How Do I Fix My Baby’s Early Morning Wakings?
Alanna McGinn is Founder and Certified Sleep Consultant of Good Night Sleep Site, a global sleep consulting practice. She is Representative and Director for the International Association of Child Sleep Consultants (IACSC) and serves on the faculty of The Family Sleep Institute. She and her husband, Mike, live in Toronto, Canada with their 3 children (1+twins!) You can follow her expert advice in national publications like Macleans, Prevention Magazine, Today’s Parent, and Huffington Post. Alanna strives in helping families (baby to adults) overcome their sleep challenges and have happy well-rested smiles in the morning. You can find out more about Alanna McGinn and how to work with a Good Night Sleep Consultant at goodnightsleepsite.com and follow Alanna and all her sleep tips on Instagram and Facebook.One of the most frequent questions I get asked is “How can I get my baby to sleep later in the morning.”
You may have found you’ve finally gotten into a consistent routine but then your little one starts waking earlier and earlier, until suddenly you realize it’s a regular occurrence. And no parent really wants a 5:00 a.m. wakeup call.
Generally speaking, a little one who has recently gone through a big transition like dropping a nap, is going through developmental milestones, and/or who has naps that are inconsistent, is when we can start seeing early morning wakings.
Another reason a baby may start to wake early is because sleep getting lost somewhere.
Keep in mind, on average, babies need 14 to 15 hours sleep in a 24-hour period, with 11 to 12 of those being at night.
To help your child sleep later here are a few things you can do:
Set Up the Right Environment
The ideal temperature for baby, child and adult sleep is one that is comfortably cool. Make sure the room they sleep in remains on the cool side – anywhere between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit.
Consider natural fibers for sleep sacs, pajamas and bedding. Natural fabrics offer a more breathable alternative to traditional synthetic fabrics, helping to regulate body temperature more effectively. Also, always ensure that the weight/material of your little one’s sleepwear is seasonally appropriate.
Drown out external sounds that may wake them up by using a white noise machine or alternatively, use a regular fan for both the white noise and improving air flow.
It is much easier for a baby to stay asleep if the room is dark, especially during the summer when it gets lighter in the early morning (more on this to come). Keep your baby’s sleep environment dark as best you can using curtains or blackout blinds.
Make Sure Your Baby’s Bedtime Isn’t Too Late
You may be tempted to keep your baby up later in order to help her sleep later in the morning. You may want to reconsider this.
Often, we are pushing out our baby’s wakeful periods too long. An overtired baby who is going to bed too late can give you bedtime battles, night wakings, and early morning risings.
Look for the following cues that your baby is tired:
- Zoning out
- Wide eyed stare
- Rubbing his eyes
- Pulling his ears
- Turning his head from side to side
If you see your baby doing any of these things, she needs some rest!
Sometimes all it takes is shifting that bedtime 15 to 30 minutes earlier and suddenly your child accepts sleep, and stays asleep, much easier.
Having a Consistent Bedtime Routine
Babies and children thrive on routine and this can be practiced at any age and stage. It’s the familiarity of that routine, no matter how simple, which can help us fall asleep more easily.
Give yourself 30 minutes before your baby’s set bedtime to allow enough time to have a nice relaxed routine where your focus is to calm her and get her ready for bed. The routine can include things like:
- Bath or infant massage.
- Diaper change.
- Read a story or create your own.
- Sing some gentle bedtime songs.
- A lot of kisses and cuddles.
Watch How You Respond to Early Morning Wakings
Sometimes it’s not so much about the time you are putting your baby down so much as how you are responding to that waking.
A natural wake time can be as early as 5:30 or 6:00 a.m. so genetically there may not be much you can do to extend that wake time but it doesn’t mean you have to get up at that time. They can be happy and content in their room until 7am.
Working on having your baby feel safe and secure in his environment and not needing you right away can be just as important as working on getting them the sleep they need. If you go in the moment he’s awake, he’ll never get that opportunity to learn that he’s okay on his own for a bit.
Tis The Season!
The summer season can also be why your baby is waking earlier.
Our body has a 24-hour internal clock. This circadian clock tells our body what time of day it is, which helps set our daily routine of eating, sleeping, and even going to the bathroom.
This internal clock is mainly run off of external cues from our environment with light being one of the main factors. Because of this, during the winter when days are shorter and darker, our bodies go into a state of semi-hibernation and we tend to sleep longer hours. Once summer hits we tend to have shorter sleeping hours as the days get longer and brighter.
When our little one wakes up early in the morning and you know that all of the basic sleep fundamentals are being practiced, the best thing you can do is just stick to their usual routine and your usual method.
The reality is you may have to deal with an early riser for a few months but if your child is happy and content in their sleep environment there is nothing wrong with allowing them the chance to hang out on their own until mom and dad says it’s time to get up.