Nobody wants to wake up at 5 am. I don’t blame you for scouring the internet for trying how to fix it. Hey, I’m grumpy if I wake up before 7 am these days. But not long ago, I remember waking up before 5, even before the sun (from my now 12-year-old), and I’m proof that your baby’s early wake-up will not stay that way forever.
So let’s figure out why your baby wakes up too early so we can get you all some more rest.
First off, what is an early wake-up?
Everyone has their definition of what an early waking is.
Some people want to wake up at 8:00 am. Some parents like to wake up at 7:00 am. I think it’s essential first to define what is an early wake-up is to make sure we are all on the same page.
How about I keep it simple? (‘Cause, if you were up, I guess that you need everything to be as easy as possible.)
4 am is a night waking
5 am-6 am is an early wake-up (for most except for below)
5:30-6, a gray area (depends on the kid, but I know that we would like to see the wake-up later)
6:00 am or later is fair game
7:00 am or later = heavenly
I bet some of you reading this just hated what I just told you. (I hate to be the bearer of bad news).
Is it possible that your baby is just an early riser?
It is possible if your child wakes up at 5:30 am every day (and has been for life), that might not be an early wake-up. You may just have a baby who was born to wake early. That’s the way your baby’s natural sleep rhythms are set.
So we will keep that in mind because we have to have realistic expectations regarding to sleep.
But… on a positive note, there are things that you may be accidentally doing that is resulting in the early wake-up. So let’s dive in a little deeper. OK?
Even if your baby is waking up at 6 am and you want him to start waking up at 7 am. It would be best if you didn’t think that all hope; lost, you can use the tips below.
A Sleep Consultant’s Opinion of Early Wakings
Now that I’ve had my sleep practice for over ten years, I can tell you that dealing with early wakings is one of the most complex sleep challenges to solve for. The reason is that it’s hard to know if the early waking is caused by skill-based reasons, which are listed below. Or, sometimes, some babies and toddlers are just naturally driven to wake up early.
But, usually, without question, it’s a combination of all the variables that causes an early waking.
Investigate Why Your Baby Wakes Up Too Early
You’re knee-deep in the sleep-deprived trenches. You must understand why the early wake-up is happening first, mainly focusing on your sleep schedule. Some of the reasons are pretty clear. Others are quite difficult to figure out.
Questions To Ask If You Have A Baby Who Wakes Too Early:
1. Is your baby going through a developmental period?
Your baby is constantly growing and developing. Some periods of your baby’s short but precious life wreak a bit of sleep havoc than others. You’ve probably heard of the 4 Month Sleep Regression or 8-10 Month Sleep Regression, but there are also other developmental leaps that occur throughout your baby’s life. You may also hear these periods called wonder weeks.
To keep things as simple as possible – Things just get off for no good reason. When this happens, you probably don’t need to do anything for things to get back to normal. Just be patient.
I caution you not to blame these periods for all your troubles…. because if you do, you will never try and fix things. You will only keep pointing the finger since there is a lot of growth and development going on.
2. Is your child going through a nap transition?
There are many transitions in your baby’s life. And nap transitions are one of the super not-so-fun things that keep you on your toes. The most sensitive transitions occur from 4-3 naps and 3-2 naps but of course, the 2-1 nap transition may mess things up as well.
During transition times, you may see an early wake-up. And sometimes, an early wake-up is part of the problem since it causes havoc on the napping day. (I know it’s always hard to know for sure)
If you know that you’re going through a nap transition and you are seeing an earlier than normal wake-up, I expect the wake-up to bump out once you’re done transitioning.
3. Does Your Child Have Independent Skills?
Independent skills or allowing your baby to fall to sleep by herself is where all the magic of sleep is at. If your baby doesn’t possess these skills and you have to constantly feed her, nurse her, bounce her, or rock her, then you can’t expect your baby to fall back asleep.
Sometimes independent skills can come over time, or other times sleep training your baby is necessary to teach your baby to fall back asleep. (Don’t worry, I’ve got your back on this subject —> check out the ultimate guide to sleep training)
4. Is your child getting enough sleep?
A well-rested baby = happy baby = sleeping baby (and the happy parents to boot).
So always look at the amount your baby sleeps in a 24-hour period and see if you’re in the average ranges of total baby sleep. If your baby is getting way less than the average sleep needs, I would say that your baby is overtired, the most common reason a baby would be waking early.
Oh… but that’s not all…
Certain babies are sensitive. So you also need to take a closer look at the awake period between the last nap and bedtime to make sure it’s age-appropriate as well. Some babies can get overtired to that last stretch of time.
For example, an 8-month child may be able to handle a waketime between the second nap and bedtime of 3.5-4 hours, but I’ve worked with clients who showed us an early wake-up with any time over 3 hours. So it’s very specific to what your baby can handle before getting overtired.
And an overtired baby wakes early.
5. Does Your Baby Get An Early Morning Feeding?
If you are feeding your baby throughout the night and you find that your baby is getting up early, take a look at the number of times your baby is eating (to figure out if it’s for food or comfort).
Many parents often will feed their baby in the early morning hours and have them fall back asleep for another couple of hours. When that works and your baby falls back asleep – great. You have no problem.
But here’s the other scenario. You are feeding your baby and your baby says “no, no, I’m not going back to sleep” and is looking to party at 5 am. Well, that’s when you have a problem and you’ll want to take a closer look at that feeding.
The easiest way is to eliminate that feed and an early morning waking is to allow your baby to consolidate night sleep.
So, What Do You Do When Your Baby Wakes Up too Early?
Pop Quiz: What do these all have in common?
Early morning feedings, early morning snuggle sessions, and early morning TV.
Does anyone know what these all have in common? Answer: YOU!
You are involved with all of them.
If I were a baby, I would want to snuggle in the morning vs. keep sleeping in my crib. #nobrainer
You might not even realize it, but these early morning responses to your baby might actually reinforce the early wake-up.
So how do you fix your baby from waking too early?
It’s easy (ish). Draw a line in the sand.
Don’t get your baby until after 6 am. (or later if you want to).
This will help your baby learn to fall back asleep (which sometimes isn’t so hard once they know they aren’t getting something that they are looking for).
This will make it easier for your baby to know that “hey now’s not the time to wake up”.
It will make it crystal clear for your baby. Same for you.
Now expectations are another thing… It may take your baby a week or two to see a later wake-up.
You must be patient.
Patience is a virtue when it comes to sleep.
OK, Now It’s Your Turn To Do The Homework
Your baby may be waking too early now, but it might not be forever! Once you’re ready to figure out the reasons why your baby is waking early, you can go ahead and fix it. Who is ready to bust the early wake-up? Write in the comments and let me know below what time your baby woke up today and what you think the reason was below.
Comment Below: What’s your best advice for someone whose baby wakes up too early?