Early Mornings are for the Birds.
Early Morning Wakings
4:30 a.m. is not morning. Heck, in my book, nothing before 6:00 a.m. is morning! Before 6:00 a.m. is for the birds.
Most children will wake naturally for the day between 6:00 and 7:00 a.m. If your child is consistently waking earlier than 6:00 a.m., and they are getting less than 10 hours of sleep at night, we have some work to do - this post is for you!
Also, if you're a mom of multiples like me....3 early birds (4 total in my case) is definitely not ok.
There are SO MANY things that can cause early morning wakings. Before you even *think* about tackling early morning wakings, there are a few things we need to make sure are happening first.
Is it dark enough? It needs to be SO DARK. You shouldn’t be able to see anything through the black that is your child’s nursery. No sunlight peeping in. No lights from electronics. DARK.
Are you using white noise? White noise can help drown out any exterior sounds that might cause a waking. It is also soothing because it sounds similar to the womb - your baby spent 9 months in that cozy, dark place!
Is your child well-rested? Using this chart, see if your child is falling within these guidelines. If not...here are some things to consider:
Does your child have enough sleep pressure built up to carry them through a whole night? If your child isn’t tired enough at bedtime, this could cause an early morning waking, simply because they aren’t tired enough anymore. Any slight arousal could turn into a full awakening if there’s not enough sleep pressure built up at bedtime. Make sure the last wake window of the day is the longest one. See this post on wake windows. I’m not a big fan of capping naps because most children don’t nap longer than 2.5 hours anyway, but if your child does, it might be time to consider if there is too much sleep occurring during the day and not enough at night. You should be getting 10-12 hours of sleep out of your little one at night. We also want nighttime sleep to be the priority because it is more restorative than daytime sleep.
Are there toys or stuffed animals in the bed? Your child might wake up and decide it’s time to play. They don’t need anything in the crib with them, especially if they’re under 12 months old. If older than 12 months, one lovey or blankie item would be appropriate.
Is your child too hot? Too cold? The best temperature for sleeping is between 68-72 degrees. And, are they dressed appropriately for the room temperature?
Are they going through a developmental milestone? Rolling? Crawling, Walking? Have they recently had a language burst? All of these things can show up as early mornings too - give it a full 14 days if you suspect this might be the case. If it is, it will likely pass in this time.
Is your child hungry? Some babies will still need night feeds until 8 or 9 months old. Most with adequate sleep skills will drop night feeds on their own sooner than that. Also, consider, are they waking out of hunger or out of habit? It might be time to remove the night feeds. I know, so much to consider!
Are you inadvertently reinforcing the behavior by getting your baby up at 4:30 a.m.? What is happening when your baby awakens? How are you responding? Are they being rewarded with a feed or playtime at this time?
Are you keeping your child in their bed until 6:00 a.m.? If you don’t give them the opportunity to fall back asleep, they won’t!
If your child is older than 16 weeks, are they getting drowsy during the bedtime routine? It’s time to lay baby down totally awake! Drowsiness at bedtime can cause early wakings.
Does your child have independent sleep skills? If your child is dependent on something you’re doing to get them to sleep, guess what they’re going to need at 4:30 a.m. when they wake up in order to go back to sleep?? YOU! And having their absolute favorite person in the world come into their room at 4:30 a.m. when there isn’t much sleep pressure is a recipe for disaster if you’re thinking you can get your child back to sleep at that time. They’re going to see you and want to start the day! While this works for some people, there comes a time when it just doesn’t anymore. If it’s not working for you anymore, it might be time to consider teaching your child some independent sleep skills.
I’m still learning all about early mornings with my own children. Sleep is a puzzle and it’s different for every child and every family. What works for one child may not work for another, so trial and error is the name of the game.
And if you need help with figuring out how all these pieces fit together, that’s what I'm here for! Let’s chat about how I can help you.