Written by: Mallorie Stallings
Updated March 5, 2021
Babies tend to be early birds, often waking up at 6 a.m. or 7 a.m. Some babies, however, take being an early bird to a whole new level. These babies may wake up before dawn, around 4 a.m. or 5 a.m. If you struggle with your baby waking up earlier than you'd like in the morning, there are many strategies you can try that may help your baby sleep longer.
1. Make Sure Your Baby is Getting Enough Sleep
By the time they reach six months of age, babies still average around 13 hours of sleep (2) per day, but they start sleeping for longer stretches at night. That said, allow plenty of room for naptime in your baby's sleep schedule. Missing out on naptime can disrupt your baby’s sleep rhythms and cause them to wake up early.
2. Limit Naptime
Although napping is important for babies, napping for too long (3) during the day can keep your baby from sleeping through the night. Be mindful about how long your baby naps. The amount of daytime sleep a baby requires depends on their age. For most babies, naps that range anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours (4) each is a good amount. Find what works for your baby and stick to it.
3. Change Your Baby’s Bedtime
Babies might also have trouble sleeping in if they go to bed too late. To help your baby sleep longer, try to adhere to a consistent sleep routine. Avoid delaying bedtime if you can help it. You can even try putting your baby to bed earlier to see if that helps them sleep longer.
4. Establish a Bedtime Routine
Bedtime routines help babies recognize when it’s time to sleep. Bedtime routines can reduce (5) a child’s nighttime awakenings and help them sleep longer. If you haven’t already, start dedicating the 30 to 60 minutes before your baby’s bedtime to winding their mind and body down for sleep. Lower the lights, and switch off loud toys or electronics. Give your baby a bath, sing a lullaby, or read a bedtime story. Swaddle, cuddle, or rock your baby to help them relax.
5. Do a Dream Feeding
During the first few months of their lives, babies haven’t established a circadian rhythm yet. That happens around age three to six months. Until then, your baby’s sleep patterns are mostly dictated by hunger. If you think your baby is waking up too early due to hunger, try introducing a late-night feeding into their schedule.
Middle of the night feedings are called "dream feedings" because the goal is to rouse your baby as little as possible. Keep the lights, noise, and activity to a minimum, and put your baby right back to sleep after feeding. Avoid playing with or talking to them. Parents can schedule dream feedings between 10 p.m. and 12 a.m. By 9 months old, your baby should be able to sleep for a stretch of eight to 10 hours without needing a dream feeding.
6. Try Blackout Curtains
A dark bedroom makes it easier to sleep, no matter how old we are. It’s possible bright morning sunlight shining into your baby’s room might be waking them up earlier than they (and you) would like. Blackout curtains can keep your baby’s room as dark as possible, while a dim nightlight can provide just enough light to prevent them from feeling fearful.
7. Block Out Noise
Loud noise (6) can disrupt a baby’s sleep, even to the point of waking them up. If you live on a busy street or your baby's older sibling plays in a rock band, do what you can to lower the volume in your baby’s room. A white noise machine can mask other noises and prevent them from disrupting your baby’s slumber, allowing them to sleep longer.
8. Adjust the Temperature
Making your baby’s bedroom ideal for sleep can be tricky. The room needs to be just the right amount of dark, quiet, and cool. A cooler temperature in the low 60 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal for adults to sleep in, but babies prefer something a bit warmer, around 65 degrees Fahrenheit (7). Your baby may also need a change in pajamas to stay warm. Tight-fitting clothes made from cotton are a good choice that’s breathable and safe.
9. Change Up Their Diapers
If your baby wakes up due to a wet or dirty diaper, switching to overnight diapers may make them more comfortable. Overnight diapers are designed to be more absorbent and keep your baby’s bottom dry for several hours, enabling them to sleep through the night.
10. Let Your Baby Self-Soothe
Between 27% to 57% of babies (8) aged 6 to 12 months don’t sleep through the night. If they learn to self-soothe, they can fall back asleep on their own and sleep longer.
If your baby is waking up too early, try letting them be on their own for about 30 minutes to see if they can soothe themselves back to sleep. If your sleep training method allows for you to interact with your baby, you may do so, but stay calm and minimize your interaction before leaving the room again. Remember, there is no right or wrong way (9) to sleep train. The important thing is to be consistent with whatever method you’re using.
11. Set an Alarm
To help your baby understand the “right” time to wake up, try using an alarm. It can be a musical alarm clock, or a light with a timer on it. Set the alarm to turn on at a more appropriate wake time, such as 6 a.m., to help your baby recognize that time as the time to wake up. Just make sure you don’t let your child get up before the alarm, or they won’t take it seriously!
12. Be Patient
Children’s sleep schedules can get thrown off throughout their early years as they grow and develop. Maybe they experience a growth spurt, or start going to daycare. These changes can throw off sleep rhythms for a short time, but your baby will eventually settle back into sleeping through the night. Return to your baby’s bedtime routine, help them learn to self-soothe, and have patience.
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