Early mornings are a real struggle, and almost every baby will go through this phase at some point! You're not alone! Early morning wakings are actually one of the hardest sleep battles for parents and babies. The reason they are so hard so solve is because there can be SO many reasons why your little one has decided to wake up at the crack of dawn! It is very important that infants and toddlers get a solid 11-12 hours of sleep at night - so thats your goal! If your baby is waking before they reach the recommended amount of sleep - its time to change something in their routine.
An "early morning waking" is when your baby/toddler wakes up ready to start their day anytime before 6:00AM. If it happens once in a while where your little one is wide awake at say 5:45am, I always suggest just letting them be in their crib until 6:00am. When you go in at 6:00am to wake them, make sure to open the blinds, turn on the light and be very enthusiastic that it is morning time! By consistently waiting until after 6:00am to get them up for the day, it will help train their body's natural internal clock that morning is anytime after 6:00am. I always recommend that you continue to respond to your baby as if it is the middle of the night if they wake before this time.
If your baby is continuously waking early, and will not fall back asleep I recommend going through this checklist to troubleshoot the cause:
Double check that at the time your baby is waking there is no natural sunlight peeping through the blinds in their room. The room should be so dark that you can't see your hand in front of your face when you first walk in. Check out "Portable suction-cup blackout blinds" on amazon - you can always add one of these to your window to ensure it is really dark in their room.
Turn up that sound machine a bit! If you live near a train, or a busy street things can get noisy around the crack of dawn, so make sure the sound machine is able to drown out any of these sounds! In the spring time nature sounds can also cause your little one to wake up.
Move bedtime earlier! The wake window before the last nap and bedtime might be a little too long, causing your baby to be overtired when they go to sleep. This is the #1 culprit of early morning wakes! We don't want bedtime to be earlier than 6:30pm, but we also don't want it any later than 7:30pm.
Double check all of your wake windows throughout the day, and adjust them if needed. Make sure you are staying consistent with what works for them. If a babies daytime schedule is not consistent you may find that this will drastically affect their nights.
Try lengthening the first wake window by 15 minutes. By lengthening that first wake window between morning wake-up and first nap can help solve those early mornings!
Lastly, if you have tried all of these things and stuck with them for more then 5 nights in a row with no change - try implementing a Dream Feed between 10 & 11pm.
Consistency is KEY when navigating through early morning wakings. You really have to be patient, and give each step a decent amount of time before moving on to the next. When we implement any change in a schedule it can take up to one week to see results. If you are still struggling after giving each one of these tips a solid try, please reach out! I would be so happy to help get your little one back on track. 11-12 hours of consistent nighttime sleep is so important for growth and development, so never feel like you have to settle with those 5:00am wake up calls!
I am here for you!
Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant