Let me guess. You googled “baby waking up too early” or “early morning wakings baby” and found your way here. Don’t worry, you’re in good company! Thousands of parents are searching the same phrases, so you’re clearly not alone.
How to know if your baby is waking up too early
What do we mean when we say waking too early? It depends on how you’re looking at it. Waking too early may be based on the clock, like, 5:00am is too early, for example. Or, it may be that your baby is taking short naps and waking too early to get enough sleep. Probably it’s a combination of these things, which throws your whole day off schedule! But consider something else from your baby’s perspective. Waking too early in my opinion is based on their behavior and body language. If your baby wakes up CRYING (in the middle of the night, in the morning, or from a short nap), that’s evidence that your baby is still tired and wants to go back to sleep.
What is considered “too early”?
For mornings, I personally consider anything before 6am too early, but you may have hopes of sleeping until 8am. If you’re hoping your baby will sleep that late, I have some bad news. Babies in general just don’t sleep that late. Because babies have an earlier circadian rhythm than adults, they normally wake up between 6-7am no matter what time they go to sleep, or how you adjust their schedule.
What is waking too early for naps? For most naps, you probably want your baby to sleep longer than 30 minutes. But, what if your baby wakes up HAPPY from a 30 minute nap? Did they wake “too early”? Or, is that all they needed for that nap? Now, most babies wake up crying after a 30 minute nap, so consider what we discussed above from your baby’s perspective. What’s their body language telling you about if they woke up too early? Is your baby crying after a 30-minute nap? Yes, that nap was too short for what their body wants.
6 things to try if your baby is waking up too early
If you haven’t already sleep trained your baby, some of the advice I’ll share below might not work at all, but let’s give it a try. Hopefully something will help you with your early morning wakings!
1. Adjust bedtime
It seems counter-intuitive to put your baby to bed earlier, but hear me out: The number one reason that babies wake up too early is because of a too-late bedtime. So consider what time your baby or toddler is going to sleep. Has it been inching later and later? If you’re putting your little one down at 7:30pm, try moving bedtime to 7pm for 3-4 days in a row before you decide it’s not working. If your baby is on the younger side (under 6 months), you might need a bedtime as early as 6:30pm. If you’re putting your newborn down at 7:00pm, try pulling bedtime back 15 or 30 minutes earlier. Again, try it for 3+ days in a row to see if it helps.
2. Push the morning feed
Sometimes babies and toddlers wake too early because they’re anticipating something exciting. For toddlers, it may be that they get iPad time or to watch TV with you in bed. For babies, they might be in the habit of snuggling with you for an early morning feed in which they doze off for an extra hour or so. In order to fix this, separate the thing they’re anticipating to later. So for a toddler, push media time to after breakfast. For babies, try to stop feeding them back to sleep in the early morning hours. Instead, if they wake at 5:30am, get them up, turn on the lights, change their diaper and wake them up fully before a morning feed – and don’t let them fall back asleep in your arms because that just reinforces the early morning waking. From there, you may want to make some other changes I recommend.
3. Make it darker
Consider how dark your nursery is. If there is even the tiniest bit of light coming through the side of the shades, that could be enough to cue your early riser to get up literally at the crack of dawn. There are many products from blackout curtains to window coverings that cover every corner, so get creative and find a way to get your nursery completely dark so they’re not waking early from light. Bonus – that may help with lengthening naps, too!
4. Absorb extra noise
If you don’t have a white noise machine, get one! I personally like the Lectrofan, and the classic medical grade one, the Marcal Dohm. If you have siblings or extra street noise (and non-carpeted floors), you can take an extra step to soundproof your nursery. To do that, get an area rug that takes up about 80% of the floorspace and put a heavy-duty rug pad that’s part felt, part rubber, underneath. You’d be surprised how much noise it absorbs! Fireworks outside your window? No problem!
5. Change your sleep schedule
Not often, but sometimes babies wake too early because they’re getting too much sleep, or simply need an adjustment to their 24-hour sleep schedule. For example, if your baby was on a 7pm-7am schedule with 3 naps per day and suddenly your baby starts waking at 6am or 5:30am, zoom out to look at the big picture. Let’s say they’re getting two longer naps and one short catnap at around 4pm. Are they about 5-7 months old? Starting to fight the last nap? Taking longer to fall asleep for the other naps? If this is you, in order to get later mornings, it’s probably time to consolidate day sleep into 2 naps, and put them to bed a little bit earlier. To do that, stretch out their wake windows (from 2 to 2.5 or 3 hours towards the later half of the day) over a few days, skip the last nap, and put them to bed closer to 6:30pm. It may take a couple of weeks until they adjust to a 2-nap schedule, but the earlier bedtime and nap adjustment may help your baby sleep later in the morning.
6. Sleep train your baby
If your baby doesn’t know how to self-soothe (meaning they can go from wide awake to asleep without a pacifier, feeding, rocking, patting, etc.), then I’m afraid that nothing will likely help your early waker sleep later. If your baby is waking up early in the morning, waking from naps after 30 minutes, and is cranky, fussy or clingy during the day, chances are you have an overtired baby who needs more sleep. That’s when sleep training can solve all your problems!
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