We all shudder when we think about those times when our baby woke up early and how it just feels, blah. Maybe that's still happening for you and I promise you, If I had a magic wand, I would use it for naps, but mostly early mornings. They.Are.Tough. So let's dive in! Possible causes: 1) Too much or too little daytime sleep! Yup. That's weird to read for sure. Often the answers to sleep issues are opposites. For example, if your baby gets too much daytime sleep, that may show up in the early morning when they've met their 24 hr sleep need. Plus, our body starts to taper off our natural melatonin in the early morning, plus our body temperature dips around 4 am (So doing a temperature check is important here!). What is too much daytime sleep? You can refer to this blog for a quick reference chart! Now the opposite. Not enough daytime sleep! Babies that are overtired don't sleep well, they don't take long naps, and they wake up early. Boo! So a couple of ways to help your baby get more, better quality sleep is to look at what's going on with naps. Can you make some adjustments so they can get more sleep? For example, maybe you're nap training but the naps are still short. Can you manage a motion nap once a day that will help your baby catch up on some sleep? (Car, stroller, carrier, etc) The next thing you can do to help your baby catch up on some sleep is to put them to bed early. How early? 6-6:30 pm is the average 'early' bedtime. Seems crazy early, I know! But I have seen it work so many times! Your little one catches up on sleep and, they then sleep well! But honestly, overtired babies is the #1 reason I see for early mornings, so what do you have to lose by trying an early bedtime? Key point: Consider putting your baby to bed between 6-6:30 pm 2) Feed-sleep association! If your baby still relies on feeding or holding, or a pacifier to go to sleep, this may be playing into the early mornings. Let me explain. As you help your baby fall asleep, they are getting used to a certain environment that helps them fall asleep. If they wake up in the night, or early mornings, they are often looking for those settings to be re-created ie: feeding, rocking, paci, etc. The more that you can get your baby to fall asleep on their own, the more they are likely to re-settle themselves in the night and in the early morning. I will say it takes time and a lot of patience and maybe some extra coffee, but it's worth working on good sleep skills (for everyone!). Key point: If your baby relies on you to fall asleep, they may have trouble staying asleep in the early morning. Consider working on independent sleep!
3) Hunger! Yup, sometimes they are hungry! Take a look at the recommended # of feeds your baby should have in a 24 hr period and start to pay attention to that. Things that can help with daytime feeds:
Following an eat-play-sleep routine
2-3 hours between feeds
Waiting 10 minutes when your baby wakes up before offering a feed
Keeping your baby awake while feeding (and not snoozing!)
Once your baby is on solids, the more you can incorporate healthy fats into their diet (animal fat and olive oil, etc) The more they will be able to manage not eating at night. I know it's easy to fill them up on fruits and some veggies, but the more you focus on feeding them more fat, then protein and carbs, the better chance you'll have that they won't be hungry in the early morning. Key point: By paying attention to how often, and the quality of your baby's feeds may be helping them eat well during the day, and sleep well at night.
4) Attention! Let's say your baby wakes at 5 am, and you bring them to bed and they nurse to sleep, why would they stop waking up at 5 am? Same as if you have a toddler and as soon as they wake up they get put in front of the T.V., do you think they will sleep in when they know they get T.V. first thing? Umm, nope. By limiting the attention you give in the early mornings, the more it will discourage them from waking up early. For clients that I've worked with, where their child wakes up super early, we literally set the timer for 10 minutes once they wake up, and wait for it to go off before going to get the child. We then slowly increased the time we waited by 5-10 minutes until we got to the desired wake time. (P.s. this takes A LOT of patience!) Key point: Consider delaying your response to your baby by 10 minutes when they wake up in the early morning, also consider doing a check-in and leaving them until 6 am. What questions do you have about early mornings? Hit reply and ask away!
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