When parents are figuring out sleep for their little ones, they’re always ecstatic when their baby starts to sleep through the night! Except sometimes that “night” ends around 5 am and no one is ecstatic about a recurring early morning wake-up call from their little one.
If you consistently see your sweet baby before the sun is up, read on for some troubleshooting tips.
What defines an early wake-up?
Before we can fix an early wake-up, we need to know exactly what an “early wake-up” is — because if you’re not a morning person, you may consider 7 am or 8 am “early!” However, for a baby/toddler, an early wake-up would be anything between 5-6 am. Before 5 am should still be considered night time.
Any time between 6-8 am is considered a normal, biological waking time for a small child. Simply put, little people go to sleep before most adults and therefore wake up on the “early” side as well. It’s just how they’re wired! I’m sorry if that shatters your dreams of sleeping in on the weekend — blame biology.
1) Check your sleep environment.
Light reinforces a wake-up, even a little tiny bit. Our little one's brain processes that light — and boom — night time is over! Also, consider white noise (if you don’t already) to block out any noise both outside and inside (especially if others in the house are up early).
Easy fix: Cover every inch of light coming in a window (doesn’t have to look pretty) and consider covering little lights like from a video camera, humidifier, etc.
2) Make sure nothing fun happens before 6 am.
This means we aren’t getting them up to watch television early in the morning while we nurse, for example. Your child could start waking earlier and earlier in anticipation of doing something fun — including eating!
Easy fix: Consider delaying feeding by 10-15 minutes by doing a diaper change, going around the house and saying good morning to objects, turning on lights and opening window blinds. Then feed after adding some space between waking and feeding.
3) Check your schedule.
The most common cause of an early morning is either too long of an awake time before bed or too early/too short of an awake time before the first nap. Both will perpetuate the early morning cycle!
Easy fix: Try an earlier bedtime or a later first nap.
4) Lack of independent sleeping skills.
It can be very difficult to connect the light morning sleep cycles when they’ve had a good chunk of night sleep prior to that.
Easy fix: Consider some form of sleep training in order for them to learn to sleep through the light early morning sleep cycles. Either way, form a consistent response to their early waking and consider a “no out of bed before X” time.
Is it possible to have a natural early bird?
Technically, yes. Your child could simply be wired to wake around 6 am. But remember, anything before that time is still night/early morning and with these tips, you can get them to sleep until at least 6 am. You could even try to shift them to closer to 7 am!
Don’t be discouraged, a small schedule shift is possible. Keep in mind — this could also be a phase, and phases don’t last forever!
Ashley Olson, Guest Blogger
Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant and founder of Heaven Sent Sleep