Nobody wants to wake up at 5 a.m. 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 a.m. these days. But not long ago, I remember waking up before 5, even before the sun came up (from my now 8-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 own definition.
Some people want to wake up at 8:00 a.m. Some people want to wake up at 7:00 a.m. I think it’s important to first 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 early, my guess is that you need everything to be as easy as possible.)
4 a.m. is a night waking
5 a.m-6 a.m. 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 that the wakeup later)
6:00 a.m. or later is fair game
7:00 a.m. or later = heavenly
I get it, 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 a.m. each and 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 biological sleep rhythms are set.
So we will keep that in mind because we have to have realistic expectations when it comes to sleep.
But… on a positive note, there are things that you may be 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 a.m. and you want him to start waking up at 7 a.m. I don’t want you to think that all hope is lost, you can still you use the tips below.
Investigate Why Your Baby Wakes Up Too Early
You’re knee deep in the sleep-deprived trenches. You have to understand why you are having the early wake-up in the first place. 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 always growing and developing. You will find that are some periods of your baby’s short but precious life that wreak a little more 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 growing 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 wakeup 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 wakeup 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 5am. 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.
Anyone know what these all have in common? 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 be actually reinforcing the early wakeup.
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 6am. (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 wakeup? 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 who’s baby wakes up too early?