Your baby waking early in the morning or a nap can throw your day off. Adjust these factors to stop your little one from rising too soon.
It’s one thing to celebrate your baby finally putting herself to sleep, but what do you do when she wakes up early at the crack of dawn?
You’ve tried moving bedtime back to as late as 10pm with no luck—she’s still up by 5am. Sometimes she’s ready to get up for the day, while other times she clearly still needs more sleep. To make things worse, her early wake-ups are throwing off her nap schedule, making her cranky long before she’s supposed to sleep.
You’ve tried feeding her to sleep, blocking sunlight with blackout curtains, and using a white-noise machine, but after two hours, she won’t even close her eyes. You’re beyond exhausted getting up so early every morning.
Nothing in your sleep schedule—or life, for that matter—has changed. But while she used to sleep at least until 6am, she now just screams in her crib in the early morning hours.
She’s miserable first thing in the morning, when that first nap seems so far away. How do you make it to nap time with the baby waking early and clearly tired before then?
It’s beyond exhausting for the both of you.
How to stop your baby waking early
What’s the deal? You have a consistent bedtime routine, and thankfully, nighttime sleep is still okay. But day after day, your child wakes up early on the dot. You know she could use more sleep, since she’s cranky long before her first nap, and you don’t want to start any bad habits.
How do you get your early riser to stop waking up early and start the day well-rested?
As we all know, getting babies to sleep well is often done with trial-and-error. After all, you won’t find a one-size-fits-all solution that works for every baby. Instead, you fiddle here and there, hoping to find one that works for yours.
But what exactly can you change to stop your early bird from waking up so early? Thankfully, how early or late she sleeps rests on three factors that you can change and experiment with:
- Wake times
By tinkering with those three parts of your day, you’ll be on your way to helping her wake up at a normal hour. So, let’s learn what exactly you can do with each of those factors to stop your baby waking early:
1. Adjust bedtime
The first quick fix to adjust is bedtime. This is, after all, the last time you put her to bed and could be determining how early she wakes up.
Despite what you might think, a later bedtime usually doesn’t mean a later wake-up. In fact, if she’s sleeping past 8:30pm, gradually adjust bedtime earlier in 15-minute increments until you get closer to 8-8:30pm.
You see, being overtired could be the culprit causing her restless sleep and early wake-ups.
On the flip side, a drastically early wake-up could be contributing to the early wake-ups as well. Babies and kids need 11-12 hours of sleep a night, so a 6:30pm bedtime could mean a 5:30am wake-up.
Again, experiment with pushing bedtime back in 15-minute increments until you find the right bedtime. If, for instance, she wakes up after 11 hours of night sleep, put her down at 7:30pm if 6:30am is your ideal wake-up time.
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2. Adjust nap times
No other stage than the infant stage is rockier with nap times. While your baby may have napped five times as a newborn, she could easily go down to two by the time she turns a year old. Let’s just say that a lot of nap transitions happen that first year.
So, as you can imagine, changes in nap needs can lead to early morning wakings.
Like bedtime, her naps might be too early, too late, or too long. Perhaps the first mistake many parents make is having the last nap of the day too close to bedtime. Make sure she has enough time to be awake between the time she wakes up and the time she falls asleep.
How? Here are a few ideas:
- Wake her up from her last nap so she has enough time to be awake before bedtime.
- Cap the total number of hours she naps throughout the day—for instance, no more than three hours combined.
- Reduce the number of naps she takes—for instance, from three short naps to two longer ones.
What do you do when she’s miserable between waking up early and her first nap? Let’s say she woke up at 5am and is already cranky by 7am, even though her first nap isn’t supposed to be until 8:30am.
Compromise and adjust her first nap halfway between when she wants to sleep and when she should sleep. See if you can keep her awake until 7:45am, the middle ground between the two. Then, encourage her to take a longer nap so that she hopefully wakes up when she normally does.
And if her naps aren’t smooth the whole day, she’s likely overtired and needs an earlier bedtime.
3. Adjust wake times
Sometimes you simply have no luck with bedtime or naps. Your baby continues with her early morning wake ups early no matter how early or late bedtime may be, and you can’t get her to nap longer or later.
In that case, experiment with adjusting her wake times. Start by making sure she’s not awake too long, resulting in an overtired baby. Wake times can vary depending on her age. A six-month-old should nap every two hours of being awake, while an 11-month-old can stay awake for up to four hours.
On the flip side, see if you can increase her wake time to spread naps across the day. I found that the first wake time was the easiest to stretch—the morning is still new and baby feels fresh and ready to tackle the day.
What to do during early wake-ups
Let’s say your baby still wakes up early, even if once in a while. What do you do to help her fall back asleep, or at least learn that it’s not time to wake up yet?
First, unless you’re ready to start the day, don’t get her up just yet unless she’s hungry or needs a change. Even then, keep your demeanor low-key, from talking in whispers (if at all) and keeping the room dark.
Then, put her back in the crib until you’re ready to start the day. That way, she doesn’t tie crying with getting up for the day. Instead, reassure her that it’s still time to sleep or rest, and that you’ll start the day at 6:30am.
If she’s still crying, pop in about 10-15 minutes later to let her know you’re still here and that it’s time to sleep. Keep doing this until 6:30am (or whenever your “official” wake time) rolls around. Don’t forget to congratulate her for staying in bed—yep, even if she spent the whole time crying.
Waking up at early hours in the morning is no fun. But by adjusting three factors in your baby’s day—bedtime, naps, and wake times—you can help her sleep at least until you’re ready to be up for the day.
Experiment with moving bedtime earlier or later to prevent her from being overtired as well as to push wake times later. Adjust naps, from capping the total hours to reducing the number taken during the day.
Play with how long she’s awake between naps, depending on her age. And finally, should she wake up early, don’t start the day just yet. Instead, keep checking in until the official wake time to let her know it’s still time to sleep.
By experimenting with these three factors, you can finally stop your baby waking early — and your day off to a scream-free start.
Get more tips:
- How to Get a Teething Baby to Sleep
- What Having a “Spoiled Baby” Really Means
- How to Get a Sick Baby to Sleep
- A New Mom’s Guide to a Baby Fighting Sleep
- The Best Baby Sleep Books You Should Be Reading
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