Feeling rested feels so good! When we get the sleep we need, we get a lot more done, we are more focused, productive, and more importantly, we are more patient with our kids. Everyone wins! If your baby wakes up too early, ready to start the day at 5- 5:30 am, you may be thinking that this is just the way it is, babies wake up early. Not necessarily. If you don’t want your baby to wake up at 5:00 am for the day, it doesn’t have to be that way.
There are simple and practical ways to guide your baby to wake up later in the morning. It will take some time, but 100% possible. After all, we learn to walk and then run, so learning how to sleep a little longer is 100% a learnable skill.
Chose a time
We all have busy lives, and choosing when you want to start your day is absolutely up to you. I have worked with families for whom waking up at 5:45 am was perfect for them. They had to work early and spending time with their children in the morning before heading to work was important for them. Every family is different. If you’d prefer having your “me” time in the morning and a 7 am wake up is ideal, let’s work on that! It is important to establish what works for you.
If your baby wakes up too early, I would recommend looking at his sleep schedule. Laying the foundation for healthy sleep habits starts at a young age and follows us through adulthood.
If I ask an adult to take a 2-hour nap at lunchtime for a week. After a few days, they may go to bed later at bedtime, and wake up earlier in the morning as they are not tired enough to sleep 7-8 hours each night. They would be getting too much sleep during the day! The same is true for our children.
It is vital to create a schedule that fits their needs and age group. Sleeping at approximately the same times each day establishes consistency, and regulates their internal clock. So if your goal is to teach your baby to sleep later, ensure that her sleep schedule is always the same for a few days. Once your baby is more consistent with their sleep schedule, you will then be able to evaluate what you can do to work on these early wake ups. Until then, the sleep may be too irregular to know where to start and what changes need to be made. If your baby is sleeping at different times each day, it’s not realistic to expect them to always go to bed to wake up at the same time.
If your baby needs to feed in the middle of the night, you can offer a dreamfeed around 10 pm. The idea of the dreamfeed is that you wake up your baby for a final meal before you retire for the night, to help your newborn baby sleep for longer while you sleep. A dreamfeed is recommended until the age of 4-6 months.
Something to note, the dreamfeed may not help your baby wake up later in the morning, as it very much depends on their nutritional needs as well. But for babies who still need the calories at night, this often works like a charm. If you are concerned and unsure if your baby is getting enough calories, ask your pediatrician, they will be best suited to guide you.
Look for her/his cues
In the early morning, if your baby wakes up, fusses a bit, but for the most part is content, you can wait before getting her. We want to work on extending the time where we start the day, correct? We need to show her that it is not time to start the day yet. When your baby wakes up too early, don’t rush in to pick him up. It will reinforce the early rising. Instead, try to wait a few minutes extra every other day. This will give her the opportunity to fall asleep, and to wake up later and later, as you slowly increase her sleeping time.
Additionally, if your baby is still feeding at night, and wakes up content, don’t rush in to start the day and feed him. Her body and metabolism will no longer be accustomed to eating at 5 am every morning. When we eat at similar times during the day our bodies get accustomed to eating at those approximate times. So by continuing to feed the baby in the early morning, it will lead your child to believe he is supposed to eat in the early morning.
If your baby is overtired, they will wake up more frequently and will have a difficult time falling asleep and staying asleep. This sounds counterintuitive, but a baby who is too tired won’t be able to sleep well. Try putting your baby down earlier — around 7 or 7:30 p.m. — by gradually moving up her bedtime by 10 minutes each night if she’s going to bed later than that, and see if that helps her stay asleep longer.
In order to see results, you have to be consistent and give it some time! Give it a solid week or two before you decide whether the experiment was successful.
If your baby is getting too much sleep, you may have to try the opposite tactic. Move her bedtime later by about 10 minutes each night until you reach your goal of her sleeping later. I would recommend moving her feeding schedule a little later if bedtime is significantly later, so hunger doesn’t wake her up too soon.
- Dark room! This is a huge one when it comes to early rising. In order to help your baby to sleep longer, make sure the light doesn’t come in at 5:30am. Use trash bags or blackout curtains if needed!
- Sound machine. Light sleepers and alert babies may wake up to the sounds of the neighborhood. As the world wakes up, cars start driving down the roads, dogs start barking, and the garbage truck begins to make its rounds. White noise machines help to block out those sounds as well as sharp noises that can startle a child awake.
- Don’t rush. When your baby wakes up, don’t rush to get her. Wait at least 10 minutes unless your baby is really upset. If you give your baby the time and space, she may surprise you and fall right back to sleep, or she may coax, talk and giggle with herself! Remember, self-soothing comes in many forms, and a baby learning how to be content with themselves is a huge piece to them. Being able to sleep on their own, and soothe themselves without external input.
- Hold off on breakfast. If she’s used to eating at 5:30 in the morning, hunger will continue to be her early wake-up call. Gradually postpone the first feed by a few minutes each day so that she’s less likely to wake up early for it. Be sure to talk to your pediatrician, though if you have concerns, about any adjustments you’re making to your baby’s feeding schedule.
I hope you find these tips helpful. There are always things we can work on to help our babies sleep better, and I am here to guide you through the process! Don’t hesitate to reach out, I’d love to chat with you and get to know you and your family. Let’s connect!