So, you’ve gone through the sleep training struggle, followed the steps laid out in Sleep Training 101 and finally got your little one sleeping through the night.
You think you’ve won the battle only to encounter a new struggle…
Your baby is now waking up at 4 or 5 am, well before you’re ready to start your day.
Whether this has always been an issue or is a new found struggle, you are not alone!
Early morning wakings are a super common problem with infants and toddlers, so I’ve laid out my top tips to stop those early morning wakings and help you get those extra hours of blissful sleep!
Tip #1 Make Sure Your Baby is Not Overtired or Sleeping Too Much
It may seem counterintuitive that both of these things could cause the same problem but trust me, they can!
Believe it or not, an overtired baby has poorer and more fragmented sleep, making it harder for them to stay asleep in the mornings.
And a baby who is sleeping too much may just be fully well-rested at their current waking time and may not need any more sleep.
They may also be taking their last nap too close to bedtime which is counting towards their overnight instead of daytime sleep.
So you should examine their current daytime schedule including naps (you can find some help from my Napping 101 guide) and make sure your baby is getting the adequate amount of daytime sleep.
This may require some adjusting of nap and bedtimes until you find that sweet spot!
Tip #2 Keep Room Dark
Exposure to natural light from the sun is great when you are awake and going about your day.
It helps to make you feel more awake and energetic and helps ward off drowsiness.
But those things are not great during the early morning hours when you want your little one to be catching those last precious hours of sleep.
The sleep drive for babies (and anyone for that matter) is lowest in the mornings, making them more sensitive to any stimulant, including daylight.
So I recommend purchasing blackout curtains for your baby’s nursery to make sure the daylight sun isn’t bringing your baby’s sleep to a premature end.
Tip #3: Make Sure Room is Free of Extra Noises
This tip is similar to the last, in that any extra stimulus may be enough to disturb your baby’s sleep in those early morning hours.
This means increased traffic noise from outside, or family members entering baby’s room, or extra noises throughout the house can all be enough to disrupt your baby’s sleep.
If you think this could be interrupting your little one’s sleep, you can try using a white noise machine at night to help drown out some of the outside noise.
It can also help your little one fall asleep a little easier too!
Tip #4 Treat Early Morning Wakings Like Middle of the Night Wakings
Remember those boring middle of the night interactions we talked about in Sleep Training 101? Well, you should be treating an early morning waking in the same way.
You can either allow your little one to self soothe back to sleep or if you go in to check on them you should keep it boring with lights off, low voices and minimal interactions.
Then when you go in after the desired wake up time you should flip lights on, have a smile on your face and intonation in your voice.
This will help keep nighttime wakings separate from the “up for the day” waking and help your baby understand which is which.
Tip #5 Avoid Causing Learned Hunger
Now, this may not be the initial reason for the early morning waking but can surely reinforce it.
If you feed your baby right away, they will learn to be hungry and expect a meal during that time.
I’m NOT saying to starve your baby, but I do recommend pushing the first feed back later and later, while adding more calories during the day to help retrain your little one’s hunger drive in the morning.
There you have it for my top 5 tips to help end early morning wakings. I hope you find this helpful and always feel free to reach out with any questions or comments.