My Baby Wakes Up Early–What Can I Do??!?
We all love it when our babies sleep 12, 11 or 10 hours straight. And we wish it would be like that all the time, but sometimes our 12-hour sleeper begins to wake up at 5:45, then 5:20 and so on. Early morning wakes are extremely difficult for parents. Who wants to get up at 5am? No one!
Between the hours of 4 and 5:30 a.m. babies are in a very light REM sleep. You might even experience this yourself. It is that light dreamy sleep where babies (and adults) can be easily roused. If a baby wakes up at 1 a.m. they are very likely to put themselves back to sleep if they have that skill. But if they wake up at 5 a.m. it becomes much more difficult even with strong sleep skills. Babies wake at these hours for various reasons and sometimes there is no reason! It could be a shower running, a car alarm getting set off, or dogs making noise outside. Since this is a very light sleep state, once babies wake up they struggle to get back to sleep.
Here are some suggestions to survive these dreaded early morning wakes:
Don’t rush in at the very first peep
Your babe is ok and sometimes they just need to make a little fuss to work it out. Eventually they will fall back to sleep. If a parent rushes in the moment they wake up, it never gives them the opportunity to fall back to sleep on their own. How long should you wait? A few minutes is a great place to start, but ultimately do something that is most comfortable for you. That is always the right answer (because there is no right answer!).
Sleep begets sleep! When babies are overtired at bedtime, it can lead to an early morning wake. Sounds crazy, right? Trust me, it’s true. What you want to do is have good strong day naps, so that your baby is well-rested heading into bedtime. If you keep them up past their age-appropriate awake window, this leads to a cranky, overtired baby and most likely a night wake and/or an early morning wake. Try putting your baby to bed EARLIER to help eliminate early morning wakes.
A dark room is really important for many reasons. If a baby wakes up in the early hours and light is coming into the room, the light is a distraction and can make it much harder for your little one to fall back to sleep. You can use blackout blinds, blackout curtains, cover up lights on monitors and sound machines and remove turtle lights, aquariums and mobiles.
White Noise Machine
There are some fabulous noise machines on the market, while others are not so fabulous. Sleep Sheeps are only on for 45 minutes! One sleep cycle! You want to make sure you use a white noise machine continuously, with no timer. A white noise machine helps to muffle the sounds of the house or outside noise. When Coco the dog next door begins to bark at 5 a.m., the noise machine will help prevent your baby from hearing it.
Coaxing baby to sleep
If a baby needs to be rocked to sleep at bedtime, then they need to be rocked back to sleep at 5 a.m. Try not to let your baby fall asleep with a sleep prop. You want them falling asleep all on their own to start their sleep journey.
Early morning wakes are very difficult and the longer they happen, the longer it can take to change the pattern and get out of the vicious cycle. Be patient, as it can take a few weeks to see improvement, possibly even several months. I promise you it gets better. In the meantime, that is why we have coffee: a parent’s best friend.
Lisa Kvapil is a sleep consultant with WeeSleep, where Healthy Moms get 15% off select sleep packages. Find out more here: https://gohealthymoms.com/weesleep