Early rising is notoriously challenging. It can leave you feeling exhausted and make you question why your baby is waking up so early. Babies and toddlers do tend to naturally start their days earlier than older children. But, if your baby is regularly waking before 6 am, then it is understandable if you are wondering what you can do to change things.
Our sleep expert at Naytal explains some of the reasons behind early waking and shares their top tips that will help you and your little one get the rest you need.
Why do some babies wake up early?
There are many reasons why a baby can wake up early. Going to bed in the evening when already overtired is a common reason. Light sensitivity is another. If light is coming into their sleeping environment in the morning, this can trigger an early wake-up. Some babies are entertained by even the slightest glint of light coming into the room and this makes it very difficult for them to go back to sleep.
Dramatic changes in room temperature and external noise such as traffic, noisy neighbours or bin collections can also be triggers for early rising.
Early waking can also easily become a habitual issue after illness, travel, and milk feeds. Things like your baby’s dummy falling out of their mouth and co-sleeping can also disrupt their slumber.
Babies and children who have underlying health issues can wake early due to discomfort. Even a dirty nappy can cause an early wake up if it leads to your baby feeling uncomfortable.
Tips for preventing a baby from waking up too early
With such a varied list of potential causes for early waking, it might seem like it’s going to be impossible to uncover what’s behind you and your baby’s situation. But, there are some things you can do to prevent your baby from being an early riser:
1. Optimise their sleep environment
Make sure the room your baby sleeps in and the clothing you dress them in are optimal for sleep. Put them to bed in comfortable clothing which is not going to make them too hot or too cold. Also, ensure the room is dark by blocking out any external light, keeping the main room light off and turning off electronic devices.
2. Tweak their day and evening routine
Making small changes to your baby’s sleep routine can ensure they have the right balance of feeding, awake time, and sleep.
Inevitably, your baby will be more tired during the day when they wake too early, and you may wonder what this means for daytime naps. If they are having a long morning nap to compensate for an early wake-up, this can perpetuate the early waking, but they also need enough sleep to remain happy when awake and have the energy to feed effectively.
Working out your baby's individual sleep needs and creating a great routine during the day will have a positive effect and prevent them from going to bed overtired in the evening or requiring excessive milk feeds during the night.
3. Promote their circadian rhythm
Avoid taking your baby out of their dark sleeping environment for eleven to twelve hours after their bedtime. Then, every morning at the same time, take them into a room that has noise and natural light for a milk feed. This will help to reset their body clock and restore their physical responses to day and night.
4. Reduce noise and disruptions
If there is external house noise that is clearly a trigger to your baby waking early, play white, pink, or brown noise to mask it. These types of noise play at different audible frequencies and can block out shrill or harsh sounds, promoting better sleep.
Tips for soothing an early waking baby
If your baby often wakes early, you can try soothing them to help get them back to sleep.
5. Ease any discomfort
If you hear your baby squirm and pass wind at a similar time every morning, this can be a common trigger for early rising. Feeling uncomfortable before passing wind or dirtying a nappy during a light phase of sleep can easily wake a baby. If your baby is upset, hold, and soothe them, rub their tummy clockwise and bicycle their legs to ease trapped wind. Change their nappy if dirty, and then hold them until they are drowsy before placing them back into their cot.
6. Avoid stimulation
Whatever the trigger, supportive and responsive reassurance from you without too much stimulation is the best way to help your baby go back to sleep. You may need to implement a few different methods, depending on your circumstances, and there will likely be a period of learning what works best.
You also want to make sure your baby doesn’t become too reliant on you and is still able to learn the skill of connecting sleep cycles independently. But, this is dependent on age and their natural capability.
Sensory support that doesn’t involve you, such as a cot mobile or sleep soothers, can help to comfort your baby and allow them to go back to sleep.
Want to know what to do with naps when your baby wakes up early or get help with your child’s sleep routine? Book an online appointment with one of our sleep consultants at a time that suits you to get tailored advice for you and your baby.
Claire, Sleep Consultant
Claire has over twenty five years' experience as a maternity nurse, nanny and certified infant sleep consultant. She supports families to develop tailored approaches for dealing with their sleep issues.