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10 Reasons Your Baby is Waking up Too Early (And How to Encourage a Later Start)

Is your baby waking up too early, leaving you exhausted and with a very long day? Here are the most common reasons why your baby is waking up too early and solutions to get your baby sleeping longer.

baby happily awake holding toes

Of all the sleep struggles we had, early morning wake ups seemed to be the most frequent. My daughter usually went down for the night pretty easy and slept through the night early on. But we often had early morning wakeups, which threw off our entire day.

Luckily, I started to learn why those early morning wake ups were happening and how to fix them!

Tip: Many of these can also be used to troubleshoot if your baby takes short naps!

How Do I Stop My Baby Waking At 5 AM?

If you have an early morning waking baby, don’t assume that he/she is just an early riser! Something is probably going on in your baby’s sleep that is contributing to the early risings.

Read through these 10 common culprits for early wakings and assess your own situation. Chances are, there’s a habit, sleep routine, or environment that is off.

baby waking up early in crib

1. Your Baby’s Wake Windows Are Off

The time that your baby is awake during the day can greatly affect their night time sleep and early morning wake ups. If your baby is waking up too early, look at their wake windows.

Are they being kept up too long in between naps? Perhaps they aren’t being kept awake long enough. Too long or too short of wake windows can contribute to your baby waking up early and not being able to go back to sleep.

2. Reliance on A Sleep Prop

Is your baby fed or rocked to sleep? If so, they may wake up at 4 am and look for that same thing to put them back to sleep.

Babies go in and out of sleep throughout the night (we all do). When they wake up, they may need a breast, bottle, or rocking motion to help get them back to sleep if that’s how they got to sleep initially.

This is why teaching your baby independent sleep can be so helpful! When babies learn to fall asleep on their own, they are able to do it throughout the night and even through early morning wakings.

Break this habit and learn how to stop nursing your baby to sleep.

baby waking up too early and standing in crib

3. Their Room is Not Dark Enough

I recently worked with a two-year old who kept waking up at 5 am and the parents were exhausted. I recommended first getting some blackout curtains for the bedroom to make sure the sunlight wasn’t the culprit for the early waking.

The toddler slept in until 6 am the first day after the curtains were hung up, and until 7 am by the end of the week!

Make sure to have a good pair of blackout curtains in your baby’s room to keep the sun from peeking through in the morning. Even a brief exposure to light can interfere with your baby’s sleep.

4. Your Baby is Overtired

You’d think if a baby is overtired, they would sleep in later, right?

Wrong.

It seems counterintuitive, but an overtired baby can have trouble falling asleep initially and staying asleep. Sometimes this over tiredness can show up in the form of a 4 am or 5 am waking.

Make sure your baby is on an age-appropriate sleep schedule and being put to bed at a reasonable hour. Most babies and toddlers need between 11 to 12 hours of overnight sleep, with naps during the day.

5. Your Baby is Getting Too Much Daytime Sleep

This one isn’t as common for younger babies, but can definitely be a reason your toddler is waking up too early. Between 13 and 18 months, your baby’s sleep needs drop dramatically and most toddlers are ready to transition to one nap.

Make sure your baby is getting the right amount of daytime sleep and isn’t napping too long, which can interfere with their night time sleep.

baby lying down in crib

6. You Aren’t Using White Noise

The lightest sleep cycle typically occurs during the early morning hours. If a noise wakes your baby up between the hours of 4 am and 6 am, it can be difficult—if not impossible—for your baby to fall back asleep.

The sleep pressure isn’t as great since they just slept 8 to 9 hours. Using a white noise sound machine can help blockout outside noises from neighbors, dogs, or the street. Use a sound machine that runs continuously so it stays on all night!

7. Your Baby is Hungry

If your baby still needs a feed in the middle of the night, or the early morning, then this early morning wakeup can be out of hunger. By 6 months old, most babies are okay to go throughout the night and early morning without a feed.

If your baby is waking up too early and is hungry, make sure to offer them full feedings throughout the day. You can learn more about how to wean night feedings in this post.

toddler lying down with pacifier

8. The Last Nap of the Day is too Late

Make sure your toddler isn’t napping too late into the afternoon. Once your baby has dropped to one nap, keep enough time in between the end of the nap and bedtime so there is plenty of sleep pressure.

If your toddler is waking up from their nap at 4 pm and going to bed at 7:30 pm, you can expect a fight at bedtime or an early morning wake up.

9. Behavior is Reinforcing the Habit

When your baby or toddler wakes up at 5 am, do you rush to his side and get him up? Babies make a lot of noises in their sleep, Make sure your baby is truly awake before going into his nursery.

Additionally, if your toddler consistently wakes up at 5 am and you let him watch cartoons until you’re ready to start the day, that can really reinforce the early morning wakeups and cause your toddler to continue the cycle of early morning wakes.

toddler covering his face with bed sheets

10. They’re Anticipating that it’s Morning

This is another one for toddlers only. Toddlers have zero concept of time. If they wake up early, they may think it’s time to get up, even if it’s dark outside.

This is where the concept of a toddler clock can really help! Something like the Hatch light can show toddlers that the red light means bed and a green light means it’s time to wake up!

If they happen to wake up at 4 am, they’ll see the red light and hopefully go back to sleep until the light turns green.

How Do I Get My Baby to Sleep Longer at Night?

Of course there are also things like sleep regressions, teething, illness, and random off-nights. Make sure your baby has a true habit of waking up too early before messing with their sleep schedule.

Good sleep habits start at bedtime and are then consistent throughout each wakeup. You may be able to use a sleep training technique such as Ferber for early morning wakeups, but it will be difficult if you aren’t consistent each time you put your baby to sleep.

More than likely, a good sleep schedule and a good sleep routine can help curb those early morning wakeups.

If you’re struggling with your baby’s sleep (or lack thereof), I can help!

If you want one-on-one help and support getting your baby to sleep, I am here! Feel free to book a free-15-minute discovery call with me to see if working together would be a good fit!

Amy Motroni

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[…] and get him to sleep ASAP. Plenty of sleep problems can come from a baby being overtired, including early morning wakeups, fussiness, poor feeds, and short […]