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Baby Waking Up Too Early? Here's What to Know

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When they're wide awake but it's 5 in the morning.

When daylights savings time ends, we expect that we're in for some early wakeups, but when 4:45am starts are still plaguing new parents into the winter months, it starts to feel like a lot. Sleep deprivation is, after all, a form of torture. The sunlight isn't creeping in, so why, why is your baby awake and ready for the day before 6am, every morning? Firstly, it pays to know that it's harder for babies to stay asleep between 4am and 6am (this is when it's considered an 'early wake' anything before is still night and anything after is morning) simply because the sleep pressure is lower during that time. Think about it this way, in the early hours of the morning, they've almost had a full night's sleep, melatonin is dropping, factors are fighting against sleep. As adults, we also wake up many times in these hours but put ourselves back to sleep. Babies are yet to learn how to do that. They need our help. Here are some of the things experts point to as likely causes, and what to do about them.

Their bedtime is too late

Contrary to logic, a later bed time does not make a baby sleep in. Particularly if they are over 3 months old. A later bedtime can actually do the opposite. In fact, trying an earlier bedtime may beget a later wake up. Try shifting it forward just 20-30 minutes.

The first nap of the day is too early

A lesser known possible cause of early wakes is that their first nap is too early. Experts advise that if your baby wakes at 5am, you need to put them down after their next awake window from the time they should have woken (e.g. 7am) not the time they did. Sure your 1-year-old probably won’t make it to 10am, but apparently having it as the goal can help break the early wakeup habit. Many sleep experts actually advocate for the first awake window to be the longest in a baby's day.

They're overtired by bedtime

If their last awake window is the longest, it's possible that they are overtired by the time you're putting them to bed, and overtired babies are hard to get to sleep and they wake up early.

They are getting too much or too little sleep in the day

Long day naps are blessings for busy parents, but if they come at the cost of a good night's sleep, or an early wake simply because they aren't tired anymore, they have got to go. As your baby gets older, naps become shorter and less frequent so it might be time to adjust. On the flip side, they might not be getting enough sleep and are therefore overtired. Consult a nap schedule for your baby's age and see if it's consistent with what your baby is doing or if adjusting might help with the early starts.

They are hungry

As a newborn, this is why your baby wakes, so it's logical to assume when it keeps happening that it's for the same reason. It also has a tangible solution. Food., However, if your baby is getting all their calories in the day, it's unlikely that hunger is the reason they're waking, so evaluate all the other possible causes. If it does seem like hunger, try adding extra calories in the day with milk or (if established on solids) food.

An early morning habit has been created

You know how you can't sleep in on the weekend because you're used to getting up to your alarm through the week? It's possible that your baby has created an early morning habit and now you have to rewire their internal body clock. To do this, you need to treat the early wake like it's the middle of the night. Don't get up and play with them, keep things dark, quiet and boring. Your actions need to say, it's sleep time, not, I could hang.

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