Please watch my baby sleep video on what to do when your baby wakes to early.
To ask a question about your child’s sleep, just leave it in the ‘Comments’ section below! I’ll choose one and create a new video answer each week!View the Video Transcript
Hi! I’m Dana Obleman, creator of The Sleep Sense Program. If you’d rather read than watch, I’ve transcribed the text of this video below.
This week’s question is from Becky. She writes:
“My eight-month-old daughter goes to sleep well at around 8:00 p.m. and generally sleeps through the night. If she wakes, she only cries for two minutes and then goes back to sleep but she almost always wakes between 5:00 and 5:15 a.m!
We have tried doing the leave and check method as we did with our original sleep training and only on rare occasions does she go back to sleep. Usually, she just cries until I get up and feed her which I have decided will be no earlier than 5:45 a.m. Should I just give up and start our day at 5:00?”
Good question Becky, and actually a fairly frequent one. Early morning wakeups are common and they are often the hardest thing to change but there are a few things you can do. Eight p.m. is a perfectly good bedtime and I would not recommend anything later. I know it is tempting to start moving bedtime later in hopes that the baby will sleep later into the morning but I find that nine times out of ten, it just backfires. What happens is they wake up at the same time as usual, but they’ve had less sleep than they normally get so now they are starting the day off grumpy. Then that just snowballs into the next day and the next. It can also even affect wakeup time negatively, meaning that they wake up even earlier because they have gone to bed too late. So I would definitely not move her bedtime.
What you can try though, is this: I know that for most other night waking, the advice suggests that you wait and do not rush in, but at 5:00 am, sometimes you can catch her before she really wakes up. Go in right away when you hear her stir. You just cover her back up and tell her it is still night time. Use some gentle touching, give her back her teddy if she has one, and just stay for a few minutes and calmly remind her that it is still night; then make your exit. You really do have to pick a minimum and I do not usually suggest this much before 6:00.
The risk you run in starting your day at 5:00 a.m. is that it then becomes 4:45 or 4:30 and it just tends to get to creep earlier and earlier, so I really would resist getting up any time before 6:00. Something else you mentioned is that she cries until you get up and feed her and I am guessing that this must be breast milk? Some children will wake up early, anticipating that morning nursing session. They wake up early and then cry until you finally give in, so it is almost like they are waking up early because of the feeding.
Often parents can make adjustments, by just delaying the morning nurse a little, even by 10 or 15 minutes, or they try breakfast first and then go to the nursing. This helps to break that connection between waking up and getting nursed. Otherwise, leaving and checking on her is a fine start. The good news about early morning wakeups is that they do eventually fade. If you pick a consistent minimum wake-up time, usually the baby will start sleeping until the minimum time, often even later.
So, you are on the right track. I know it is frustrating and it can be a negative way to start your day but try making a few subtle changes. Try switching your feeding time and going in quickly and see if that helps.
Again, do not expect anything too quickly. Early morning wakeups often take a couple of weeks to fix, so hang in there. It sounds like you have come a long way so far, and she is sleeping the majority of the night. That’s a good start and this is just your last little challenge.
Hang in there and thanks again for your question. Sleep well.
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