Q&A: Early morning waking

I receive a lot of questions from the BabyBliss community and a common theme is early morning waking.

Early morning waking in babies and toddlers is common, particularly around Daylight Saving time, and it can be very annoying when the whole house is up before the birds. The bad news is, some babies are just always going to be early risers and there’s not much you can do about it, other than daydream of their teenage years when you’re likely to have the reverse problem on your hands!

However, there are a few tips and tricks to try and you may just be able to catch a few extra zzz’s before tackling the day. Below are some questions I’ve received previously on our Facebook page about early morning waking and my responses. I hope they’re helpful for you.

Q. My 6 month old has been sleeping through from 7pm to 7am since he was 3 months old, but is starting to wake at 5am more often. I’ve introduced solids four weeks ago but still not giving him dinner – he also has four breastfeeds a day.

Jo: You may have to accept he will be an early riser for the time being. But you can also make sure he isn’t going to bed too late or having too much day sleep. All this can cause early waking.

Q. My 4 month old has a good sleep routine during the day, 1.5 to 2.5 hours plus 1.5 hrs sleep and last sleep is more of a catnap. Bedtime is around 6.15 to 6.45pm. She wakes up once for a feed between 12am or 3am, and always up for the day between 5.10am to 5.40am. She can self-settle easily and it doesn’t matter how late I put her in bed at night she will still wake up before 6am. Any suggestions? 

Jo: You could try to move the night feed to around 4am and see if that helps. Feeding later can help her sleep later but she might be hungry before that. I would give it a go and see.

Q. I stopped feeding my 11 month old overnight 3 weeks ago. Her bedtime is 8-8.30pm, which I like because we have dinner and a bath together. Since I stopped feeding overnight she sleeps through, but she wakes at 6-6.30am when it’s very light and will not go back to sleep. Her first nap is 10am. Is there any way of getting her to have a longer night sleep without bringing her bedtime forward? Could she only be needing 10hrs sleep a night? 

Jo: Some babies do only need 10 hours. If you think she is happy and rested during the day then I would say that would be enough for her. That said, most babies and toddlers need to be asleep by about 7pm as they get their deepest sleep of the night before midnight and they need about 4.5 to 5 hours of this. I know you like her going to bed later and so if that works for you then that’s great. However, she may sleep later even if you put her down at 7.30 rather than 8pm.

Q. My 10 month old has recently started sleeping through thanks to the BabyBliss Settling Technique. We’re finding that every second day she’s waking anywhere from 4:40 to 5:30am and it takes about 90 minutes to settle her back to sleep, although if she wakes as late as 5:30 she won’t go back to sleep until nap time, regardless of what we do. Do you have any suggestions or thoughts on why this is happening?

Jo: It’s is a very common time of the year for babies to wake early! I would continue to try and resettle. Also make sure the room is blackened out as the sun and birds are up early and waking lots of babies up! But yes, if she wakes around 5.30am you may have to accept that she won’t go back to sleep. It won’t be like this forever and hopefully with Daylight Saving starting shortly it will get better!

Q. My son is 7 months old. From about 6 months he stopped sleeping past 5am. He is going down for his morning nap around 8:45am and his afternoon nap at around 1pm and sleeps for 1.5 – 2 hours each nap but I just can’t get him back to sleep in the morning despite trying to resettle him using the BabyBliss technique for up to an hour each morning. Do you have any further suggestions? Should I be giving him a bottle when he wakes? I keep holding off until 7am in the hope that he’ll start sleeping longer and he certainly doesn’t seem hungry. He’s quite happy to wait till 7am for a feed and he’s happy in his cot when he wakes. We completely blacked out the room, hoping that would solve the problem, but it hasn’t!

Jo: He may just be an early riser, but you can try giving a bottle and see if he will go back to sleep. Some babies can’t get past 10 hours without a feed. Try that and then you can drop it again in a few months.

For more information and support for bubs that are waking up early, I have a popular early morning waking tip sheet available. There’s also a video of my patting technique on Facebook  and of course I am always available for a consultation.

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