Updated: Jul 5
Do you have a baby or toddler who is waking early in the morning?
When you see the monitor go off, look at the clock and think.... no... this hour starts with a 5, or even earlier! Please just a little longer, please. And how do you know 'What is too early?'
Some of us as adults are early birds, however I think it's safe to say that unless it's a work day or there is a much needed holiday with an early flight to catch, there is no desire to start the day pre 6am. Anything after 6am, a cup of coffee can solve.
Why is it so hard to settle babies and toddlers during the early mornings?
Sleep pressures (the feeling of being tired) start to wear off as we have had a good chunk of sleep under our belts, between the hours of 4 - 6 am.
With the sun starting to rise, getting lighter outside, we are also in a lighter cycle of sleep, these are all factors to rising early.
Our little ones can't tell the time and drift back off to sleep like we can, and these are all factors telling us it's time to get up! And they may need our help to get back off to sleep.
What are early morning wakes?
Early morning wakes generally happen between 4 - 6am. Anytime before that, is a night wake.
Post 6am, is fair to start the day and most little ones start the day somewhere between 6 - 7am, so an early morning wake is classed as pre 6am.
How can I fix an early morning wake?
1. Blackout Blinds
At around 4am, our hormones start to get us ready to start the day. Light brings this on and speeds this up signalling its 'time to get up!'.
Light is really stimulating upon waking and your little one will find it harder to get back to sleep.
Invest in a Blackout blind, or create your own with some blackout fabric and thick tape.
One that sits snug to the window and not letting any light through, and I mean not a single peep. If you can see you way around the room with the blind up, it's still too bright in the room.
2. Limit noise
Are the birds singing really loudly, dustmen arriving, central heating clicking on, Dad's alarm going off or going in the shower?
All of these when happening early morning can be enough to fully wake your little one and usually with very little chance of them getting back off to sleep.
Having white noise can really help to distract away from all of these by keeping the noise in the bedroom consistent. Volume wise, think something about the noise of a shower.
Don't worry though. You can wean babies off white noise when the time comes. Don't panic that they need to learn to sleep without it when they are older, they will.
3. Bring bedtime earlier
Don't be tempted to put them to bed late to see if it helps with a later morning. The reality is likely that it won't make a difference and your result will be getting up at the same time with an evening where you had even less time for yourself.
It may not seem to make sense, but even bringing bedtime earlier by 30 minutes can be the missing piece in the puzzle to solve an early morning wake.
If you have a newborn, an early bedtime is not needed, and can often be helpful to make bedtime a little later from 8 - 9 pm.
4. Make the first nap of the day later
Yes, they have been up since 5am, and the first nap of the day seems to happen around 7.30am, however keeping this nap early is a sure way for them to catch up on missed night time sleep, however it will mean they will continue to wake early.
Look at stretching that wake window to start from 6am. You can start slowly, and yes this means they may be awake for longer than the wake window but gradually move it.
5. Look at the balance of daytime sleep
Sometimes, an early wake is because they have had enough sleep over a 24 hour period and they simply are not tired enough to sleep those extra couple of hours in the morning.
Or the reverse, they have not had enough and really struggle to resettle.
A balance of day and night sleep is needed. Take a look at my Free Guide to Naps to get the right balance of sleep for your little ones age.
6. What happens at night wakes?
It may sound strange to talk about what happens at night wakes when talking about starting the day early, however if they are needing something to fall back asleep during the night, it is likely they are needing this at their 5am early morning wake too.
They are likely to have a good period of sleep by this point, so it may be even more difficult for them to drift back off without this by themselves.
If your little one needs help falling asleep or back to sleep more independently, I have sleep packages to support you.
It does take time, as well as a new approach with consistency. It's unlikely that this will all click into place tomorrow morning, however identifying the reason for the wake, and taking those first steps will help you to drop out of the 5am club!
Need 1:1 help to solve your early mornings?
Book a free 15 minute Discovery Call and let's see how we can work together to make setting your actual phone alarm a reality.