If your baby wakes up too early in the morning, it can be really hard to cope with it AND fix it.
I’ve heard “experts” say over and over again that anything after 5 AM is an acceptable wake-up time for babies.
Acceptable for whom?!
Our youngest baby, who kindly slept through the night at the age of four months, suddenly decided when he was 10 months old that 5 AM was a great time to get out of bed. Or sometimes even 4.30 AM. Or 3.30 AM once.
Big disaster! Our oldest son wanted to stay up until 9.30 PM and our youngest woke up at 5 AM (if we were lucky…). We didn’t have any time for ourselves, or for anything other than sleeping while the kids were sleeping.
So we tried all the tips we could find to change our baby’s sleep pattern. What finally worked? Well, read on!
It turned out that making babies sleep longer in the morning is hard and tips to deal with it are scarce. I’ll tell you here all the tips that I’ve learned. And remember, just because a particular tip didn’t work for us, it may still solve your problem.
Tips If Your Baby Wakes Up Too Early
Activities and daylight
Activities and daylight are really important to remember if your baby wakes up early, especially for really young babies. With older ones, this is often solved more or less automatically.
Daylight is important to help your baby’s body get used to being awake during the day and sleeping at night. Don’t draw the curtains when the baby is taking a nap. Place the bed out of the sun, but close to a window if it is not too drafty. Also, make sure to take your baby outside a lot.
Activities may seem odd for very young babies, but even being carried around in a sling or baby carrier or babbling and making eye contact are activities for a young baby.
If your baby is very young and seems to have days and nights mixed up, you’ll find tips on what to do here.
Sleeping in a dark room
Just like daylight is important during the day, darkness is very important at night. Melatonin, the sleep hormone, needs the darkness to tell the body to stay asleep.
Make sure your baby’s bedroom is really dark at night especially during summer. I think this was where our problems with our youngest baby began; our bedroom was much too light at night, and he got used to waking up at 5 AM.
For babies that are still quite young, and young enough to feed at night, dreamfeeding can help push the wake-up time.
For example, let’s say your baby falls asleep in the evening at 9 PM, wakes to feed at 1 AM, and then wakes to feed again at 4.30 AM. This last time, your baby is then quite alert after having slept since 9 PM.
You can try to push the wake-up time by dreamfeeding your baby when you go to bed. For example, if you dreamfeed at 11 PM, your baby may not wake up for the next feed until 2 AM. Then the baby will hopefully still tired enough to fall asleep again right away. Since the baby will be full, chances are that he or she will sleep past 4.30 AM.
It’s worth a try! To learn how to dreamfeed your baby, read this post.
Adjust the feeding and sleeping schedule
You might be struggling hard to delay your baby’s wake up time even by 10 minutes, only to notice that delaying your baby’s schedule a whole hour to adjust to daylight savings time will only take a few days…
Well, my interpretation of this is that you can’t just move one or two small parts of your baby’s routines (like only the wake-up time). You’ll have to move the whole schedule to have a real effect.
Go to bed later
Putting your baby or toddler to bed later at night might make your baby wake up later in the morning. It usually doesn’t. All you get is a fussier baby.
However, if you’re really persistent, and especially if your baby is not too young, it might work after a while. Some moms say that they’ve seen positive effects of this after a few weeks. I tried it and gave up – maybe too early.
Go to bed earlier
Funny enough, some babies sleep better and longer if put to bed earlier in the evening. If your baby seems very tired in the evening and still is hard to put to rest, consider trying half an hour earlier. It might just work.
Act as if it is still night
This is an expert piece of advice that I’ve read elsewhere (and desperately tried), so I had to include it:
When your baby wakes up at 5 AM or anytime that you think is too early, just act as if it is still nighttime. Do what you always do if your baby wakes up at night. This way your baby will learn that “morning” comes later… NOT! At least not my baby! It didn’t work at all!
Comfortable sleep environment
A cozy place to sleep is important, especially when dawn is approaching and many people, babies as well as adults, seem to be sleeping less heavily. Make sure your baby is not too warm or too cold.
For this purpose, I can really recommend a baby sleep bag (link to example at Amazon), unless you think your baby’s pajamas are enough to stay warm. I think the weight of a sleep bag – slightly heavier than a pajama, sometimes also makes the baby sleep better; it is like wearing a nice blanket.
If your baby is still not able to stand up, a baby sleep bag is usually easy to introduce. For older babies, it is not as certain that they’ll like it since it can limit their ability to move around. But it can still be worth a try.
Less sleep at daytime
Here is my last piece of advice and what finally solved our problem…
Less sleep at daytime.
Our youngest had always been a good sleeper during the day, but when we started to limit the length of his naps in the afternoon, he started to sleep longer at night almost immediately. What a relief! Suddenly our baby began to wake up at 6.30 AM instead.
If you want to try this, remember that you don’t have to keep an exhausted baby up. Just try to gently wake him up after an hour or whatever you think is appropriate due to your baby’s sleep patterns and age. Find average sleep hours and naps month by month here.
Good luck and sweet dreams! 🙂
And please share your own tips below and what worked and not! You’ll also find lots of discussions on baby sleep issues here.