So...your baby is finally sleeping through the night. It’s amazing, you finally feel rested but just as things start to feel more normal, your little one has decided that 5:00 A.M. is the right time of day to wake up, for themselves and you! Early rising is a common baby sleep issue that can be tough to troubleshoot but not, and I repeat, not, impossible! Here are some things to consider when troubleshooting this on your own.
Some of us live and die by a schedule and others are more fly by the seat of their pants. This usually doesn’t matter however when you have an early riser, the first thing I check is schedule. If you are forcing a later bedtime or pushing your child’s wake window to the max, this may be your early rising culprit. For most babies, making bedtime earlier can really make the difference between a 5 AM wake and a 6 AM one. Conversely, if you are stuck in an early bedtime cycle, sometimes you just need to force a bedtime that is an hour later; this works well with older babies.
Room temperature, level of sound and degree of darkness all play a part in helping your baby sleep their best.
- Climate: Ensure your baby is appropriately dressed for the room temp. If you are in a warmer climate, light sleep sack and if you are in a colder one, then I recommend a 2.5 TOG which is perfect for fall and winter sleep.
- Sound: Create a protected environment for your baby. If you have a sound machine and I recommend that you do, make sure it’s no higher than 40 decibels and that the sound is smooth with no pauses. Opt for white noise over more stimulating sounds.
- Darkness: Ensure your room is pitch black. Go in, close the door, close the lights and look to see if any light is creeping in. Something as subtle as a crack of light at the window or a bright light on your monitor’s camera can give your baby something to focus on in the early mornings. A good rule of thumb; if you can see your hand clearly in front of your face when the lights are out and door is closed, it’s time to grab a good dark out blind and some duct tape and seal it out. It makes a HUGE difference.
When your baby wakes at 5: 00 A.M., what are you doing? Are you running to get them and feeding them right away? Are you taking them out and bringing them to your bed? Both of these things will create early rising in a baby. By feeding and/or exposing them to light, you are helping to reset their body clock or circadian rhythm. Bringing them into bed for you is a cozy treat and one where you might both get some more sleep however it’s also one that your baby might keep waking for; it’s basically a new sleep association.
4. Nap Time
Good daytime sleep is important for our littles but a common mistake of many parents of early risers is starting the first wake window from when their early riser gets up. I recommend that you start your wake window no earlier than 6:00 A.M. and are consistent with this otherwise your little is continuing their night sleep during that first nap.
I’m hopeful that these tips will help some of you get some later mornings but if you have a real live early bird (and I have one of them), your best course of action is trying to get them to stay in their crib happily until a time that your family feels is appropriate. On the upside, they will likely have an earlier bedtime so more Netflix for you!