As the lockdown continues to lift, we are all enjoying time with loved ones, warmer weather and walks in the park. As wonderful as longer evenings sound, for some of us, the increase in natural light is a contributing factor to our little ones waking early. This is one of the most common issues we hear about from our families we work with so you are not on your own.
Most babies sleep for 11 -12 hours overnight so it is normal for babies to start the day between 6 – 7am. Whilst some babies are naturally early risers, we would still consider a 5am waking a middle of the night one. For some parents, accepting that their child is an early riser is something they can plan their days around but if your baby is cranky during the day or you see lots of resistance with their behaviour, this is a good indicator that your child needs more sleep. Resolving early morning wakings can take time to overcome and this is because when your little one wakes, they do not have the same sleep pressure as they did at bed time so they will find it harder to get back to sleep. Having said that, if it is having an impact on your days, it is worth resolving.
There are many contributing factors ranging from hunger, developmental leaps, nap times may need adjusting to the right age and stage of development for your child, poor sleep hygiene and environmental factors. Before making any changes, we would suggest keeping a detailed diary over a week, looking at your child’s day, what they eat, drink, nap times and duration, moods and how they settle to sleep. Log what time they are going to bed and when they finally settle to sleep. This will give you a clear picture as to what is going on with your little one and what changes need to be made to help improve early morning wakings as it could be a small tweak that will make all the difference. Once you have done that, please use our tips below as a guide:
1: Look at how much sleep they are having over a 24 hour period. If they are having too little sleep during the day, this will affect their overall sleeping. When a baby is overtired it can work against them and they will find it harder to settle – sleep promotes sleep! By contrast, if they are having too much daytime sleep or going to bed too early, this will affect what time they wake to start their day.
2: We would also recommend looking at their diet, what they are eating and what times they are eating their meals. If you are unsure if they are hungry, I would suggest offering them a banana before bath time or a nice warm milky drink. This will give then the extra calories to help get them through to breakfast time. This is particularly important for little ones who are at nursery as they tend to offer them tea very early.
3: I would look at their sleep hygiene. We would recommend following a routine of bath, brushing teeth, pyjamas on in your child’s room, dimming the lights, having some milk, reading a story and having a lovely cuddle before putting them in their bed for the night. Keeping the same calm routine every night helps your little one wind down, know what is expected from them and the consistency helps them to feel secure. It is also a lovely time for parents to spend with their child at the end of the day.
4: Look at the way you are settling your little one at bedtime. Are they falling asleep with any sleep props? This could be a dummy, feeding or being cuddled to sleep or having a parent in the room while they fall asleep. The way you settle your baby to sleep at bedtime is what they will expect when they wake at 5am.
5: Check the environment. Make sure their room is mostly dark, there are no outside noises disturbing them or household noise which can include boilers or a parent getting up to have a shower to get ready for work.
If you have worked through your checklist above and your little one is still waking at 5am, it is important that you respond to them at 5am in the same way as you would in the middle of the night. If your baby is waking up babbling or playing in their cot at 5am, it is ok to leave them and give them the opportunity to settle themselves without needing your help to do so.
If you have tried to get things back on track and are having no luck, please do get in touch and let’s work through it together.