Picture this. You’re sound asleep, snoozin’. The baby starts to fuss so you fumble for your phone to see what time it is. It’s 5am. You turn over, slap your partner, and growl, “IT’S 5 AM! AND THE BABY IS AWAKE!” I’ve been there. I’ve cried many, many tears over this exact situation.
What is an early morning waking? An early morning waking is considered anything before 6am. I know it’s super frustrating when your little one who normally wakes at 7:30am is waking at 6am, but it’s technically not considered an early morning waking. Let’s break down why these wakings are happening and what you can do to help.
#1 THE ROOM IS TOO BRIGHT
Having a good blackout solution is a must. Depending on where you live and what time of year it is, the sun will light up the room and wake up your little one. Studies have shown that light, natural or artificial, will cause your little one’s brain to stop producing melatonin (the chemical that helps you fall and keeps us asleep) which causes him to wake up. Blackout curtains are relatively inexpensive. We bought all of ours at Wal-mart for about $8-11 a panel.
This is one of the first things I would recommend working on to try and fix your early morning wakings. If you room share or it's just not a possibility to darken the room for whatever reason, check out the SlumberPod. It's a breathable tent that fits over a pack n play, portable crib, and toddler travel cot. It completely blacks out the sleep area so you can continue to walk around with the lights on without disturbing your little one. Use code THEBESTREST20 for $20 off.
#2 TOO MUCH DAYTIME SLEEP
Many parents find their little one begins waking up early when a nap transition is on the way. Imagine a child is a full cup of water. The water is their sleep needs. Each time your child naps, a little bit of water is poured out. By the time bedtime comes around, there’s just not enough water to cover the whole night. By early morning, the cup is empty and needs to be filled.
When your child is awake, the cup fills with water. This is why this usually happens around the time of a nap transition. Your child doesn’t have enough awake time, so there is not enough wake time to refill the cup.
Another way to look at it without an analogy is that your child simply needs a certain amount of sleep in the day. When naps take too much of that sleep time, you lose nighttime sleep.
My recommendation is to check your wake windows. Is your little one ready to drop a nap? Do you need to cap the naps to reduce time asleep?
#3 NOT ENOUGH DAYTIME SLEEP OR BEDTIME IS TOO LATE
I know, I know. I JUST said that too much sleep could cause early morning wakings, but so can too little sleep. I’m sure if you’re reading this then you have dealt with an overtired baby. When a baby is overtired, it can look like hyperactivity.
When this happens, many parents think, “Well he must not be tired. Let’s do a later bedtime.” This sounds like the right thing to do, right? NOPE! Say this with me: later bedtimes do not equal later wake ups.
More times than not, an earlier bedtime will help your little one begin to sleep later. Try moving bedtime up by 30 minutes to see if that helps.
Around 6 months, I also recommend to move to more of a set schedule rather than using wake windows. When you use a set schedule, it is easier to see when your little one needs to take a nap and how long they need to be asleep. Another option if your little one isn't napping is to implement a crib hour. This is simply where you sleep train through an hour whether your child sleeps or not. Stay consistent with this for at least a week to see if your little one will begin napping again.
Odds are though that the reason for your little one's early morning waking is not just one thing. They are most likely a combination of multiple things. You have to look at the entire sleep puzzle to find the missing piece. If you need help finding that missing piece, contact me today. Let's talk about how we can work together to get your child back on track.