Does your child wake up at the crack of dawn? Do you want to know how to make your child sleep in later? Or wonder, "Why is my child waking so early?"
If your child is waking between 4:30-6:00am, this is considered an "early rising." Ideally, we want to see babies sleep past 6:00am each day (and be up by 8:00am). Do you want to help your child sleep in? Here are the top five reasons for early risings, and how to fix them!
Top 5 Reasons for Early Risings
Reason 1: The room lets in light. Some kids are super sensitive to light, meaning as soon as the sun rises, they are up. If you enter their room and you can tell it's morning, that means it's too bright!
Solution: Make sure the room is pitch black, regardless of the time of day. Use blackout shades/curtains AND cover up the windows (if needed). A low-cost option for blocking out light is to tape black trash bags over the window. You can also place a blanket at the base of the door to block out hallway light! Anywhere that light seeps in, cover it. This might fix your problem all together!
Reason 2: The noise of the world wakes them up. For those sensitive sleepers, the early morning car noises, truck sounds, and birds chirping indicates the day has started and it’s time to wake!
Solution: Use a white noise machine and place it near the noisiest part of the room. For some, that may be near the door, others the window. You can crank that machine to 50 decibels (according to the AAP). To determine how loud the machine is, use an app (example: Decibel X) and hold it near your child’s ear while the sound machine is on. Depending on their distance from the machine, the decibel reading will change. Make sure the reading is not above 50 decibels (I recommend 45-49 decibels for maximum effectiveness) and you’re good!
Reason 3: They are getting too much or too little day sleep. See chart below for recommended day sleep totals. If their day sleep is off, it will affect night sleep.
Day Sleep Totals by Age:
0-3 Months: 7-9 Hours
4-6 Months: 3-4.5 Hours
7-12 Months: 2.5-4 Hours
1-2 Years: 1.5-3 Hours
3-4 Years: 0-1.5 Hours
Solution: If your child is over the maximum, cut back their longest nap so they fit in the suggested range. If they aren’t napping enough, attempt to extend their day sleep by using a contact nap. This can help break the overtired cycle, which will then allow them to eventually nap without these methods.
See 5 Key Causes of Short Naps for more info.
Reason 4: They are going to bed too early or too late. The last wake window of the day is important for night sleep success. You want to make sure they are not undertired (and therefore waking up early) or overtired (and still waking up early!).
Solution: Adjust their schedule so that they go to bed at a more ideal time. See my Watching Wake Windows blog post for the ideal window for your child. Remember that the last wake window of the day is the long end of the range! Here is my suggested bedtime based on age, though watching that last wake window takes precedent!
Reason 5: They are hungry. Especially in babies under 12 months, 4-5:30am is a common time to request a feeding. Even if they previously slept through the night, if this becomes a recurring pattern, they might be going through a growth spurt and now need a feed at that time. That’s ok! It won’t last forever and you can wean them from that night feed again when ready. See my FREE guide on night weaning for support: How to Night Wean in 5 Nights (or Less)!
Solution: Feed them! Don’t let them cry for too long such that they get worked up and can’t go back to sleep. You likely know their signs, so watch for any sign that says they are going to be fully awake soon, and intervene BEFORE then! Feed them in the dark room, making as little noise as possible, and put them back in their crib. With any luck, you should get another 2ish hours of sleep out of them!
- For babies 18+ months, an “ok to wake” clock can be super helpful! The Hatch is a great option, though there are plenty of similar ones on the market today for less money. These clocks are great because you can program the clock to turn green when you want the day to start! You can also program it to turn yellow to show that morning is coming, but it’s not quite time yet. Red is usually the color representing “bed,” because it rhymes and is also the least stimulating color on the eyes at night. For toddlers, this visual cue helps them know when it's ok to wake up and when it's still night and therefore time to sleep!
- Use a “dramatic wake-up” routine to emphasize the start of the day verses any mid-night intervening. This just means that when you want the day to begin, you enter the room with a big, loud “GOOD MORNING!” and pick up baby for hugs and kisses. This will indicate it is indeed time to start the day, versus a middle-of-the-night interaction when you are calm and hushed.
As with any parenting technique, consistency is key! If you make adjustments in hopes of minimizing early risings, make sure to stay consistent with that adjustment for at least five days before declaring it doesn't work. Give baby time to adjust and I bet they will surprise you!
As always, if you want support helping your little one to sleep in later, send me an email! I'd love to help. Also, check out my sleep coaching packages for 1:1 support!
Wishing you all the best &
lots of rest,