Early wake ups can be very frustrating for parents. Just when you think you’re going to get a full night sleep – BAM! Baby starts waking up at 5am. This is a really common problem and there are a few things we can look at to help babies sleep for longer.
Keep it super dark in baby’s room
If possible, as dark as it would be in the middle of the night, especially in the summer months. It’s really important to keep the light out because even the slightest change in light variation can stimulate anybody to wake up.
As an adult, you can look at the clock and notice that it’s not time to get up yet. A baby can’t do that.
If possible, have a system that allows for the baby’s room to be maintained around 18-21 degrees throughout the night. This is especially important in the early hours of the morning (around 4am is often the coldest part of the night). If baby wakes up in the early morning due to being cold, it can often lead to an early morning wake up. It can then be tricky for them to go back to sleep.
Just as the change of light in the early hours of the morning can stimulate wake ups, so can changes in noise levels.
Babies are often in a very light sleep around 5am. If you have someone in the household getting up for a shower to go to work, or have a family of magpies outside that like to sing at the crack of dawn, I highly recommend a white noise machine.
Put it on at the bedtime routine. Turn it off once baby wakes for the day. I would also use it for day naps to drown out inside and outside noises.
A lot of people make the mistake of keeping their child up later so they will sleep later in the morning. That’s a myth and hardly ever works. What you actually end up doing is making your child over-tired which leads to night wakings and early rising.
So make sure you stick with a nice early bedtime to make sure your child is getting as much night sleep as possible.
Food intake throughout the day
I know a lot of people tend to force large dinners on children hoping they will sleep longer overnight. That can sometimes backfire. If you have a really big dinner and full when you go to bed, you can actually be kept awake from tummy pains while your body is trying to digest. If bub is awake for a long period prior to falling asleep, this will cause over tiredness. This often results in early morning wake ups.
One thing you can try, is to make sure you give your child a decent size afternoon tea. Preferably something healthy and filling, like fruit with yogurt, milk and some sugar free cookies. Then reduce the size of dinner.
Delay getting them up for the day
If you get into the habit of getting baby up out of the cot each morning when they wake at 5am, their body will start waking up at 5am more regularly and the expectation is set that they get up as soon as they wake. Wait until at least 6am before you get baby up. Move that time gradually to 7am and stay there, no going back. Up time is 7am each day (or later if they are still asleep of course!).
Leave a buffer before you feed
Don’t jump straight into a feed on get up. A feed can be an incentive to wake. Pop another activity in before you do a feed. This goes hand in hand with leaving baby in the cot until after 6am at least. So work towards moving that feed out towards 7am and a bit after. It is good for his body to have a regular morning feed time.
If you have tried all of these things and your baby is STILL waking up early, hang in there.
It’s normally a temporary thing. If it turns out to be constant, rather than temporary, you may have to look at your baby’s overall sleep pattern.