My Baby is Waking Up Too Early. How Do I Get Her To Sleep In?

Unfortunate as it may seem , many babies are early risers…

Babies are incredibly sensitive to light, so even the slightest hint of sunrise signals their brains to start the day.

In a way, this is adaptive for our little ones because being highly attuned to light helps their bodies develop a circadian rhythm (our body's biological clock).  But babies do need at least 10.5 to 11 hours of nighttime sleep (while they're little, this includes night wakings). And with a common bedtime of 7:30 p.m., the early morning wake up cuts these important hours of slumber short.

More importantly, it just feels almost inhuman to have to make your coffee and breakfast, feed, change, and entertain an infant, all while the rest of the world is still blissfully snoozing.

Encouraging later wake ups: check-ins

You have a few options for stretching out morning zzz's. First of all, consider either blackout shades, or simply putting a heavy blanket or duvet cover over the windows to block out those early rays that are likely to stimulate your baby's brain.

When your baby wakes, if it's earlier than six a.m., wait a few minutes and try to discern his cries. Is he just tossing and turning, looking for a way to put himself back to sleep – if so, can you give him some space to do it on his own? If you're okay with letting your baby fuss and you're sure he doesn't need to eat (most babies can go eight hours without eating by about six months old, provided they are healthy and growing normally) then try simply checking on him and telling him its still dark, it's time for sleep, and you're right outside – all without picking him up. This is likely to turn a fuss into a full on cry, but if you consistently check and say the exact same thing every five minutes, your baby will detect the pattern.  If he doesn't fall asleep again, go in, pick him up, and start your day when the clock strikes six.  Eventually his body will adjust and understand when it's time to say good morning.

Dream feeds

If your baby is still feeding at night and you think he is hungry, go in and pick him up, feed him without much interaction, keep the lights low, and stay in his room. Try to put him back into bed and settle him until six a.m. (or at least 10.5 hours from bedtime). If an empty belly is waking your baby, another option is to do a "dream feed." Before you go to bed, pick up your baby while he's sleeping, feed him in the dark without fully waking him, and put him back in the crib (note: it usually takes babies a few nights to get used to latching and drinking this way).  This might help stretch the night or early mornings.

Keep an early bedtime

It's tempting to think that a later bedtime will nudge the mornings forward. But most babies don't work this way – pushing bedtime can cut a full night's sleep short because many babies will continue to wake up at the same time.  Lights out between 7:00 p.m and 8:00 p.m. works best for most children.

Two things to keep in mind when you're bleary-eyed in your bathrobe in the wee hours of the morning:  first of all, early risings are very common for babies in the first year, so you're not alone. Second, by the time they reach the toddler years, if you're keeping up good sleep habits and setting consistent routines in your house, most toddlers will naturally sleep in later. Stick to an early bedtime and protect your child's nap schedule. It's true what they say: sleep begets sleep.