There are two different types of early mornings. One we call “early rising” and that is typically defined as before 6:00AM. I consider anything before 6:00 AM the middle of the night! The other is when your child may wake at 6 or 6:30, but it is too early for you. The first, we can definitely work on. The second kind may be able to changed to some degree, depending on your child’s temperament and a few other factors.
In this post I will discuss some common reasons why children may wake early in the morning (before 6:00AM). I will write another post about moving your child’s wakeup time later.
Being Overtired at Bedtime
If your child is overtired at bedtime, they are likely to wake up during the night and wake early in the morning. Being overtired at bedtime can be caused by having too late a bedtime; not napping enough during the day; and/or having too big a gap between their afternoon nap and bedtime. Despite what you may think, if you keep your child from napping, or up a long time before bedtime, it while likely cause night time to be worse, not better.
Going to sleep too drowsy (or not awake at all) at bedtime
If your child does not have the skills to put themselves to sleep at bedtime without your assistance, then it is likely that when they have partial awakenings during the night (we all have these) that they will also not be able to put themselves to sleep without assistance. The chances of this happen increase as the morning gets closer since we are in lighter sleep closer to the morning. It is easier for us to be woken up, and it is harder for us to fall back asleep.
Early morning disturbances
Sometimes something in the baby’s environment is causing the wake up in the morning, and because it is close to when they normally wake up, they cannot easily go back to sleep. I recommend using white noise and blackout curtains to eliminate outside noises as well as early morning light that may wake your baby up. You may want to spend a night in your baby’s room if you find that they wake at exactly the same time each morning (or at least can in there before the time) to see if there is something that is waking them up.
Going to bed too early
This one can be a tricky one. Some sleep specialists will recommend young babies go to bed at 6 or 6:30. The problem I see with that early a bedtime is if the baby should be getting 10 – 11 hours of sleep (and this is a common sleep pattern in young babies that are still taking naps during the day), they should be waking between 4 and 5:30 in the morning if they are sleeping straight through. The trick is that you do not want bedtime to be too late either as that may cause your child to be overtired.