Baby sleep: is your baby waking up earlier than you'd like?
While being up to watch the sunrise with your little one is a nice perk, not all of us are ready to start our day in the early hours. Annette Faamausilli from Serene Sleep discusses the common reasons for early rising.
While it might not feel like it right now, early waking is usually just a phase. Just ask any parent of a teenager, and they'll tell you that children grow out of early waking and that getting them out of bed becomes more of a problem! But that doesn't help when your baby is small and is getting you out of bed in the early hours each day. So, what causes it and what can you do to change it? Well, there are several reasons why your baby might be waking up earlier than you'd like. Read on to learn more about the most common reasons and what you can do to solve them.
- IT'S TOO LIGHT OR TOO NOISY IN YOUR BABY'S ROOM
Light and noise are the two mortal enemies of good sleep! And they could be causing early rising. The summer months are particularly bad for this when you might find that the light, or noise like birds chirping, is disturbing your baby's sleep early in the morning.
Investing in a good pair of blackout curtains or blackout blinds is the best way to combat a light room. If you have a horde of noisy birds outside, live near a main road or another noise source, you could consider a white noise machine to block out the sounds.
- YOUR BABY IS HUNGRY
Sometimes your baby will wake because they are genuinely hungry. If this is the case, you need to adjust feeding during the day to ensure they have enough sustenance to last them through the night. You may need to increase the number of feeds or the amount you feed each time. If your baby is nearing six months and hasn't yet started solids, it may be time to start weaning onto solid foods as they may need more calories.
Another thing to check is whether your baby isn't actually hungry, but is just waking for comfort because they enjoy feeding and being close to you. If you are sure that your baby is getting enough food during the day but is still waking for an early feed, try offering another form of comfort or gentle soothing instead of feeding, with the idea that they will eventually stop waking for that expected feed.
- YOUR BABY IS COLD
It is quite common for the temperature to drop in the early morning, usually around 4am. This change in temperature can cause your baby to become cold and wake up. The way to combat this is to make sure your little one is going to stay warm when this happens.
Ideally, your baby's room should remain between 18 and 20 degrees all the time.
You’ll want to make sure their bedding is warm enough too. A sleep sack is a good alternative for older babies as they can't be kicked off in the middle of the night.
- YOUR BABY IS ENTERING A NEW STAGE OF DEVELOPMENT
The early years are an amazing time and your baby will go through many developmental stages. When your baby is learning a new skill like rolling, crawling, pulling to stand or trying out new sounds, they will want to practise them often. Unfortunately, this is often in the early hours of the morning! Especially as this is when their melatonin levels drop, and they are in light sleep at this time. If your baby is happy, you can leave them be and they might drift back off to sleep or just wait until you are ready to get them up.
- YOUR BABY'S DAY NAPS ARE CAUSING A PROBLEM
If your baby consistently wakes early, the reason could be that they are having an extra long restorative morning nap. You might think it is helpful for your baby to get plenty of rest in the morning, but over time it may compound the early rising issue and contribute to regular early waking.
Instead, aim for a shorter nap in the morning and a longer nap in the middle of the day.
If your baby wakes early, won't resettle and you are forced to get them up, then you can try a quick nap of 15 minutes approximately an hour and a half after they wake to reset things. Depending on how old your little one is, you might also want to think about reducing the length of the day naps or dropping one altogether.
- YOUR BABY IS OVERTIRED
Many parents get confused when their overtired baby continues to wake up early. Surely a tired baby should sleep more! If your baby is not sleeping enough at night or during the day, they may become overtired. This can increase the levels of cortisol in their bodies. When it is regulated, cortisol works in combination with melatonin to create a wake and sleep cycle. But, when cortisol levels get too high, they can interfere with that natural cycle and actually inhibit sleep. Hence your tired baby actually finds it harder to sleep, and a vicious cycle starts. A regular nap and bedtime schedule can help to regulate melatonin and cortisol levels for better overall sleep.
Annette Faamausili is a baby and child sleep expert and has been advising and supporting parents since 2001. She trained and qualified in the NHS, UK, and moved to New Zealand with her Samoan husband and family in 2011. Annette has three children (Matilda, Oscar, and Lola) and lives on the beautiful Whangaparaoa Peninsula in Auckland. Find her at serenesleep.co.nz.
AS FEATURED IN ISSUE 59 OF OHbaby! MAGAZINE. CHECK OUT OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE BELOW