How to Combat those Early Morning Wakes
Updated: May 18
Early morning wakes are the WORST, aren’t they? You’re finally in a good sleep routine (or maybe not even!), but those early mornings are just killer.
I remember being up before the sun with my oldest. I was bleary eyed, and exhausted from also being awake with him during the night. Then the day starts waaay too early, and you just don’t know how anyone is going to make it until nap time. How could a baby who partied all night, also want to get up early? It sure didn’t make sense to me! I knew we had to learn some limits.
As soon as I talk about this with anyone, “How early is too early?” is the question that always comes up. And it’s a great question! Realistically, anything before 6:00 AM is just too early. It’s too little night sleep for babies, and it’s certainly too early for Mom & Dad to have to start parenting at that hour. Truthfully, I think anything before 6:30 or 7:00 is too early, but that depends on the household schedule.
The good news is that if you’re experiencing early morning wakes, there’s plenty that you can do about it, and all of it is fairly simple. As with anything when it comes to helping your child learn sleep expectations, it just requires some consistency. Consistency is your fastest way out of any sleep hurdle you’re experiencing with your little one.
If you’re experiencing all too early wakes with your wee one, the first point of attack is to take a close look at their sleep environment. There are so many factors that go into an effective sleep environment that can make or break those long stretches of sleep you’re dreaming of.
Dark room – And not just dark, but VERY dark. Total black out is what you’re aiming for here. Sometimes we think their room is “dark enough”, but this can come back to bite us at 5:00 AM – especially during the summer months where the sun rises early. You can look at my favourite black out blinds over here if you need a helpful suggestion.
White noise – White noise is a must, especially if you’re up before your baby. Showering, making breakfast, or other normal morning tasks can wake your little one from slumber. And we all know that trying to take a shower with a child that’s awake is more brain power than we can muster up before coffee.
Boring sleep environment – A boring sleep environment is crucial for sleep safety, but it’s also important for keeping stimulus low when your kiddo is supposed to be sleeping. Then there’s no distractions or desire for play time when it should be sleep time. This means keeping the toys and books out of their room, especially if they’re in a big kid bed already.
Temperature – Nobody sleeps well when they’re too cool, that’s for sure. An ideal temperature for your little babe is 20-22 degrees Celsius. If you’re concerned about your child being cold, try layering with breathable materials like cotton, wool, or bamboo. My 2 fave sleep sacks fit the bill and keep your little one toasty all night without the bulk. Peep them here (use code WHOLENIGHT for 20% off Ry & Pen) and here (use code WHOLENIGHTSLEEP10 for 10% off Woolino). If you want to test your babe’s temperature, feel the back of their neck, and not their hands or feet. The neck is far more accurate to monitor their core body temperature.
Okay to Wake Clock – If your kiddo is in a big kid bed, and escaping their room too early in the AM, try an “Okay to Wake” clock. These beauties change colour or show a picture of a sun to let your child know when they can/can’t come out of their room. If they’re up early but the clock doesn’t show the corresponding colour/picture, they know they need to lay in their bed quietly until it changes.
All About Timing
If you’re pleased with your little one’s sleep environment, the next thing to look at is their sleep schedule. This one can be a little more involved than simply getting black out blinds, but if it’ll help your little one sleep longer, it’s worth it. Is your child getting an age-appropriate amount of day sleep? It’s allll about timing. If their last nap of the day is too far from bedtime (or too close!)? Are they sleeping too long in the day and not tired at bedtime? On the other hand, they might be overtired by the time bedtime rolls around, which equates to earlier wakings. It may be counterintuitive, but if your child is waking too early, try an earlier bedtime. Surprising, right? But they will get that quality sleep they’re missing, which actually helps them sleep longer.
It’s also important to ensure your child is getting enough to eat throughout the day. Rumbly tummies will try to make up the calories throughout the night, or wake up early because they need to eat! Most little ones over 6 months should be able to sleep a 10+ hour stretch without needing a feed. But that’s if they have eaten enough throughout the day. As always, check with your child’s healthcare provider when it comes to night feeds.
When it’s None of These…
If you’ve exhausted all the options, the cause of those early wakings could be out of habit. When we go to our child too early in the morning, it instills that it’s time to get up. This is especially true if they immediately get fed, watch tv, or snuggle in bed. These wonderful things are something to look forward to, but remember to create a bit of time in between waking and doing these activities or it becomes all too motivating for your kiddo to get up earlier.
So what do I recommend instead? PAUSE.
Pause before getting your child up. Give them time to go back to sleep on their own. If it’s really become a problem, they might have to wait in their crib a little while. If they’re waking up at 5:30, and your goal is 6:30, wait for 30 minutes before going to get them up. After a few days, extend the time some more until you reach your 6:30 goal. Kids usually catch on in a couple of days, and don’t bother waking so early just to be bored in their crib. It’s a process, but it pays off when your little one gets the sleep they need.
And if you’re struggling with early wakings and getting a solid stretch throughout the night, sign up here to get my totally free tips on how to help your little one sleep through the night. It’s the best thing you don’t even have to spend money on!