Tried-and-True Solutions for When Your Baby Wakes Up at 5am

Wondering why your baby wakes up at 5am and won’t go back to sleep, despite all your attempts for a later wake-up? Join me as I share tried-and-true solutions to get your mornings off to a better start!

Baby Wakes Up at 5am

Five in the morning was no time to start the day, but my son had his own agenda. He’d wake up crying hysterically no matter what until I got him out of the crib. Rarely would he put himself back to sleep at that point. A 6am wake-up, which many might say is still too early, felt like a dream come true.

Given that many of us are still exhausted by that time, you might be tempted to do whatever it takes to get your baby back to sleep. From feeding to bringing him to your bed, these steps seem like easy “fixes.” But, as we all know, they’re not sustainable, and nor do they truly solve the problem.

I knew I couldn’t keep starting my mornings like this, so I researched what would actually help a baby sleep past that early hour. Thankfully, these tips worked, and our mornings got pushed back to a much more reasonable wake-up time of 7am. Take a look at these tips to see if they can work for you, too:

Limit your baby’s daytime sleep

How much sleep your baby gets during the day could very well affect how early she wakes up the next morning.

You see, too much daytime sleep—and when they happen—can make her nighttime sleep fitful. She could be napping so much that she gets enough sleep during the day. Perhaps her last nap is too early, which can push bedtime (and wake-up time) just as early, too. Or maybe she naps too late, not making her tired enough come bedtime, which can make her restless.

To start, make sure that she isn’t sleeping more than 3.5-4 hours during the day. Any more than that and she might be sleeping less at night.

Then, keep naps to no longer than 2 hours each. Once that 2-hour mark passes, wake her up so that she can either nap for the second one or be awake long enough to be sleepy come bedtime.

Lastly, wake her up from the last nap around 2.5-3 hours before bedtime. This gives her enough wake time to be tired for the night, but not for too long that she’s overtired and has a difficult time settling down. So, if bedtime is 7pm, make sure she’s up from her nap by 4-4:30pm.

Free resource: Interested in sleep training and teaching her to self-soothe? Grab 5 Mistakes That Keep Your Baby from Self Soothing—at no cost to you. You’ll also get my newsletters, which parents say they LOVE:

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5 Mistakes That Keep Your Baby from Self Soothing

Have a later bedtime

While most babies can sleep 11-12 hours straight at night, it’s also not unusual for a baby to be perfectly fine with just 10 hours. That means that a 5am wake-up just might be normal for a baby who goes to bed at 7pm.

If you suspect that your little one only needs 10 hours of sleep, try putting him down for a later bedtime. Let’s say 6am is your ideal wake-up time. If so, aim for an 8pm bedtime.

That said, I recommend that bedtime should be no later than 8:30pm. A late bedtime can make it harder for him to fall back asleep should he wake up early in the morning.

For example, if he sleeps at 7pm and wakes up at 3am, he’ll have an easier time going back to sleep for the rest of the morning. But if he sleeps at 9pm and wakes up at 5am, then falling back asleep is much harder now that it’s later in the morning.

Stop using sleep aids

In the newborn months, sleep aids were lifesavers, considering that a baby needs all the help he can get to fall asleep.

But at 5 months, your little one is likely able to sleep on his own. The longer he relies on unsustainable sleep aids, the fewer chances he has to learn this skill. He’s also outgrowing many of them and can no longer fit into the swaddle or the swing that had once helped so much. And he can’t exactly find and reinsert a lost pacifier on his own.

Even nursing or feeding can be problematic if he uses it to fall asleep. If he’s not hungry for a feeding, he may wake up at 5am demanding a feed if only to fall back asleep once more.

Think about the sleep aids that require you to make them work and consider dropping them completely. Feed him after he wakes up from a nap, not to fall asleep. Or move the bedtime feeding at the beginning of your routine, not at the end, to prevent him from dosing off while eating.

That way, you can put him down awake, giving him an opportunity to learn to self-soothe and sleep.

Keep the room dark and use white noise

As we learned, most sleep aids are unsustainable. Your baby outgrows them (swings and swaddles) or he needs you to do it for him (feeding or inserting a pacifier). This is why I wanted to stop rocking my baby to sleep—as “effective” as it was, it wasn’t something he could do on his own.

But some sleep aids are helpful because they don’t require constant intervention on your part for them to work.

I’m talking about keeping the room pitch black and using white noise.

A dark room can help your little one stay asleep even when the morning hours invite a lot of light that can wake him up. Hang darkening curtains to block sunlight peeking in as well as lights from the neighborhood or even your own home.

Then, use a white noise machine to muffle sudden sounds that can startle him awake. This might be the neighbor’s car driving off to you preparing breakfast for the day.

The combination of a dark room with white noise is a godsend during those early morning hours when you’re trying to extend his sleep as long as possible.

Expert tip

Are you still sleeping in the same room as your baby? Consider having him sleep in his own room. It can be difficult to share, especially in the early morning when sleep is light. He’s likely to stir when he hears or senses you waking and moving about.

Wait until the official wake-up time

It’s all too tempting to console your baby the instant you hear him cry—yep, even if this means starting your day at 5am. But the more you “reward” his cries with attention, the more this reinforces the very behavior you’re trying to stop.

Don’t get him up, feed him a bottle, or otherwise entertain him to quiet him down. If you’re concerned about poop in his diaper, a quick sniff will tell you if he needs a change without picking him up.

Instead, check in every few minutes until the “official” wake-up time.

Go into his room and let him know that it’s still time to sleep. Close the door and set your timer for 5 minutes. If he’s still crying by then, check in again, but this time, set your timer for 10 minutes. Repeat if he’s still crying at that point, but check in at 15 minutes (and every 15 minutes thereafter) until wake-up time.

Let’s say you don’t want to get him up until 6am. You would check in at 5am, 5:05am, 5:15am, 5:30am, 5:45am, and finally get him up at 6am.

The point isn’t to soothe him back to sleep so much as to set new expectations. He’ll learn that, should he wake up, he can wait for you to come get him or even go back to sleep. That the day doesn’t start the minute he wakes up crying and grunting.

And if he’s playing in the crib instead of sleeping, so long as he’s content, leave him be. There’s no need to go in the room unless he’s crying.

Baby Playing in Crib Instead of Sleeping

Wean from early morning feedings

You might be used to getting your baby up at 5am for a feeding, especially if doing so means she can sleep an additional hour or two afterward. Even though this seems like a better option than starting your day at 5am, it’s only a “bandaid fix” that still leaves you so tired.

To stop her from waking up so early, wean from early morning feedings, especially if she’s past the newborn stage and can take in all her calories during the day.

Since she may still rely on feeding to eat (as opposed to using it to go back to sleep), wean her gradually day by day. Decrease the amount she consumes by two minutes if she’s breastfeeding or half an ounce if she’s bottle-feeding.

Let’s say she nurses for 20 minutes. On the first morning, feed her for 18 minutes, then 16 minutes the next, and then 14, and so forth.

To make up for the lost milk, add those minutes at the official wake-up time. On the first day, nurse her for two additional minutes when you finally get her up. On the second, add another two minutes, and so forth.

The goal is to decrease her intake at 5am and instead encourage her to consume all her calories during the day.

Switch to overnight diapers

On some occasions, your baby might be waking up at 5am because he keeps peeing through his diaper at night. If you find that this is often the case, consider switching to overnight diapers.

His diaper might be too full come morning time that he can’t fall back asleep comfortably. Overnight diapers, while still in the size he’s currently wearing, can potentially absorb more pee and keep his bottom dry.

Then, to prevent rashes from starting, add a thick layer of cream when you change his diaper at bedtime. That way, whatever moisture he feels won’t contribute to rashes developing (or worsen any that are already there).

Frequently asked questions

How can I tell if my baby is fine with the hours he sleeps at night?

Your baby may be fine with fewer hours at night, say 10-11 hours, when he seems happy and content before the first nap of the day. But if he seems cranky and tired, he likely needs more nighttime sleep.

If I want to change bedtimes, should I do it all in one night or gradually?

If your new bedtime is too different from what your baby is used to, adjust it in 15-20 minute increments to help him get used to his new schedule.

The bottom line

Five in the morning is no time to start the day just because your baby wakes up crying. With these tips, you can finally extend his sleep and wake up later in the day—truly a dream come true!

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5 Mistakes That Keep Your Baby from Self Soothing

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