Do you ever wake up to the sounds of your toddler playing in their room and you look over at the clock and its only 5 am? Or is your baby waking up for the day ready to play at 5 am? Don’t worry they are not “just an early riser.” There are many reasons why your little one is waking so early and many ways to help her/him sleep in longer.
Disclaimer: I am not a Doctor, Lawyer or Financial Advisor. All posts are my opinions and things that have worked well in my life. Please consult a professional for advice.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. I may receive a commission if you choose to make a purchase. All opinions are my very own and I never share anything that I don’t use and love! This is at no cost to you and allows me to stay home with my babies! Thank you!
I have been around lots of children in my time as a nanny and mom. Almost all of them early in the morning. Out of all of those kiddos, only 1 was an actual early riser and he still slept in until 6ish. So today I want to help you learn why your baby/kid is waking up early and how to get her/him to sleep longer in the mornings.
Reasons why your baby is waking early…and how to help your baby sleep in longer
With babies, there can be a wide range of reasons why your little one is waking early. Some of these reasons are temporary and will pass as your baby passes through that phase. Others are habits that have been formed and will need changing. Either way, you will still want to encourage your baby to sleep longer but the approach will be a little different for the two scenarios.
Your bedtime may be too late. Many parents think that if you keep your baby up longer than they will sleep in longer. This is not the case with babies. They don’t function the way older kiddos or you and I do. Babies should be getting between 10-12 hours of sleep at night. My kiddos have always been on a 12-hour sleep schedule. Baby is down at 7 pm and up around 7 am and my toddler is down by 7:30 pm and up around 7:30 am. Sometimes we are off by half an hour or so but generally, that is what our routine looks like. If you have to work around a different schedule such as leaving early for work or you work later at night then you can adjust the timing to fit your life. Try to keep within that 10-12 hours of nighttime sleep and more towards the 12-hour side of it as much as possible.
Naptime is not happening. Getting a good nap routine down is crucial to good sleep at night. Again babies don’t function like us. If they skip their nap they will not be extra tired later but instead, they will be overtired and hard to get to bed. So check out this resource for how long and when your baby should be napping and try your best to make it happen. Don’t get me wrong we all have lives and babies can nap on the go too. (Read my post about how to make naptime happen here)
The sleep environment is being disturbed. Bright light shining in the summer, loud noises of daddy getting ready for work or a cold shivery morning can all wake a baby that isn’t ready to be up. So make sure you have set the stage. Try these room darkening curtains and if the sun is still coming in the side add this shade to really make it dark. Use my go-to tool for good sleep a white noise machine(we like the ocean setting, it is continous but varys like other sounds of the house) to drown out background noises. We even double up using a box fan to add more sound and circulate the heat in the winter and cool the kids in the summer. Keep the temp in baby’s room between 68-70 degrees and dress them for the appropriate weather. For safe sleep always use a sleep sack. Here is a winter version and here is a lightweight summer version that you can wear a diaper only if it is really hot. We LOVE to use out zippy blankets all winter because they keep little baby hands warm too!
Your baby is hungry. Sometimes babies wake up because they are hungry! The same way your tummy grumbles in the morning when you are hungry. If your baby wakes up showing hunger cues then a quick morning feed and back to sleep may do the trick. If your baby is one that is up for the day if you feed them, consider doing a dream feed about an hour or two before he/she usually wakes up. A dream feed is a feeding where your baby stays asleep. At 4 am I can easily doze back to sleep but at 5 or 6 I would be up for the day if I woke up. Same with you baby. So if you think it is hunger waking your baby early try a dream feed and then both of you can tuck back in for a later wake-up time.
Sometimes it is just a phase. Babies go through a lot of development and learning new skills can cause an early wake-up. Check out The Wonder Weeks app or book to let you know what to expect from your baby developmentally week by week. Teething can also be a culprit. Try to keep your baby as comfortable as possible. Try to be as consistent as possible and soothe your baby back to sleep using whatever tools you need to. Bring baby to bed with you for an hour or two, feed baby, rock back to sleep. Only do this when baby is waking early for a developmental reason. When the phase is done make sure to return to your regular sleep habits, though. You don’t want to have baby relying on you every morning to get back to sleep.
When none of those are the reasons your baby is waking early. If it is 6 am or later then you may just have an early riser. That is a reasonable time for a baby or child to wake but any earlier is not. You can certainly try getting your baby back to sleep the same way you would at night and be very consistent. It is also good to know that some babies will wake and babble in their cribs and then go back to sleep on their own. Make sure you are not disrupting your little one if they are not crying.
Reasons why your kiddo is waking early…
With toddlers and preschoolers, there may be many of the same reasons they are waking up. Those ages range children are very much creatures of habit. If they are accustomed to waking at a certain time it will take extra practice to help them sleep in longer. It may not result in extra sleep necessarily but at least will lead to them still resting in bed.
Your bedtime may be too late. Kiddos still need a lot of sleep just like when they were a baby. Here is the recommended nighttime sleep by age. If your little person is getting 10-12 hours of nighttime sleep you may need to readjust bedtime. For my 3-year-old 7:30 pm -7:30 am is perfect! Sometimes she takes half an hour or so to wind down in her bed at bedtime. And in the mornings she is up roughly between 7-8 am sometimes talking to herself and then falling back asleep earlier than that. Definitely, do your best to make sure your little one is getting the hours needed for nighttime sleep! They do a ton of their growing both brain and body in the night!
The sleep environment is being disturbed. Little kids definitely get FOMO(fear of missing out)! If they hear someone up in the morning they may not want to go back to sleep because they want to hang out with them! Surely something super fun is happening(getting ready for the day is very exciting to little people)! So make sure to keep the noise to a minimum in the morning and use sleep tools like a white noise machine, box fan, black out curtains and shades to help your kiddo stay asleep longer.
Naptime is not happening. Somewhere between the age of 3-5, your little one will drop all naps. Which is developmentally appropriate. However, be sure you are not giving up naptime too soon. I know tons of 4 and 5-year-olds who function so much better with a nap. My rule of thumb with this age is to have them at least have and hour rest time in the afternoon. I ask that kiddos rest in their bed for 30 minutes. I’ll set a timer and if they are not asleep within that 30 minutes then they are free to look at books until the rest of the hour is up. Many time I come back and they are fast asleep you just have to get them quietly in their bed. If they are not asleep then it usually is a clear sign that naptime is not needed anymore. It is still important for them to have that rest time though to shut down their brains and bodies. You will find much happier kiddos in the afternoon if you give this rest time. Parents are generally happier too because they still get an hour to themselves in the afternoon as well. You will even find many kindergarten classes have a quiet time like this after lunch and recess. Not for sleep but for mental rest and relaxation.
Your kiddo thinks it is time to get up. Learning to tell time is a skill that has to be learned usually between 5-8 years old. So until then, your little one relies on you, the sun and your daily routine to know what is coming next. Your little one may be waking up early because they don’t know it is still time to sleep. Of course, if you go in to tell them to go back to sleep they will want to get up and hang out with you. Thank goodness for genius parents out there and some technology and there are some great tricks to let your little one know when it is okay to get out of bed. I LOVE this cool gadget that changes to green and talks to tell your little one it is okay to wake up or stays red and says go back to sleep if it is not time to get up! If your children can recognize numbers or match you can use the trick with your digital clock to cover the minutes with the hour number when your child can wake up. Then they match the hour to your number and know it is time to get up. Here is another clock trick for a regular clock as well. All of these methods works great to tell your kiddo when it is time to get up. Often times if they know they can’t get up yet then they will fall back asleep. Some will just play and talk to themselves in bed and that is okay too.
They want to snuggle you! Every kid loved to snuggle up with mom and dad! If you have a little one who likes to end up in your room every morning and then wakes up early, that can be tough. There are a few simple tricks you can use to deter this. A simple baby gate on the door works for smaller kiddos. If they still get up and call for you remind them it is not time to get up yet and they need to go back to bed, sometimes you may have to physically put them back in bed. If you are consistent with this even if it takes a straight week of doing it over and over they will learn the point. Another temporary option is to put a baby proof door handle on the inside of their room. That way they can’t get out of their room. Be cautious with using these methods though because if there was an emergency your child would be trapped. Using it for a few days to change the behavior can work well if you are up and able to help your child in case of emergency. Then remove it when they are not watching you and usually they won’t notice because they have already given up the idea of trying to come out of their room.
The key to making these methods work…
The magical key to getting anything to work with babies and children is consistency. Children learn from you and learn to count on you so if you give in, waiver and are inconsistent then they will learn to expect that. If you want something to stick you have to stick with it. Almost always after a week or two babies and kids will come to understand a new routine or expected behavior if you are consistent. Do it the same way each day. If you try a bunch of different methods that is confusing too. Choose one and stick with it for a few weeks. If you are still having trouble then you can try another method after those couple weeks are up.
I’ll be here cheering you on and wishing for better sleep for your family! If you have any questions leave a comment or send me an email! I love to answer them! I would love if you would come back and share what worked well for your family! Or if you have any other methods that you love and have worked well for your family please share those too!