The Dreaded Early Wake Up
Next to frequent night wakings, early wake ups are the most common complaint I get from parents. And it’s not even usually a complaint. Parents will tell me, “Well he sleeps through the night but he’s up at 4:30 or 5:00 most mornings. But at least he sleeps through the night.” I have news for you: if your child is waking before 6am for the day, they are not sleeping through the night! And we can change that! Here are my tips to deal with early morning or as I call them, night wakings.
- Baby is overtired: This seems counter intuitive but kids that are overtired often have trouble sleeping. Usually the quickest way to fix an early wake up to adjust your schedule so baby is getting an appropriate amount of sleep. Moving bedtime earlier (between 6:30-7:30) for most kids is ideal. Wondering how much sleep your child should be getting? Check out this blog post for more info.
- Baby isn't tired: This is rarely the case, but I do need to mention it. If your child is sleeping to much during the day, napping too close to bedtime or going to bed too early, they may wake early. When I suspect this is the issue, the first recommendation I make to parents is to put a time limit on naps. Don't let baby sleep through a feeding. Or for older children, don't let them take a 3 hour afternoon nap if they're waking too early. If they're taking a 3 hour nap and still sleeping well at night, congratulations - you have a great sleeper!
- Early wake up is being reinforced: I dealt with this with my first child. At 18 months, he was waking at 6:00 and then 5:30 and then 5:00. I would bring him into our bedroom, turn on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and give him a waffle so I could go back to sleep. Turns out he really loved that morning ritual and would wake earlier and earlier for it. If your child wakes early, keep engagement to a minimum so your child realizes nothing fun is happening before 6:00.
- The room is too bright: Blackout shades are a must, especially in the summer when the sun comes up early. Do not let your baby be awakened by the sun! Invest in quality blackout shades so your child is waking with their internal clock, not the sun.
- Treat early wake ups as night wakings: Sometimes you can have the perfect schedule and the perfect routine, but baby still wakes early. This is when I suggest treating any wake up before 6:00 as a night waking. Use a sleep training method you are comfortable with until baby goes back to sleep. It may take a few days, but it works!
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