Whose baby gets up with the birds? Tis’ the season. The sun is rising earlier, the birds are singing and many babes think 5 AM is a grand time to wake up. UGH… TOO EARLY! An early wakeup can set the tone of the day and make for an exhausted, crabby baby, and a worn out mama.
First off, this is a common issue with babies and toddlers. I heard noise at 515 AM a few days ago and checked on my four year old who was wide awake reading in his room! He knows the day starts at the “magic 7” and was not in my room waking me, but 5 is way to early to start his day! I asked myself why he was doing this, as his room is dark, but after really looking at it I realised the light from the hallway was shining in through his partially open door, causing a natural wakeup as the light was shining in. A few tweaks and his room is back to darkness till 7, and he is back to sleeping. PHEW.
So always start with darkness. I always ask clients is the room dark, and the usual response is yes. But I am talking dark. Like middle of the night dark. This will help with naps too!
The next question is, what is happening when your baby wakes that early? Are you feeding her in hopes that you might catch a few more hours? You might be so lucky, but probably not! The reality is, in a baby over 6 months, that early morning feed is stimulating, they have been in their crib a long time and and force themselves to start their day when they first see mom or dad instead of falling back asleep for another cycle of sleep. So the chances of her falling asleep and staying asleep are small! The second problem with this early morning feed is a baby can not tell time and this wakeup will get earlier and earlier! He has no idea if its 5 AM or 2 AM and instead of falling back to sleep independently he will start waking in between sleep cycles looking for that feed.
So now you have a baby that’s been up since 5 AM and is exhausted way earlier than usual for his first morning nap. So you put him down earlier. And yep, he has a fantastic long sleep and you do too. But the bummer is, this actually reinforcing early bird wakeups. Your baby starts to think of that early wakeup as a night time wake up and will start waking earlier and earlier. It will confuse his body clock and throw naps and bedtime way off. All of a sudden your babe who has two naps a day needs three and then won’t go to bed! So hang in there! I would wait till his normal scheduled nap time and it will be challenging because he’s tired, but it will not encourage continuation of those early mornings. Try distraction, fresh air and extra snacks and feeds to give him the energy to get to his scheduled naptime.
I also hear “we tried keeping him up in hopes he will sleep later”. Well, that just doesn’t work. Babes need sleep to sleep. A late bedtime will end up with a huge bedtime struggle, an overtired baby and exhausted parents when 5 am rolls around and she is up demanding to start her day. An early bedtime equates to better sleep.
Try these things and you will see bigger numbers on your alarm clock come morning, a more rested baby and everyone will be have the energy to partake in all Summer has to offer!
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Carrie Bruno RN, IBCLC, Infant Sleep Coach