Early Morning Waking

Why is my little one waking early?

So, first things first, when it comes to early morning waking, we want to check that our little ones might not be cold. Now I know it seems really obvious, but these days we tend to be really worried about overheating, which is fair enough. However, it tends to then lead us to the opposite where we really aren’t keeping our little ones warm enough to get through the second half of the night.

This will be something to consider in winter. I recommend putting an oil heater on to make sure the room is neutral temp in winter, so it doesn’t need to be warmed, but just neutral and then dressing accordingly from there.

The next thing is could there be environmental noises coming into play or outside noises, for example, someone getting ready for work or birds chiming up in those early hours, that is waking your baby. You can use some white noise always on low to see if this helps muffle those external noises.

From there, it’s really important to look at if our little ones are going to bed overtired. A lot of people think if you put them to bed later or more tired, they will sleep later, but this really isn’t the case. In fact you only lose more night sleep and it often leads to even earlier waking. The reason being, the more tired your little one is when they go to bed, the higher levels of stress hormones they have, this really interferes with their ability to get into deeper sleep in the second half of the night. So instead, we want to make sure we keep them not too overtired when they go to bed. Have you tried a little earlier bedtime to see if that helps?

From there it’s very rare, but if your little one is having a significant amount of day sleep, you might want to reassess to check they aren't under tired. So, for example if you have a toddler who is waking early and they are still napping for two and a half to three hours in the day, once you’ve checked off everything else in this list, it might be worth taking 30 minutes off their nap. This is to then see if they put that 30 minutes you have taken off their nap back into their overnight sleep aka the morning. Alternatively, if you think they are getting a lot of day sleep, adding a little bit more awake time before bed might help also.

Is first nap happening too early and accommodating early mornings. You can try and hold off first nap by 15-30 minutes or their one day nap (if only on one nap) to a more reasonable time like 11 am to see if that helps.

The next thing is are we rewarding that early morning waking? So it’s really important to look at what happens when they get up. For example, are they getting TV time? Are they getting into your bed? Are they getting on the breast to constantly fall back asleep in your bed? Are you rewarding them in any way by getting up for that early morning? We want to– if they are babies– keep giving them the opportunity to resettle, especially if they aren’t due a feed. So this means going back to the method. Same goes for toddlers on the program.

If they are toddlers, you might want to use a Gro-Clock and make sure they stay in their bed until at least 5:30, then when they get up, make sure you wait at least 15 minutes or even 10 minutes before you offer a feed or anything too thrilling from there.

The next thing (usually the most important) is how they fall asleep will become what they want to get back to sleep. There are two issues with this in the early morning. So essentially self settling.

One is that if they use, for example, a dummy or rocking to sleep, when they are awakened at 4:35 AM, it is going to be so much harder for you to then be able to get them back to sleep once they are actually awakened at that point.

The other thing with your little one’s inability to self-settle is that they are more prone to staying on lighter surfaces of sleep and this makes it even harder for them to drift between sleep cycles. When little ones have the ability to self-settle, they are more likely to not only get into a deeper sleep, but they are able to not only know what to do when they awaken to quickly go back off to sleep again, they are more likely to drift more naturally between sleep cycles.

If you have a little one who is waking early and they aren’t due a feed, that is when you might want to employ the method to do a resettle, or if it is a toddler, I would be returning them to bed until any time from 5:30 AM. So, we want to remember that anytime from 5:30 AM is a reasonable wake-up time for a young child.

It’s not often that what your little one eats come into play when it comes to early mornings. If you are concerned, you could try adding some protein into one of the later meals of the day if it’s not there already.

For babies, if that is their first awakening of the night or they are 3 months and under and the last feed was more that 4 hours prior it maybe that they are genuinely hungry come the early hours and need a feed and then to go back down to sleep again.

The Gentle Sleep Specialist x