Yes, it’s true, babies are early risers but starting their day around 5am (or earlier) is too early for bub and the whole family!
Starting the day at that time each day means that your baby’s night-time sleep is cut short and they’re not getting the amount of overnight sleep they need to start their day on the right foot, feeling well rested and refreshed. (And let’s face it, you won’t be feeling well rested and refreshed if bub is waking at the crack of dawn each day either!)
It’s normal for a baby’s day to start anywhere between 6-7am, so if your bub is waking before then and won’t re-settle with self-soothing or after a feed and nappy change, you want to consider what may be causing the early wake ups and see what you can try changing in their day or sleep environment.
So what causes early rising?
There are a number of factors that may cause bub to wake up early:
1. Teething, sickness, developmental sleep regressions and travel can all play havoc with bubs’ sleep patterns, so always try to rule these out as causes first.
2. The outside temperature drops before sunrise, so babies and children will often wake between 4-5am because they’re too cold. Although this happens a lot during the cooler months, it can happen during warmer months too. Bub doesn’t need to be freezing to wake early. They just may be a bit cold, and not warm and cozy enough to resettle.
3. Light coming into the room early in the morning can cause early rising. The light can signal to your little one that it’s wake up time and sleep time is over.
4. Some babies wake early because of habit. They’re used to being fed then or they’ve started waking early and not resettling, so mum & dad feel there is no option but to get up and start the day then. Both can reinforce the early waking and create a habit.
5. Bub may be getting too much sleep during the day (so they’re not tired enough at night) or too little sleep during the day (so they’re over-tired and unsettled). It’s important to look at bub’s day and night sleep patterns and understand the number of hours of sleep they’re getting across 24 hours compared to what they require for their age.
Breaking the cycle of early rising
To break the cycle of early rising and stretch bub's overnight sleep so they start waking between 6-7am, all these factors need to be addressed:
1. Make sure your little one is warm and cosy enough right through the night and ensure their night-time sleeping environment is set up correctly. If there’s too much light creeping in, consider different curtains or window blockers. (If you haven't watched it yet, lesson 8 covers setting up the ideal sleep environment in more detail).
2. If they’re getting too much or too little sleep during the day, tweak their daytime routine. Ensure their last nap for the day ends by 4:30pm and that they’re not going to bed for the night too early or too late.
3. Night-time conditions and settling techniques should be maintained until 6-7am to signal to bub that this is when they can start their day. If bub wakes before then, try not to rush in and give bub a bit of time to resettle themselves. If they don’t drift back to sleep, go in quietly, feed, change and resettle them as you would overnight (in a dark room, without any stimulating interaction).
Don’t expect it to happen immediately, but with a bit of time you can reset bubs body clock to wake a little later. Remember it takes time & consistency to break a habit and form a new one!