There’s a common line I hear from parents who have completed the Sleep Sense Program when I follow up with them a few weeks after their little one starts sleeping through the night. It goes something like this…
“We’re so relieved to finally be getting some sleep again! We still have an issue with him waking up at 5:00 in the morning, but compared to what we were dealing with, we’re not complaining!”
And while it’s great that your baby (and you!) are getting much more sleep than you might have been prior to starting the program, there’s still something about that early morning wake up call that just makes you feel like you haven’t quite succeeded.
Well today I’m going to give you some tips to help you solve this last piece of your little one’s sleep puzzle and get you both sleeping until a reasonable hour of the morning.
I would say the number one question that I get asked when people start the Sleep Sense program is what do I do about these early morning wake ups?
So I’m gonna give you a checklist today that I want you to go through step by step if you’re struggling with this early morning scenario.
Now the first thing to think about is how long have you been doing this? If you’re just a week or two into the program then all you need to do is wait. This is a process. Consolidating nighttime sleep, learning to consolidate nighttime sleep is a process. So if you’ve just started and you’re baby’s doing great until about five o’clock in the morning then consider that a victory for now, right? That’s probably the best she’s slept in her little life so we are gonna give ourselves a high five for that one and just give it more time.
Because what tends to happen is that five o’clock then becomes 5:30, six o’clock, 6:30 and so on. So just let it stretch out on its own.
Now one thing to keep in mind if you’re waiting it out is you have to stick to your minimum. If you allow your child to get up at five then that is probably where wake up will stay. So if you can’t quite get all the way to seven then maybe start with 5:30 and then you bump it to six and then down to 6:30 and you stick to your minimum. What is the earliest you are willing to get up for the day and then you need to stick to that like glue, alright?
So, let’s say okay you’ve given it time, it’s been three or four weeks now and you’re still kinda struggling with that early morning. The next thing to think about is environmental noise or light and I’m talking about the slightest change in environment can stimulate a wake up. That piece of our nighttime sleep, we’re doing the majority of our cycle in REM sleep and that is very, very light. And so if the furnace kicks in or the crows start chirping or the garbage truck goes by or the morning sun starts to peak in, all of those things will wake her and she won’t be able to assess that it’s not time to get up yet and now you’ve got a problem because she’s had enough nighttime sleep that she feels pretty good, right, ready to get up if somebody will come get me.
So make sure you’re checking all of that and you’ve gotta do your absolute best, get blackout blinds, turn on a white noise machine, whatever you can to block out anything environmental.
Alright, if it’s not that then the next thing to look at is what happens when you get her up? If you get her up and the first thing you do with her is bring her to your bed and give her a feed or even take her to the living room and give her her feed, if she really loves that, if nursing is her jam, she loves it then that could be why she’s waking up a little prematurely. She’s just so excited, right, to have that special time with you.
So if that sounds about right what I suggest you do is buffer it with something. Maybe you give her some breakfast first or you do a diaper change first or you go say good morning to everybody else in the house. You just build a little distance between that and that can help sort of break this connection between waking up too early and getting something she really loves.
The next thing to look at is bedtime. What is bedtime, right? And there’s two ways that this can go and the most common way it should go is earlier. So if you’ve got a baby that’s going to bed at seven, that’s a great time but it might not be early enough for her. You wanna look at when did the last nap end and when is bedtime beginning? And check the Sleep Sense program. I’ve got a guide in there for age-appropriate time awake and check it and make sure you’re kind of hitting that ballpark of time awake.
Because over tiredness is a culprit, absolutely for restless sleep and early morning waking. So that is always the first step. Could she be over tired at bedtime? And I get it, it seems weird because she’s waking up too early so I’m gonna put her to bed even earlier? That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in the adult mind, I get it, but trust me it’s often that problem.
Then the last stop, the very last stop, and this would be after you’ve exhausted all these other things, this is like about six weeks in and you’re still struggling then the very last step would be to look at bedtime and perhaps shift it later. I know, I said it, shift bedtime later. But it could be that there’s just not enough time awake. So she’s not quite fatigued enough or she only needs, she might be one of those babies that only needs 10-1/2 hours of nighttime sleep. So we may need to go a little bit later with the bedtime.
Now how you do this is very gently and slowly. So you move down her whole day by 10 minutes every three days until it’s about a half an hour later than it normally would be. And give it a few days, mornings do not, ya know, it’s not as simple as I put you to bed 15 minutes later you’re gonna sleep 15 minutes later in the morning. That is not how our body clocks work. They take time to make adjustments.
So give it a good solid week or two and then sort of watch mornings come around slowly.
Alright, I hope that helps. Thanks for watching, sleep well.
If your baby, infant or toddler is having trouble sleeping through the night, help is just a click away! The Sleep Sense Program has helped over 57,00 parents to get their kids sleeping 11-12 hours through the night AND taking long, restful naps during the day. If you’re ready to get started today – I’m looking forward to helping you!