Most everyone has dealt with their child waking up at the crack of dawn looking to start their day. You instantly hear them, look at the clock and notice it's only 4:45am. Ughh been there. But how can we help our baby get back to sleep and adjust this habit? You need to look at the bigger picture and ask yourself a few questions:
What time is your child going to bed? If your child is going to bed too early, having an early wakeup time should be expected. On average, a baby should be getting roughly 10-11 hours of sleep a night. Ideally I LOVE seeing a 12 hour night for a child, but realistically that's aiming high. But if your child has a 6am bedtime and sleeps for what the given average is (10-11 hours) you are looking to see that beautiful baby rise close to 4 or 5am!! Push back their bedtime a bit and adjust the naps in the day to help eliminate this issue.
Now, the opposite could also be happening. If your child is going to bed too late and continues to wake up early, nine times out of ten it's due to the fact that you have an overtired child on your hands. Find the right bedtime (between 6:30pm-8pm) and be consistent about this set time. Don't let your child overcompensate in the day during their naps. I often see where a child will wake bright-eyed and bushy tailed at 5am ready to start the day and become so exhausted from the early morning that they sleep for hours for both their morning and afternoon naps. Cut some of the time down and bring up the bedtime to see if you can have a nice balanced schedule for your baby.
Does your child have a sleep association? Does your child HAVE TO fall asleep with an item or with someone? If the answer is an absolute yes, then don't be surprised if you see those early morning habits continue. Whether it be a pacifier, being rocked to sleep, being nursed to sleep, taking a bottle, having a back rub, etc... when your child comes in and out of their sleep cycles, they look for support to get them back into that deep cycle of sleep. When your child doesn't know how else to fall asleep other then with a "prop" as we like to call it, they wake looking for object. If they know how to self soothe or fall asleep on their own, this isn't an issue. They will easily be able to get in and out of light and deep cycles of sleep without waking up or needing assistance.
Is your baby waking due to an internal body clock habit? This is the most common issue when it comes to an early riser. A regression may have hit, growth spurt, teething, etc.. and all of the sudden your child wakes in the early morning hours like clock work. Sometimes to the exact minute. And the worst part of it all, your child is more then likely still exhausted but can't get back to sleep. Makes for a very LONG morning! How do you begin to help this situation?
- Make sure your baby's room is DARK! Any trickle of light can stimulate a child and create a wakeful state. The darker the room, the better. Get some black out shades and remove any night lights.
- If your child is waking due to hunger, feed them immediately in their room with the lights dim. Do your best to keep them in a quiet and boring state. Any type of stimulation can cause them to get that burst of energy and want to stay up. Once you have done feeding them, immediately put them back into their crib and walk out the door. If this routine has been in place for quite some time and your child doesn't need a feeding any more, begin weaning them from their feeding.
- Use the "wake to sleep" approach. This great technique was created by The Baby Sleep Whisperer, Tracy Hoagg, who uses this method when a baby wakes habitually during the night, in the early morning or for their naps. Follow the technique for 3-5 days to see results!
- Sleep Train. Choose a method you feel comfortable using and choose a time you are wanting your child to sleep until. Do your best to push towards that goal but realize, it will take some time. Be patient and consistent!
If you find that you need additional help knowing where to begin after trying all of the above, contact us! We can create a tailored made plan and dig deep into why your child could be continuing to wake early.