When parents are figuring out sleep for their little ones, they’re always ecstatic when their baby starts to sleep through the night! Except sometimes that “night” ends around 5 am and no one is ecstatic about a recurring early morning wake-up call from their little one.
If you consistently see your sweet baby before the sun is up, read on for some troubleshooting tips.
What defines an early wake-up?
Before we can fix an early wake-up, we need to know exactly what an “early wake-up” is — because if you’re not a morning person, you may consider 7 am or 8 am “early!”
It is not an early morning if…
- It has been more than 10/10.5 hours of sleep
- It is past 6am
- They are hitting their average sleep needs between day and night sleep
- They wake up and fall back to sleep
- They wake within 30 minutes of desired wake time
I know waking at 6am isn’t “ideal” and everyone would love if their child slept until 8/9am but not every child’s circadian rhythm is wired for that! Waking between 6-8am is normal.
If you have an independent sleeper who is NOW having early mornings you will want to ask yourself are they overtired, under-tired, or is it their environment? Are they in the early waking/early bedtime cycle? So many different things can cause early wakings— it really is sometimes just a process of elimination!
So how do we fix a pre-6 am wake-up?
1. Check your sleep environment.
Light reinforces a wake-up, even a little tiny bit. Our little one's brain processes that light — and boom — night time is over! Also, consider white noise (if you don’t already) to block out any noise both outside and inside (especially if others in the house are up early).
Easy fix: Cover every inch of light coming in a window (doesn’t have to look pretty) and consider covering little lights like from a video camera, humidifier, etc. This is why using a SlumberPod is so great, especially when traveling!
2. Make sure nothing fun happens before 6 am.
This means we aren’t getting them up to watch television early in the morning while we nurse, for example. Your child could start waking earlier and earlier in anticipation of doing something fun — including eating!
Easy fix: Consider delaying feeding by 10-15 minutes by doing a diaper change, going around the house and saying good morning to objects, turning on lights and opening window blinds. Then feed after adding some space between waking and feeding.
3. Check your schedule.
The most common cause of an early morning is either too long of an awake time before bed or too early/too short of an awake time before the first nap. Both will perpetuate the early morning cycle!
Easy fix: Try an earlier bedtime or a later first nap.
4. Lack of independent sleeping skills.
It can be very difficult to connect the light morning sleep cycles when they’ve had a good chunk of night sleep prior to that.
Easy fix: Consider some form of sleep training in order for them to learn to sleep through the light early morning sleep cycles. Either way, form a consistent response to their early waking and consider a “no out of bed before X” time.
5. Maybe it’s the …. Early waking / Early Bedtime Cycle
- Your child’s bedtime consistently happens early (~6pm)
- Your child is sleeping 10.5 hours +
- Your child is getting necessary amount of day sleep
Easy fix: While I love a 6pm bedtime when appropriate, if your child is constantly going to sleep at 6pm and sleeping over 10.5 hours, you need a schedule change! Shift their out of crib time by 15 minutes for a day or two and keep shifting until you reach your designated wake time of 6:30/7am out of crib time while also shifting your entire day with naps and bedtime!
Is it possible to have a natural early bird?
Technically, yes. Your child could simply be wired to wake around 6 am. But remember, anything before that time is still night/early morning and with these tips, you can get them to sleep until at least 6 am. You could even try to shift them to closer to 7 am!
Don’t be discouraged, a small schedule shift is possible. Keep in mind — this could also be a phase, and phases don’t last forever!
Hi! I’m Ashley Olson, certified pediatric sleep consultant, certified breastfeeding counselor, certified infant massage instructor, mama of 3 (and one on the way), and founder of Heaven Sent Sleep.
Note: Guest blog posts are shared for informational and educational purposes and may not reflect the official policy or position of SlumberPod (parent company, Dovetail Essentials, LLC), our employees and/or contractors.
This blog post was originally published in 2019 but has been updated for 2022.