If your baby wakes up at 5AM – you have an early morning waking baby on your hands.
Dealing with an early morning waking baby is one of the most common challenges that parents face. Just because it’s common doesn’t mean that it’s easy to solve.
In fact, it can be all the more difficult for parents to manage as they also need their well-deserved shuteye in order to take care of their baby and find a solution that works.
When a baby wakes up too early, you may be unable to respond efficiently due to sleep deprivation. Plus, your baby is sure to be more cranky, drowsy, and irritable.
So, why do babies tend to wake up early, and what can you do to solve it? We will provide you with practical tips, tricks, and must-know strategies.
However, every baby is different. Finding the right approach may take some time. You have to remain calm and patient as you work to solve this problem.
Why Babies Wake Up Early
Why do babies wake up early?
To find a solution to this common issue, it’s essential to identify the cause.
Several potential reasons can cause early morning wakings for your baby. How can you narrow it down? It’s important to be thorough in examining all the possible causes.
If your baby wakes up at 5AM, consider if your feeding habits are inconsistent.
Babies have small stomachs and they need to be fed frequently. Inconsistent feeding can disrupt their sleep pattern. The solution to this, however, isn’t to overfeed your baby.
You have to establish a balanced feeding schedule.
Besides sleep, your baby could just be uncomfortable. If so, it’s not going to be easy to pinpoint the exact cause of their discomfort. You have to take everything into account.
From teething pain to wet and dirty diapers – you have to take everything into account.
Any changes made to your baby’s sleep habits can potentially cause early morning wakings. This includes altering their bedtime or changing their sleep environment.
It’s always important to introduce changes gradually. Otherwise, your baby may have a hard time adjusting.
There are many other factors that you have to take into account as a responsible parent.
Is your baby comfortable with the room temperature? Is there too much noise?
What about the mattress? Does it fit the crib properly? It’s possible that your baby doesn’t like sleeping in a crib altogether. If so, there are crib alternatives to consider.
Make sure you examine everything until you can pinpoint the exact cause. Only then can you develop a good strategy to fix your baby’s early morning wakings.
Here are the most common causes of early morning wakings:
- Inconsistent feeding
- Sleep pattern changes
- Changes in the sleep environment
- Room temperature
- Too much noise
- Room not dark enough
- Separation anxiety
- Overstimulation before bedtime
Start With a Consistent Sleep Schedule
Parents need to establish a consistent sleep schedule for their babies.
In some cases, a baby waking up too early is a result of improper sleep training. In other words, you have likely failed to establish a consistent sleeping schedule for your baby.
Babies and infants need sufficient rest in order to develop healthily. Sleeping supports their physical and cognitive development, which is exactly why consistent sleep matters.
It can be challenging to establish it, but once you do, you improve your own sleep, too.
Every baby needs predictability. When your baby learns to anticipate what comes next, it makes nighttime sleep all the more peaceful and prevents unwanted sleep disruptions.
In a single day, newborns sleep for about 14-17 hours. How do you plan around that? It’s important to stay flexible, because their sleeping patterns change during the first year.
By 6 months of age, the average time they sleep is lowered to around 9 hours.
But, what about daytime sleep and naps?
A consistent nap schedule is needed to complement your baby’s sleeping habits.
For now, however, you can start by setting a bedtime and wake-up time for your baby. It’s fine to be flexible, but ideally you want to be as consistent as you possibly can.
Sticking to the schedule guarantees better results.
It helps prevent your baby from waking up early.
When you set a schedule, structure your own routine around it. As a parent, you are likely to experience fatigue and exhaustion, so it’s crucial to organize your own rest effectively.
Once you have a schedule that you can work with, don’t forget to organize nap times, feeding times and bedtime routines around it to ensure your baby gets quality sleep.
To prevent early morning wakings, everything needs to click into place.
Even then, babies can still be unpredictable. If necessary, adjust the schedule.
Create an Ideal Sleep Environment
You have set a structured sleep schedule. What’s next?
Now, you have to create a safe, sleep-inductive environment for your baby. Here’s how you can do it.
The first thing you want to do is to make sure that your baby is comfortable.
Babies can get uncomfortable during the night if their sleep surface doesn’t fit their needs. A soft, uneven mattress can make it impossible for your little one to fall asleep.
You need to get a firm mattress that properly fits the crib. This is important not only because a firm mattress supports sleep, but because it’s crucial for your baby’s safety.
Make sure to consider your baby’s clothing, too. Do the clothes irritate them? Do they make your baby too hot? Dress your baby appropriately for room temperature.
With that in mind, you have to regulate your baby’s room temperature constantly.
As you are likely aware, babies have a harder time regulating their temperature. If their comfort is not ensured, they may be more vulnerable to having early morning wakings.
To prevent overheating or exposing your baby to the cold, it’s generally recommended to maintain the temperature of the baby’s room within the ideal range of 68-72°F (20-22°C).
Consider also the level of noise and lighting in your baby’s room.
When it’s time for sleep – it’s time for sleep. Minimize the noise inside your house. For example, a 4 month old baby needs a dark and quiet room in order to sleep soundly.
Besides, it’s better for the entire family if you respect each other’s needs.
If you want to go the extra step, try a white noise machine. It can help your little one fall asleep faster. Some parents even claim that it puts their baby to sleep in just 40 seconds.
Every baby is different, so it’s important to try different things until you create a perfect sleep environment for your baby. But, there’s one more thing that you have to consider.
Establish a Calming Bedtime Routine
One thing that you have to keep in mind is that newborn babies sleep for about 1 to 2 hours at a time. They may not start sleeping through the night until they’re 3 months old.
To help your little one sleep better at night and to prevent them from waking early, you need to establish a relaxing bedtime routine that signals to them when it’s time for bed.
Be patient, because it may take time for your baby to adjust to new routines. A bedtime routine is basically a set of activities that you do before bed.
Keep it short and remember that the purpose of this routine is to calm your baby. So, what kind of bedtime activities are good at preventing early morning wakings?
Let’s name a few:
- Bath time
- Calm music
A warm bath is a popular option for many parents. It relaxes your baby’s muscles, especially after a long day of physical activities, and helps them fall asleep easier.
A massage is also an efficient choice for calming down babies.
Reading works, too. Just make sure to do it in a low, soothing tone. Pick age-appropriate books, as well. Reading to your baby has other benefits, too, like cognitive development.
Playing calm music or singing to your baby makes for an excellent relaxing bedtime activity that not only lulls your baby to sleep but promotes parent-child bonding.
If your baby feels antsy, rocking them in your arms can help soothe them.
Even though all of these options are great, don’t overdo it. Whatever bedtime routine you decide to incorporate, it should last for about 20 minutes without a hint of overstimulation.
As soon as you spot your little one getting sleep, put them down safely into the crib.
Before calling it a night, dim the lights and minimize any excessive noise.
As always, the most important aspect of any routine is staying consistent. If you do this every night, it signals to your baby that it’s time for sleep and yields much better results.
What to Do When Your Baby Wakes Up Early
It can be frustrating – and that’s putting it mildly – when your baby wakes up at 5AM.
You need to know how to respond to this situation in advance because you and your partner will be drowsy when your little one interrupts your sleep and wakes you up.
As always, preparation is key in every aspect of parenting. Dealing with early morning wakings is no exception. The first thing you have to do, besides making coffee, is stay composed.
A baby waking up too early is something that you can’t fix in the morning. Getting upset or worked up about it won’t solve the issue. The best thing you can do is remain calm.
Don’t let frustration ruin your day right from the start. Yes, it’s inconvenient, but it’s all a part of the journey.
There will always be ups and downs. Some mornings are easier, some harder. Remember: your baby senses and reacts to your energy.
If you’re frustrated, your little one is going to be frustrated and confused, too.
If your baby wakes up at 5AM often, then you need to make a plan. In fact, you need to reevaluate your baby’s sleep time and wake time, as well as their bedtime habits, too.
Reassess all aspects of your baby’s sleep to identify the underlying cause.
You don’t have to do this as soon as you wake up in the morning, but it’s important to address this issue in order to prevent another early morning waking the following day.
At the very least, you want to make progress as you proceed.
Don’t expect to fix the problem in a few days. Stay consistent. Since you’re going to make a few changes, remember to introduce them gradually so that your little one can adjust.
Help your baby sleep better by finding the right time for sleep. Try getting your little one to sleep later until you find a time that works.
Just don’t overdo it. Adjust their bedtime only by 15 to 30 minutes tops.
When your baby wakes up at 5AM, don’t rush to comfort them right away. That can be counter-intuitive since your presence may alert the baby that it’s time to start the day.
Instead, wait a few minutes to see if they will go back to sleep on their own.
If they don’t, you can go in and attempt to put your baby to sleep again. Here are a few tips and tricks on how to do that.
Don’t turn on the lights just yet. Keep it dark and quiet. If you have to talk to your child or your partner, whisper. This signals that it’s still nighttime, even though they’re awake.
If you want to comfort your baby, do so without picking them up. There are many ways to help relax your child, such as gently patting their back or singing their favorite lullaby.
Even though you’re groggy, try to observe your little one for cues.
Are they hungry? Is your baby awake in a crib but not crying?
Stay calm, composed, and patient as you try to figure out the cause. But, what should you do if they outright refuse to go back to sleep?
Respond to your little one’s needs if necessary, but don’t take them out of the crib. If your soothing techniques don’t work, help them understand that it’s not time to wake up yet.
Keep things calm and relaxed as you eventually start your usual morning routine.
Once you’ve had your coffee and some time to wake up, it’s a good idea to sit down with your partner to figure out what needs to be changed to help your baby sleep better.
Reevaluate their sleep schedule, their nap times and their sleep environment. Reflect on your baby’s cues to determine if there is something making your child uncomfortable.
It takes time, sometimes even months, to fix this issue. So, be persistent.
Consistency is what makes or breaks a successful sleep routine for your bundle of joy.
How to Cope With a Lack of Sleep
Now let’s shift the focus to you, as a parent.
Lack of sleep is a common issue that many parents face.
If left unresolved, it can lead to negative effects on your health and well-being. It affects not only your ability to perform daily tasks, but your ability to take care of your child.
A baby waking up during the night or before dawn is a serious problem for parents, not only the child. This problem can lead to negative long-term consequences on your health.
So, what can you do to handle the situation?
Besides everything covered so far, it’s important to set realistic expectations.
While a few tips and tricks can be helpful, resolving the issue of a baby waking up too early takes time and patience. Even then, you may not resolve the problem entirely.
How come? Well, you’re best off embracing the reality of the situation.
Don’t expect your baby to sleep through the night until they are several months old. A 4 month old baby, for example, will sleep better during the night than a newborn baby.
Having said that, sleep training begins as soon as your little one enters your home. A newborn sleeps roughly around 12 to 16 hours, but in short bursts.
This changes over time. With every month, your baby’s sleeping habits change. So, you have to stay flexible and informed about these changes in order to adjust your approach.
On top of that, you also have to manage your little one’s nap schedule.
For example, a 4 month old baby may require more naps throughout the day, while a 9 month old baby may be ready to transition to a longer nap. It’s important to know this.
For further comparison, a 3 to 5 month old baby may sleep for roughly about 15 hours a day, while a 12 month old baby may sleep for around 12-14 hours a day, including naps.
As your baby grows, their sleep habits and wake times change sporadically.
For parents, sleepless nights are an unavoidable reality.
That’s precisely why you need to focus on self-care. Do your best to help your baby sleep, but don’t neglect your own health and well-being. You need to take care of yourself, too.
If you’re reaching your breaking point, don’t hesitate to ask for help. You can consult with your pediatrician in order to develop a strategy to help you resolve early wakings.
Asking for help is never a bad idea, and it doesn’t mean that you’re a bad parent.
Even though the issue of a baby waking up before morning may seem overwhelming now, a few months later your baby’s sleeping patterns will stabilize and improve substantially.
It’s funny, but each and every sleepless night eventually becomes a fond memory.
You’re not going to believe it, but most parents end up missing these late night struggles.
Do what you can to stop your baby from waking up in night or before morning by managing sleep habits, establishing a calming routine before bed, and being consistent.
But, remember to take care of yourself. Take a nap if you’re tired during the day. Talk with your partner. Help each other wake up when you have to respond to a waking baby.
Don’t let this prevent you from enjoying the journey of parenthood.
Cherish every moment, especially now while you have a few months old baby. They may be a handful, but every new day comes with new discoveries and milestones to cherish.
If your baby likes to wake up at 5AM, you’re not alone. Many parents experience the same problem.
It’s possible to overcome it by establishing a fixed bedtime, wake time and nap schedule and making sure to stick to it even if your baby continues to wake up inconsistently.
If you work hard to solve this problem, you can ensure that your little one gets the recommended number of hours of sleep, depending on your child’s age and needs.
Being awake before your alarm goes off can be frustrating, so don’t forget to approach this problem with a calm mind. Getting worked up about it can only worsen the issue.
While you lie in bed, try to think of a solution. Remember that you can’t solve early morning wakings in the morning. So, incorporate your strategies before it’s time for bed.
With enough time and patience, you will get to enjoy peaceful nights with your baby. They may wake up a few times here and there, but no one said it was going to be easy.
So, remember to cherish the moments, even if it means crawling out of bed.
Mother of three and a primary school teacher. I’ve always loved being around children and helping them, so I chose my path as a teacher. It is sometimes hectic with three children, but I am 100 percent into it and wouldn’t change it for anything in the world.