Whether your early riser is a baby or toddler, one thing is certain - early morning wake-ups are rough on everyone!
The timing of your little one's morning wake-up sets the tone for the rest of the day. It also sets the pace for the day's schedule and feed patterns. Early morning waking can upset your whole day and routine.
What is considered "early morning waking"?
For some parents, a 5:30am wake up is bearable, while for others anything before 8am is too early. It is important to have realistic expectations when it comes to the sleep patterns/habits of your little one. Take a look at your child's wake-up time. Do they wake up happy and energised, or are they grumpy and whingy? At Sleep Right Tonight, we consider anything before 6:00am too early. If your child is waking at or after 6am, and seems refreshed and ready to go, then you probably don't have an early rising problem! (As much as it may pain you to hear this!) A wake-up time of 6am or later is reasonable and developmentally appropriate for most babies and toddlers, provided they are getting enough sleep at nap time and nighttime. On the other hand, if your child is waking before 6am and seems cranky and tired first thing in the morning, then it's likely you have an early morning wake-up issue on your hands.
Two common causes of early morning waking. (And what you can do about it?)
1. Nap timing.
If your child is constantly waking early, it may be that either the timing of your child's naps are off, or the length of the nap itself is off. If your child's nap schedule involves too much awake time during the day, then your child may be overtired at bedtime. When a child is overtired, they are more likely to sleep poorly and wake too early. Also, if your child catnaps (i.e. the nap times are too short) then that can also cause overtiredness.
Contrary to what most people think, a later bedtime does not mean a later wake up time. Sleep begets sleep, so a baby who goes to bed early is more likely to sleep better and wake at a more decent hour.
That said, older toddlers who still take an afternoon nap may actually benefit from a later bedtime. If you put a toddler to bed early (before 7pm), he/she may not be tired enough for sleep and may protest at bedtime, and take longer to fall asleep.
Is your baby/toddler waking too early? Here are some ideas to help fix the problem.
If your child is constantly waking before 6am, you must treat these wake-ups as 'night wakings'. While it is fine (and recommended!) that you get up and offer comfort and reassurance, don't get your little one up for the day before 6am. If you get them up when they wake early, you are reinforcing that this early morning wake-up is part of your regular routine. By treating it as a night waking, and encouraging your child to go back to sleep, you are helping train their body clock. Try this method for a week, and the problem may resolve itself.
If after a week of treating early morning wake-ups as nighttime, your child is still waking too early, then you may need to make scheduling adjustments.
- Do you need to work an extra nap into your day?
- Do you need to monitor 'awake time' more closely?
- Is your child going to bed too early, or too late?
- Do feed times affect the timing of you child's naps?
Gradually make these schedule adjustments, while treating any early wake-ups as a night waking. However - If you've tried these suggestions and you're still struggling, you may need a more expert approach to solving your problem. If this is you, please contact me to arrange a FREE 15 minute phone consult and we can work together to solve your sleep issues.