake up.
If you know of other parents who are suffering with the effects of early rising, feel free to share this article with them. Check out the rest of our blog for more informative sleep guides too!