Is your baby waking too early? Aprilla, a certified baby and infant sleep consultant from Bubba Bedtime gives us some reasons why your baby might be waking early and some tips on how to help them sleep longer.
It’s not even 9:00 am, you and baby have already been up before sunrise, and you’ve lost count of the number of coffees you’ve consumed to keep you awake hovering around the functioning mark. Sound familiar? If you’re reading this through sleep-deprived eyes you are not alone, your baby waking too early, is one of the most common headaches parents face with their little ones and usually the last piece of the puzzle to fall into place regarding your baby’s sleep.
Early morning wake ups and starting your day before 6am as you know can be tough going; it can also set the tone for the rest of the day. Before you resign yourself to starting your day before sunrise let’s see how you can reduce and even eliminate your baby waking too early.
It’s good to define what an early morning wake up is? 4:00 am is classed as night time 5:00 am – 6:00 am as early morning, 6:00 am – 6.30 am as an age appropriate wake up time. Setting a reasonable start time to your day and then ensuring your actions are consistent with this, will demonstrate to your baby when your family day starts.
Also having realistic expectations for your baby with regard to how long they sleep, for example if they go to bed at 6pm, then they are unlikely to sleep until 7.30 am (13.5 hours of sleep) around 12 hours is optimum per night for your little one(s).
When looking at your baby’s sleep you should be aware of different factors that could be contributing to your baby waking early. By following the steps below and making some changes, you will begin to see your baby waking later and sleeping for longer.
What time is bedtime? An age-appropriate bedtime for a 6 – 18 month-year-old is around 6:30pm. You can push this out to 7:00 pm as they move towards the 18 month-year-old mark. Anything later and your baby will be overtired. Around this age they require around 12 hours of sleep overnight to ensure optimal mental and physical development. Don’t fall into the trap of equating an early bedtime with an unnecessarily early-morning wake up. An over-tired baby that is put to bed late is much more likely to wake in the early hours of the morning.
Keeping to this bedtime can become tricky with parents long work schedules, most workplaces are flexible with adjusting start and finish times so that you can get home to spend time with your little one before bedtime. A good way to look at sleep is as if it were food, you wouldn’t delay your baby from eating or even skipping a meal, thus you shouldn’t do the same with sleep.
First nap of the day too early
Starting your day before sunrise, you may see your little one struggling to stay awake until their first nap of the day.
If you look to offer a nap before 9:00am (5am wake up –> 7:30am nap) then your baby will continually wake earlier and earlier, as they will get into a routine where they have to be tired enough to take their first nap.
Instead you can look to push this first nap of the day out to around 9:00am (age appropriate) the first couple of days they might struggle to stay awake, but by keeping up this consistency you will begin to see your little one waking later and later as their body adjusts to being tired enough to take this nap around 9:00am.
Ensuring your baby is getting a great daytime sleep will also help with their early morning starts and reduce their overtiredness. If they are struggling with daytime sleep, you can look to encourage them to nap in their natural sleep windows for the age-appropriate durations.
Sleep windows are a time of day when baby’s body naturally adjusts their hormone levels and body temperature in preparation for sleep and this begins to develop when they are around 4 months and is governed by their internal biological rhythms.
These occur between 9:00am – 10:00am and 12:00pm – 2:00pm and 6:00pm – 7:00pm, a baby who sleeps during these times generally has a more restorative sleep, if you look to adjust naps to fit inside these nap windows this will encourage them to sleep longer during the day.
Lastly, keeping an eye on their age-appropriate awake windows to ensure that they are not going to bed overtired and aren’t kept awake for too long as these factors too can result in early morning starts.
As the seasons change your baby needs to be dressed appropriately for overnight sleep. Having a thermometer in their room to gauge temperature will ensure you are able to dress them accordingly.
Sleeping bags are ideal as not only do they ensure that they won’t kick off their covers and get too cold they are also a fantastic sleep association and will tell them that it’s time for sleep. The type and number of layers will depend on the temperature of their room (18 -20 degrees is the ideal) and the tog rating of the sleeping bag. The coldest part of the night is from 3:00 am – 5:00 am and can lead to an early morning start.
It’s important to create a pleasant sleeping environment for your little one and to ensure that their room is pitch black dark. Melatonin, the sleepy hormone, can only be produced in darkness and so in order for your baby to settle and resettle after one sleep cycle it will be beneficial for their room to be dark as possible.
Even a small amount of light can at times be enough to tell the brain it’s time to wake up. This can be liken to adults trying to sleep on a couch in the middle of the day with sunlight streaming in, chances are it would take them longer to get to sleep, and they wouldn’t sleep as long if you they had closed the blinds. To create pitch black dark in baby’s room you can simply pin up a dark sheet, or fit blackout blinds.
Now when the sunrises in your baby’s new pitch black room, they won’t be disturbed allowing them to sleep for longer and waking later.
Reinforcing early wake ups
When baby wakes early how do you respond? At this early hour in the morning parents will look to do anything and everything to get their little one to sleep for a little longer. This can inadvertently reinforce early morning wake ups.
The most common reinforcing behaviors are allowing your baby to co-sleep, offering them a feed, getting yourself up for the day, etc. In time, this habit becomes ingrained within your baby and they will begin to think that their day does indeed start at 5:00am.
Therefore at this hour you can look to keep interaction to a minimum, resettling your little one when they wake rather than starting your day. It may involve some patience however by doing this you will begin to see some great results and a change in their wake up times.
Early morning wake ups can be frustrating and hard at times. As discussed they can be brought on by a number of things, however by making some of the above changes and adjustments coupled with consistency you will begin to see your baby’s waking too early gradually reduce and fade.
Aprilla Quayle is a certified baby and infant sleep consultant who has worked with families in Australia and abroad to give their children the gift of sleep. Aprilla can create a personalized sleep solution for families from newborn to infants 0-4 years, offering in home consultations, telephone and overnight support options. Visit Bubba Bedtime contact page here, facebook page, Instagram page .