My inbox has been filled with questions about early rising. Babies are up and ready to start the day before 6:00am, while their parents are not. So what do you do? Do you start your day? Not necessarily. Here are some things to work on to extend those mornings:
If your baby is under 4 months (calculated from estimated due date), then try to help her back to sleep, but if she isn’t going back down, start your day. Watch her wake windows throughout the day and help her take the naps that she needs. Sleep begets sleep; keeping her well rested during the day will help her nights.
If your baby is older than 4 months, continue to read below.
Does your baby catnap throughout the day? Are naps 30-45 minutes long? If yes, then this could be contributing to the early rising. When we see a waking before 6:00am, our first thought is that the baby is overtired. While you would think that an overtired baby would sleep in, it is not usually the case.
Work to extend naps to 1 hour minimum if they are having more than one nap per day, and 2 hours minimum if they are having one nap per day.
Early rising can be caused by a bedtime that is too late. Again that goes against what you would expect. If it is taking longer than 20 minutes to fall asleep, try making bedtime a little earlier to see if that helps to push out the morning.
The light of day can signal to our brain that it is time to wake up, and turn off melatonin (our sleep hormone). Take a look at the nursery – is there light coming in during naptime and the early hours of the day? If there is, try adding a layer of darkness. There are so many options from temporary blinds to thick blackout curtains – find one that works for you and make it dark.
Is your little one working on new skills? Often new skills can cause disrupted sleep (during naps or the night) because she wants to practice while things are quiet. If naps are disrupted and shortened, or she loses sleep in the night then you can see the early rising.
Offer lots of practice time – free time – during the day, and make bedtime a little earlier until she perfects the skill and starts to sleep again.
If you are in the habit of getting her up as soon as she wakes, regardless of the time, then you will continue to see the early rising. Don’t start your day until your desired wake time. What should you do if she cries? Find a way to respond, or offer her the awake time without going in.
A lot of families write these early mornings off as having an “early bird”. It is true, that some kids are early risers – but we still see them sleeping until 6:00am at the earliest. Your baby can sleep later – work through the steps above, and enjoy your later wake times.