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Is your baby waking up too early? Here’s what you can do about it

Is your baby waking up too early? If so, you’re probably ready to try just about anything to catch a few extra z’s. Thankfully, there are many different strategies and solutions that can help your baby to sleep past 5 am, from changing their bedtime to changing up the way you dress their bedroom windows.

With these tips, hopefully, your whole household will feel more rested soon and your morning coffee won’t have to brew quite so early.

Baby girl standing and waving in crib
Michael Pettigrew / Shutterstock

How do I stop my baby from waking up too early in the morning?

Change their bedtime

Experimenting with a different bedtime is the first solution to try. However, a later bedtime might not be the only way to go, since an overtired baby might wake up earlier. You might have to experiment to see if you need to move your baby’s bedtime earlier or later and how much. Just a difference of 30 minutes should do it without wreaking havoc.

Keep the room dark

If sunlight is waking up your baby in the morning, eliminate that issue with blackout curtains or another solution. Your baby might sleep longer if they don’t realize the sun is coming up since that light could be the issue waking them. Make sure to cover every crack in the window, even above where the curtains might stop.

Eliminate noises

As the world wakes up, it may awaken your baby, too. Cars, trucks, busses, dogs, or people outside, depending on where you live, could be waking up your baby as outdoor noises begin in the morning with commutes. Help to minimize the noise with a white noise machine going all night. Keep it by the window if the noise is coming in from outside.

Reduce their naptime

If a child is over rested or overtired during the day, they won’t sleep as much at night, leading to waking up earlier. It might be time to drop (or add) a nap or not let your baby fall asleep after breastfeeding (or other habits that may not have been a problem in the past but are now causing you bleary-eyed mornings).

Cut out sleep associations

If your baby wakes up at the same time every day because your routine is that you rock them back to sleep at that time, they will wake up anticipating this action. You will need to stop doing that routine for them to stop waking up for it. Once your baby is old enough, you can give them a bottle to fall asleep without your rocking, and then eventually without it all. Alternatively, you can go in to give your baby a short cuddle and then leave without rocking and use a version of sleep training that you are comfortable with to break the association for falling back asleep.

A woman with a baby in a crib
Cavan Images/Getty Images

How do I put my baby back to bed at 5 am?

Don’t go in right away

You don’t need to go into your baby’s room the second you hear them stir. They might be starting to make noises but could fall back asleep on their own. Wait it out for a bit to see if they do. Don’t go in until your baby is completely awake and calling for you.

Give a pacifier or toy

Without turning on the lights or opening the curtains, quietly go into your baby’s bedroom and give them something that could help them go to sleep, such as a pacifier for a younger baby or a toy for an older baby. Quietly tell them it is still time for sleep, and rub their back and leave again after giving the item.

Feed if necessary

Depending on your baby’s age, a feeding could be biologically necessary or it could be a sleeping aid. If they are waking up because of hunger, give them milk and put them back to bed. If your baby is getting older, they could be waking up because they now expect a 5 am feeding. It could be possible to change that mentality to a 6 am or 7 am feeding. In that case, don’t feed your baby as soon as they wake up, and push breakfast time back in very small increments (in consultation with your pediatrician).

Does putting my baby to bed earlier help him sleep longer?

Not necessarily. Pediatric sleep consultant Brooke Cutler says that being over-tired can actually be an issue and that the most common cause of waking up too early is a bedtime that is too late. “Over-fatigue leads to poor quality sleep, including premature wakings,” Cutler says. “I know it seems counter-intuitive, but a later bedtime does not equate to a later morning wake time. The opposite is almost always true, that a later bedtime will actually lead to earlier morning waking. Sleep begets sleep.” Cutler recommends moving bedtime 30 minutes earlier for a week to see what happens.

Try the easy tips above like blackout curtains on the windows, but the main key will be changing your baby’s sleep schedule between bedtime and naptime. Experiment in small increments over the weeks, and your baby will hopefully settle on a later wake-up time.

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Sarah Prager
Sarah is a writer and mom who lives in Massachusetts. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, National…
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