Why Babies and Children May Wake Up Early

The wake up timing of babies often sets up the tone for the rest of their day and yours. Early waking is a common problem amongst babies and toddlers. It can wreak havoc on parents who after a tiring day are forced to wake up in the early morning to look after and feed their babies. This article shares insights into why babies and children wake up early and what parents can do about it.

What does waking up too early mean?

For some parents, 7:00am in the morning is the ideal wake up time. However, for others, anything before 6:00am is way too early. Then, how can you decide the perfect time for babies to wake up, and how can you claim what time is too early or too late for them to wake up?

Well, in that case, if your child normally wakes up at 6:00am, every morning, fresh and happy, this means that they do not have an early waking problem. A wake-up time of 6:00am is appropriate for most babies and toddlers if they are waking up fresh after a proper and complete night’s sleep. An early rising problem is when your child wakes up in the middle of the night and does not go back to sleep or wakes up before 6:00am still feeling cranky and tired. It is a problem that parents must identify and address immediately.

Why is your baby waking up too early?

If your child wakes up early occasionally there may be a number of reasons for this such as they may be suffering from an illness, they may be teething, too much sleep during the day, food related or travelling which is why they may be sleeping in a different setting, etc. Occasional early waking is nothing significant to worry about unless you cannot trace the cause. But once the reason is known, you can work on it and solve it to ensure that your baby sleeps for long.

However, if your baby has a habit of waking up too early then it is most likely that they have a scheduling problem that too must be dealt with as soon as possible. There are two possible causes for this:

Nap timing: Improper nap timings or improper length of the naps are a common cause of early waking amongst babies and young children. If your nap schedule is such that the awake-time of your child gets longer, this causes overtiredness in them which is why your baby sleeps poorly at night eventually waking up early. Similarly, if the length of the naps of your baby is insufficient that they take small naps, this again causes overtiredness eventually leading to early rising problems.

Bedtime timing: If you think that making your baby go to sleep late at night will ensure that they wake up late in the morning, this does not happen. Sleep encourages sleep. A baby who sleeps early at night is more likely to get high quality sleep and wake up at a decent hour the next morning. Only if your babies or toddlers take an afternoon or evening nap, they may benefit from a later bedtime since they may not be tired enough to go to sleep early. The perfect bedtime timing is important for babies and young children to ensure that they get good quality sleep and do not develop the early waking problem.

Why Babies and Children May Wake Up Early

How you can fix this problem?

These are few ways you can tackle your baby’s early waking problems.

Routine: By sticking to the same bedtime and waking up routine, you can make your child’s body develop the habit of sleeping long. An early bedtime around 7:30pm is perfect so that your child does not get overtired and gets quality sleep. It is important to develop consistency in their behavior. The 4B’s Bath, Breast or Bottle, Bedtime story and Bed

Avoid reinforcing the early waking: A number of actions that parents reinforce early waking in babies. It may seem to give you peace for half an hour or so, but the actions reinforce their habit of waking up early. For example, when your toddler wakes up and starts crying for you early in the morning, you give them their bottle of milk that calms them down and makes them fall back to sleep again. But this action of yours is what reinforces their early waking habit as they will continue to wake up early in the morning if you give them their milk bottle every day.

Do not let this pattern develop by avoiding all actions that reinforce their early waking habit such as letting them in your bed, having breakfast very early, letting them get up and play, etc. Coach them to sleep later. The more time you take addressing this problem, the harder it will get to change their pattern.

Ensure that they do not feel cold: If your baby is waking up between 3-5am, it may be because of the cold. You must add an extra layer of clothing to provide them with warmth in the coolest time of the night. Make sure you do not cover their face nor add enough clothing that suffocates them.

Darkness: Make sure that your windows are covered with curtains that do not let sunlight pass through them. This will ensure that the room stays dark and cozy and your baby will not be able to see through the windows what is happening outside. Even if your baby has learnt how to stand up, because they will not be able to see clearly due to the darkness, even if they wake up early, they will still lay in their cots quietly eventually falling back to sleep.

After you have tried everything to eradicate your little one’s habit of waking up early, it is possible that your child is an early riser who is born to wake up early. There are possibilities that their biological sleep rhythms are set that way making them wake up early lively and fresh. In this case, you just have to compromise and take turns to care for your little one.

© Teresa Boardman, Nanny Options.


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