Early morning wake up baby

5 Reasons Why Your Baby Wakes Up Early in the Morning

Does your child wake up early in the morning? What does early waking mean? How can we help the baby sleep until later in the morning? In this article, we'll shed light on these questions and more...

There are many different reasons and a large number of factors that lead to the baby waking up very early in the morning. When these reasons become a daily occurrence, your child's body naturally adapts to this early waking, making it a routine.

So, when do we classify it as early morning waking?

According to research, the majority of babies wake up between 6 and 8 am.

If your child...

  • Rises before 6:00 AM
  • Sleeps less than 10-12 hours at night
  • then we classify it as early morning waking.

If your baby gets up every morning around 7:00 AM, it is very likely that this is the best time for him (from a physiological point of view) to wake up and start the day.

On the other hand, if so far your child usually got up at 8:00 AM and

  • suddenly starts waking up at 6:00 or
  • if he gradually starts waking up earlier in the morning
  • This indicates a shift in your child's sleep pattern, suggesting an underlying reason for the early morning rise.

Why does the baby wake up too early in the morning and how can we help the child get up later?

Reason 1: Your child is just too tired

Overtiredness is one of the leading causes of early morning waking in the baby. And overtiredness comes from an improper sleep-wake rhythm (or schedule)  for the child.

If you suspect that your child is overtired, one of the first things you should do is analyze the sleep - wake rhythm of your baby.

What leads to overtiredness in the baby? Below you can look at a list of the most common reasons:

1. The child goes to bed very late for sleep in the evening.

It's a myth that if we put the baby to bed later at night, they'll wake up later in the morning. This myth has been around for ages, but sleep studies show the opposite - an earlier bedtime leads to a later wake-up time. For example, if your baby is going to bed at 8:30 PM and waking up at 5:00 AM, you might think moving bedtime to 9:30 PM will result in a 6:00 AM wake-up. But, despite the later bedtime, your baby still wakes up at 5:00 AM and won't go back to sleep.

Why does this happen?

Late bedtime leads to overtiredness in the baby, and overtiredness leads to an increase in the hormones cortisol and adrenaline in the child's body. This worsens the quality of sleep and provokes:

  • Waking up very early in the morning
  • Fragmented sleep at night time
  • Difficulty falling asleep at night and/or during the day.
Solution: Take a good look at your baby's sleep - wake rhythm (or schedule). If your baby is overtired because their bedtime is too late, you might need to make adjustments.

2.Your baby has wake windows that are too long for them, leading to a buildup of tiredness.

In other words, the time between two naps, when your baby is feeding and playing, is too long.

Solution: You might need to shorten the time your baby is awake between naps to prevent them from getting overtired.

3. Your baby has proper awake windows and seems fine during the day, but the last awake window right before nighttime sleep is too long.

For example, your baby usually stays awake for between 2 and 3 hours between naps, but right before night sleep, they're awake for 4 hours.

Solution: Try reducing the amount of time your baby is awake before night sleep to prevent them from getting overtired.

4. Your child does not sleep enough during the day

It's crucial to understand if your child is getting enough sleep. How can you do this? There are tables with scientifically proven sleep norms. But even if your child is below these norms (or at the lower end of these norms), don't worry. This doesn't automatically mean you child is overtired. It's essential to watch for signs of sleepiness. Check out the article "How much sleep does your baby need?" It can be very helpful in this case.

Solution: If your child is indeed sleeping less than needed, the solution may lie in adjusting their sleep-wake rhythm. Many parents have seen good results within a week of establishing a suitable rhythm.

5. Does Your Child Refuse One of the Naps?

Your child might be transitioning, say, from 3 to 2 daily naps or from 2 to 1. During such transitions, most children start to refuse one of the their naps.

But, if your child suddenly starts waking up earlier in the morning while this transition is happening, it often indicates that they are overtired.

Solution: Keep a sleep diary and analyze your child's sleep-wake rhythm. The sleep norms chart can be useful here, too. Find out more about how your child can smoothly transition to fewer naps.

Reason 2: Is Your Child Going to Bed Too Early for the Night?

Some children over 4 months old still go to sleep in the evening around 5:30 - 6:00 PM. This can set the stage for waking up too early in the morning. In this case, I recommend changing your baby's entire sleep-wake rhythm.

How can you do this?

Gradually shift their bedtime by 15-20 minutes every two days. For instance, here is how you can smoothly change the bedtime of a child who usually goes to bed at 6:00 PM:

  • Day 1 and Day 2 - Put your child to sleep around 6:15 (or 6:20) instead of 6:00 PM.
  • Day 3 and Day 4 - Move bedtime to around 6:30 PM.
  • Day 5 and Day 6 - Shift it to around 6:45 PM.
  • Day 7 and Day 8 - Finally, put your child to sleep around 7:00 PM.

In about a week, you'll have successfully shifted your child's bedtime. This gradual approach rarely results in push-back from the child, as long as parents are consistent in implementing it.

It's important to determine the best bedtime for your child. When shifting bedtime, you'll also need to consider whether you should adjust the times for daytime sleep (for all naps ).

Reason 3: The baby has a habit of feeding at a specific time every morning

Before you try this approach, please consult with your pediatrician and/or breastfeeding consultant and assess whether it is suitable for your baby!

If your child is used to feeding at a specific early morning time (say, 5:30), hunger could be a reason they're waking up so early.

The solution in this case is to delay feeding. How? Postpone it, offer food 10 minutes later, every morning.

Reason 4: Discomfort From a Full Diaper

Indeed, this is another reason why a baby might wake up extremely early in the morning. The solution may seem straightforward: replace the full diaper with a clean one. However, the issue is that changing the diaper often leads to waking the baby, and then they adamantly refuse to go back to sleep.

The solution is to change the diaper earlier in the night (for example, 3 am). At this point, the sleep pressure is high and even if the baby wakes up, they are likely to fall asleep again easily.

Reason 5: The Room Environment Interferes with the Baby's Sleep

Make sure the room environment promotes peaceful sleep for the baby in the morning hours. What does this mean?

  • First, it is important to keep the room dark. Use heavy curtains to block out light.
  • Second, if the room is not quiet enough, consider using pink or white noise. This is especially helpful if you live near a noisy place or have early-rising neighbors. If your baby is not a fan of white noise, I often suggest to parents that they use nature sounds - like a brook, ocean waves, or a waterfall.
  • Lastly, ensure the room is not too hot or cold. Check the humidity levels and ensure they are within a healthy range.

Finding the Right Sleep Solution

Early morning wake-ups can be a puzzling and frustrating aspect of parenthood. Remember, you're not alone in this journey. If your child's early morning wake-ups have become a significant concern, don't hesitate to reach out or review the baby sleep consultation services I offer.


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2. Is Your Child Waking Up Too Early?

3. What to do when your baby wakes up too early

4. Common Myths About Baby Sleep Challenges

5. How to Recognize an Overtired Baby

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