How to improve the dreaded "before 6:00am" wake up calls from your baby / toddler
Besides the endless diaper changes, sore nipples and all of the other wonderful things we acquire with motherhood, the one thing that is probably the hardest to get used to is less sleep and early mornings.
After I had the twins, I recall wishing I would have spent more time sleeping in every morning when I was pregnant and on bedrest for those long 10.5 weeks of my life. Little did I know that I would reminisce and miss those days of "sleeping in freedom." When I didn't have to rush out of bed to feed anybody at 2:00am. Ten years and three kids later – I am still missing these days (sigh). However, I did prioritize the sleep thing as much as I could so that all of my children sleep until at least 7:00am -7:30am. Which may not sound like a big deal to you, but I know for a fact there are many moms out there that deal with early morning risers. As early as 5:00am – which anything before 6:30am is unacceptable in my book, and anything after 7:00am is a-OK.
Do you have an early riser? If you said yes, then let’s take a look at the most common culprits that could be causing your baby or toddler to wake up early because there’s usually a reason for it.
1. Room Darkness– Especially in the summer the sun is up early. If your little one’s bedroom is too bright this could be waking your baby up and she may have a hard time going back to sleep. I tell my clients that you want to keep the room dark, dark, dark. So dark that you can’t read a piece of paper in front of you. A baby doesn’t have the capability to be scared of the dark until she has an imagination, and this doesn’t happen until close to 2.5 - 3 years of age.
2. Hunger– If your baby is 7 months and younger and you haven’t fed your baby for 3.5 – 4 hours then she could be waking out of hunger. Many babies will keep one last early night feeding around 4:00am – 5:00am until they reach about 9 months old.
3. Overtired - Making sure your baby is getting adequate sleep during the day directly relates to the quality of sleep she gets at night. So be sure to keep her on an age appropriate day schedule to ensure overtiredness isn’t causing the early morning wake ups.
4. Age appropriate bedtime- Depending on the age, a baby may go to sleep as early as 5:30pm, and as late as 8:00pm. I find that before 12 months old a baby’s bedtime ranges between 6:30-7:30pm, and after 12 months it tends to be between 7:00 – 8:00pm. Although bedtime truly depends on other factors such as how much your baby napped or well, they napped during the day, how old they are, how much wake time can they handle at their age. Lots of factors are involved with figuring out a good bedtime for your baby and it will fluctuate slightly day to day until your little one is settled on one nap.
5. Going to your baby too early in the morning– Getting a baby up before 6:00am lets her know that this is indeed an appropriate time to wake up in the morning. I always recommend leaving your baby until 6:15am to discourage any wakings prior to this. If you last fed your baby at 2am, and they wake again at 6:00am to feed then leaving them for 15 minutes until you start your day is not going to hurt anyone.
6. Sleep prop association– Does your baby require you to rock, hold or nurse them to sleep? If sot then you may have a baby that has a sleep association and it’s best that you work on breaking it and teaching them how to fall asleep independently. Patience, consistency and a plan are needed to teach independent sleep.
7. Teething – The most common sleep symptom of teething is a temporary early wake-up. This is because during the morning hours our sleep is naturally lighter and if your little one is uncomfortable then it will be difficult for them to return to sleep.
8. New milestones– Milestones almost always cause minor sleep disruptions. Standing, crawling, walking, etc. is so interesting to your baby, and they want to practice. Just know sleep regressions due to milestones are generally short-lived and last about 2 – 3 weeks.
9. Nap transitions– Your little one will go through 4 nap transitions during the first four years of life and this can cause your little one to wake up early. The best thing to do during a nap transition is to put your baby to bed earlier than normal until the nap transition has passed.
10. Nap times - Believe it or not, a nap time too early can cause those habitual early morning wake ups. Age appropriate wake times are important to ensure you are building enough sleep pressure for the day so that your baby/toddler naps well AND sleeps well at night. If your nap time is too early, or is too late, this could cause these early morning wake up calls.
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