What time your child wakes in the morning is controlled strongly by their internal clock. And most of these clocks say to wake up between
6:30-7:30 am. Expecting them to sleep much later than this is not very reasonable and usually not possible (especially if you are trying to have a well rested child). I know this isn't the best news for you night owls out there!
Many children start waking early in the morning out of the blue. Sometimes there is something you can do to stop the waking, while other times you have to wait it out--sometimes for several days, sometimes for, gulp, months. The list below should help you do some troubleshooting. Prevention is huge when it comes to waking early in the morning--once it starts it can be tricky to stop!
Here are some possible causes of early morning waking along with some solutions:
- A light room. "The sky is awake so I'm awake!" A light room might be the cause of early morning wakings even if your child is used to sleeping in a light room for naps. Because a child's sleep is almost done in the morning he doesn't have a very strong drive to sleep at this time so things like light effect him more.
- Some children wake and cry for you, especially if they are not used to sleeping on their own. They are using you as a sleep prop, and are unable to go to sleep and stay asleep on their own. The solution to this is helping them learn to sleep on their own, through some form of sleep training. See the sleep training index for some ideas.
- Your child has a disrupted sleep routine. A disrupted routine could include something that happened the current day or the even the night or day before. While some children don't mind a few disruptions, other children are very affected by them. If your child has big issues with disruptions, you will just have to do your best to minimize them and keep in mind that your child will probably get more adaptable as she gets older.
- Your child has an inconsistent or nonexistent sleep routine. A child that has an inconsistent or nonexistent routine does not have consistent internal rhythms to help him know when he should be sleeping and for how long. See Why have a schedule/routine? From very early on I suggest always treating any feed during the night like a night feed. Be sure not to treat an early feed at 5 am like a morning feed, even with a newborn, of you may get him in the habit of being awake then for months to come.
- Morning sounds may be waking your child. If you think this may be going on, wake up a bit earlier than your child usually gets up and see if you can figure out what is possibly waking him. You may want to consider getting a sound machine.
- Your child's nightly requirement of sleep may have already been met. To fix this you may need to either put him to bed later or decrease his total nap lengths. See Nightly Sleep Phase.
- Your child may have gone to bed too early. Either his nightly requirement of sleep may have been met (see above and the too long in bed problem) or his body is set on such a routine that even if you put him to bed early to make up for lost sleep from a bad nap (which often is a good idea for many children, see below), it will cause him to wake up early in the morning. A sleep log will be useful to see if this is the case.
- Your child may have gone to bed too late causing over tiredness which often results in waking too early, not to mention multiple night wakings. Many children need to go to sleep earlier than usual for a time after a nap is dropped or when they have a bad nap day. Sleep (as funny as it sounds) begets sleep.
- Your child may be waking for something (cartoons, mom and dad's bed if he is usually brought here when he wakes early, etc.). If your child watches tv in the morning, try not offering it until he has been up for at least an hour and see if it helps with the early morning awakenings. And if you don't want your child to keep waking up and wanting to get into your bed (often at earlier and earlier times) then DO NOT allow them in there in the first place.
- Your child may need to eat. Newborns need to eat often. If he doesn't normally eat at this time he may be in a growth spurt or may not be eating enough during the day. Refer to the post timing morning wake time with night time feedings.
- Your child feels hungry because he is in the habit of eating in the early morning hours but is old enough to have his nutritional needs met during the day. You might want to consider doing some sort of night feeding weaning and/or sleep training.
- Your child may need wake time during the dreamfeed. Gina Ford suggests keeping your baby up for approximately 45-60 minutes during the dreamfeed for the first 2-4 months of his life or until he is regularly sleeping until the desired morning wake time (at which time you slowly decrease the wake time at the dream feed). Doing so helps decrease early morning wake ups, especially once night feeds are dropped. Most babies seem fine without this extra waketime during the dreamfeed, but I have seen it help some.
- Habitual wakings may result if your child is used to waking up at a certain time in the morning even if he isn't really ready to get up. See if you can reset his clock by doing wake to sleep or going in later each day to get him (or use an ok to wake clock or night light set on a timer). Click on the habitual waking link above for more tips.
- Your child is uncomfortable.
- Is his clothing itchy?
- Does he have eczema? Talk to your doctor about getting something to help if lotion doesn't fix the problem.
- Is his mattress uncomfortable? I suggest buying the best mattress you can afford and preferably a hypoallergenic one. If you are using a pack 'n play as a crib you can buy padded sheets and even put additional blankets for padding under the sheets (make sure it is SAFE).
- Is baby too hot or too cold? See Getting the Right Temperature.
- Is he in pain? **Does your young baby have gas? If you think this is the case, burp your baby, help him calm down and then set him down to try and sleep again. **Is an older baby teething? **Is baby sick? **Does he have acid reflux? **Does he have a diaper rash? ** I've noticed that some things that don't bother my son too much when he's awake (like teething) will be a bit more bothersome when he is trying to sleep since he doesn't have other things to take his mind off of the pain. You can all probably relate with this when you're trying to go to sleep and you notice your sore neck or back for the first time.
- Does he have a wet diaper? Some children are more sensitive than others and do better with diapers that are extra absorptive like huggies supreme. These unfortunately usually cost more. I would first try the next size up to see if this works.
- Does he have a dirty diaper? If he has a dirty diaper you obviously need to change it. Keeping with a eat/activity/sleep routine usually helps reduce dirty diapers during sleep times. You might also want to check out the post about poop and sleep if you are having this issue.
- Is his tummy upset from something in mom's diet if she is breastfeeding or new solid foods that have been introduced? If your baby is formula fed he may be constipated (uncommon with breastfeeding).
- REFLUX- My son Jacob was fussy in the morning from the time he was about 3 weeks old (until now at 2 months old as I write this). I trouble shot everything and couldn't figure out what was going on. After talking with his pediatrician we decided that it was due to reflux. Apparently a baby being fussy in the morning (and no other time) can be due to reflux and is related to the reflux worsening by lying all night (even at a slant) and not eating for long periods of time. He actually did have signs of reflux at other times of the day, but wasn't on medication since I was able to control them through other methods.
- Morning nap is too early. An early morning nap has the potential to cause early morning awakenings by acting as the last sleep cycle of the night which is separated from the rest of the night by a short wake period. To fix this, gradually move the morning nap later and if necessary the first feeding of the day since hunger may be waking your child up too.
- Your child is learning a new skill. Children practice new skills (even when they can't quite do the skills yet) before they fall asleep and even in their sleep. Obviously if you're trying to crawl or walk when you should be sleeping it can cause some disruptions :) If your child is practicing a skill when they should be sleeping, sometime going in once and lying them down and telling them to go to sleep works--if it doesn't, leaving them alone is probably your best bet, otherwise your attention may make a new wake up habit.
- Your child may be going through a monkey business phase. He wakes and plays around for a bit before going back to sleep. He is excited about life, day or night!
- Your child, while transitioning through sleep phases, may wake up for a bit and make noises which you wrongfully assume as a sign that he is ready to go for the day. If left alone for several minutes he may go right back to sleep. Don't rush in!
- The most common time I hear about kids waking is between 5-6 months of age (often later with kids that are not sleep trained), although some 2-3 month olds will wake early too. They may wake for 30 minutes-2 hours and play around in their beds. You have a few options if this happens. 1) leave them alone. 2) Go in and tell them to go back to sleep--make sure to not go in too often 3) Some parents have success soothing or feeding their child back to sleep 4) Try adjusting the dreamfeed like I mentioned in the how to do a dreamfeed post 5) Try wake to sleep. Most kids respond best with as little attention as possible. Extra attention can reinforce the waking and turn it into a long term habit.
- Teach your child to stay in his bed until you either get him or, if he is old enough, some sort of indicator let's him know it is time to get up. This may be something like a clock (either by the time or some you can set to light up at a certain time to represent morning) or a light that lights up to signal morning (see a post here on those). If you teach your child to stay in his bed until you get him from the time he is mobile, this will come very easily and only possibly require a little reinforcement/reminder here and there.
Morning Wake Time - Timing Morning Wake Time with Night Time Feedings
When will my child start sleeping through the night?
How long do I let my child go without a feed at night?
How long do I let my child go without a feed at night?