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Early Wakings - Why does my baby keep waking early?

A baby yawning

Rise and shine, or maybe not? Does it always feel like you start the day at 5 am, no matter what you try and do, there is no getting your little ones back to sleep.

Early wakings are a familiar challenge for many parents, often feeling like a mystery. It has to be one of my most commonly asked questions on social media by followers. So, fear not! In this blog, we'll unravel the reasons behind those dawn wake-up calls and equip you with practical solutions to reclaim those precious morning lay-ins.

Why are we having these early wakings? Let's investigate...

Their Environment

Sleep environment is a good place to start and tends to be quick to solve if it is the only issue causing the early wakings.

Does the room start dark and get lighter as the night goes on? Is the room flooded with sunlight at sunrise? Does a noisy street wake your child?

If so, blackout blinds can be found relatively cheap and can be the golden ticket to helping your little ones stay in bed a little longer. I am a big fan of the "Cheeky Chimp Portable Blackout Blinds". Not only are they useful at home, they can also be used when travelling to ensure better sleep wherever you go. Noise is another big culprit that could be waking your little one early. Think traffic noise, people commuting, siblings, pets, or birds singing in the trees outside the window.

If you think noise is disturbing your child, then white noise could help you. A big tip is to keep the white noise on continuously throughout the night. Otherwise, you may find your little one needs you to keep returning to their bedroom every time it turns off.

In my house, I play white noise on Spotify and keep the iPad in the corner of the room. I just have to remember to check the battery percentage before going to bed - A critical error I have made once or twice before!

If you would like a white noise recommendation - I would look at Rockit's Wooshh - the small but mighty sound soother that can clip anywhere in your child's room or sit on a surface.

Daytime Routine

Another culprit of early wakings is children not getting the right amount of sleep during the day. This could be because of too much sleep but more commonly it is due to children not getting enough sleep and causing overtiredness.

In a quick summary, overtiredness leads to higher cortisol levels (the 'awake' hormone) in your little one's body causing them to be ready to wake earlier than they otherwise would if they weren't overtired.

If your little one is getting too much sleep this can also contribute to early wakings and it may be a sign they are ready to drop one of their naps. See my Instagram post for more information -

Recent Physical or Cognitive Development

A baby crawling

Sometimes early wakings are out of our control, which leads to our baby waking early in the morning. Physical and cognitive development / developmental leaps can often be a cause.

How many of you have had your little one practising their new skill at 3 am? Definitely not my favourite time to hear singing or constant head bumping when learning to crawl.

The biggest issue that comes with these developmental leaps is how we react to these wake-ups when they aren't sad but are busy practising skills instead of sleeping. These wakings will only be temporary once they have got the new skill out of their system unless we react to these changes and it becomes a habit.

For example, when my little one wakes and practices his crawling, I leave him to it and eventually, he gets bored and goes back to sleep.

If I reacted and assumed he was ready to wake up at 5 am, he could have easily thought that time was an acceptable time to wake up going forward.

I often see this a lot with my clients, assuming their little ones are awake and ready for the day, so they get them up and do breakfast and play. When this happens, the metabolism kicks in, telling your child's body it's morning. This is the biggest driver for early wakings!! Once their little bodies think they need food at that time, they will automatically wake up. Think about it like being in a new timezone on holiday.

Some babies don't need 12 hours of nighttime sleep...

Sadly, some babies don't need more than 10.5 - 11 hours of sleep at night. My little one is more of an 11-hour night sleeper than 12.

Therefore, I have to be careful with putting him to bed too early because that will mean an early wake-up for me.

Waking out of habit

For some little ones, early wakings can become habitual. This is why I recommend not feeding your little one until their designated wake-up time (if possible). If they can't wait this long, wait 30 minutes for a few days and then slowly up this time until you reach their usual wake-up time.

How can I stop Early Wakings?

A mum and baby sleeping, Contact nap

So, we have discussed the causes of early wakings, but how can we stop them?

Start with the environment where they sleep - purchase some black-out blinds, add white noise, and ensure the temperature is right throughout the night, as these are all easy fixes.

Focus on day sleep. Check out my routine guides, and ensure your little one is getting the right amount of sleep and avoiding unwanted overtiredness.

Make sure bedtime isn't too late. Making bedtime later will not stop early wakings. Instead, it will just make them more tired, as they are losing more sleep. If anything, put your baby down earlier than their normal bedtime, as this can have a much more positive impact on their sleep patterns during the night and in the morning.

Introduce a 'no feed zone' between 5 and 6 am (if your schedule is 7 pm-7 am). Feeding too early in the morning will kick start that metabolism and they will need or expect that feed, solidifying that early waking. If they wake up during this time, encourage them back to sleep using your chosen settling method.

As a family, decide what is an acceptable time to wake up. As a general rule, I usually say count forward 11 hours from bedtime to see what is an acceptable wake-up time. For example, if your baby goes to bed at 7 pm, then 6 am is an OK time to start the day.

Getting your little ones to drift back off to sleep is the most powerful response to your baby's body clock. Think about when you travel to a new time zone, and what you need to do to help your body adjust.

Early wakings are tough however, there is usually a reason behind them so if you still haven't managed to solve them after reading this blog. Please do get in touch and I can share with you my sleep packages for some extra help and support.

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