Kids & Company Blog

Why is My Baby Waking Up So Early?

This blog is written by our guest author, Alana Metallo, Certified Sleep Consultant from MetaSleep Consulting. MetaSleep helps families navigate sleep and live a well-rested lifestyle. Through consultation, they educate, guide, and support families about the benefits of healthy sleep, and help parents create a customized sleep routine for their children’s naps and bedtime.

“Why is my baby waking up so early?” is one of the most common questions received from tired families. While it can take some digging to determine the cause of the early wakes, with some time, patience, and consistency, you can shift wake-up to a more reasonablepracticable timeframe. 

An early wake is the time from 5:00-6:00 AM where babies rise and are ready to start their day. There is always a reason for early wakes. It is important to determine why your baby is waking up during these wee hours of the morning. 

If your child is dependent on an association, such as holding, rocking, and feeding for sleep, they will play a primary role in why your child is experiencing early morning wakes. To shift your child’s sleep schedule, you will need to work to eliminate sleep associations first. When children have independent sleep skills, they can put themselves to sleep on their own, without the assistance of outside resources. 

What could be causing early morning wakes?

Room is too bright – optimal sleep spaces are very dark. Darkness is even more important in the summer (and spring) months as the sun rises earlier and sets later in the day. Using black out blinds and/or curtains help keep the room dark. Darkness naturally increases the body's melatonin levels and promotes sleep.

Temperature – seasonal changes can alter the room temperature where your child is sleeping. The optimal room temperature is 20-22 degrees Celsius or 68-71.6 degrees Fahrenheit. You can help to regulate your child’s body temperatures by dressing accordingly. In cooler months, you can use footed pajamas, a onesie, and a sleep sack with a Thermal Overall Grade (TOG) of 2.5. In warmer months, you can use lighter pajamas and a sleep sack with a TOG of 0.5-1.0.

Outside noise – spring and summer months bring out the calls of nature (ex. birds chirping). Animals inside your home can also wake up your family members. Additionally, racing cars, fireworks, snowploughs, emergency vehicles, etc. can all cause your child to wake at unexpected times. The use of a sound machine will help to block out these external sounds and allow your child to sleep without interruptions. When using a sound machine, it should run continuously using white noise or rain sounds.

Overtired – when children are overtired, their bodies have a hard time settling and sleeping for longer stretches of time. Sleep gets more sleep. If you are hoping that putting your child to bed later will make them “sleep in,” it generally doesn’t happen. It is best to ensure your child has an age-appropriate bedtime. Up to about 18 months, bedtime generally falls around 7:00 PM, depending on how well or poor naps went. As children grow, they can stay awake for longer stretches of time, and bedtime will become around 7:30 PM.

Developmental Milestones – as your child grows, they are continuously achieving milestones along the way. These can include rolling, crawling, standing, talking, walking, etc. These progressions in your child’s life can impact sleep. You will want to avoid implementing sleep associations while your child is going through their developmental leap. Consistency is key to overcoming these new skills.

Hunger – hunger can be a cause of early rising, especially in babies under 6 months, if no other night feed took place. Ensure that your baby has full feeds during the daytime, so they aren’t hungry at night. 

What to do when your baby/toddler wakes early?

Despite your best efforts, not all children will go back to sleep. To prevent your child from becoming overtired, you can try the following:

  • Shift the first nap earlier so they can catch up on lost sleep
  • Allow for longer naps (max 2 hours)
  • Earlier bedtime (as early as 6 PM)

Making changes to sleep takes time, patience and consistency. Allow at least one week of consistency to evaluate if the plan you have in place is effective. If you have tried all the above and are still struggling with your child’s early morning wakes, their wakes could be habitual or have another underlying cause. Your family might benefit from gentle sleep coaching methods. MetaSleep provides methods that are informative, supportive, and guided, which will help you and your child to live a well-rested lifestyle. 

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