Why does my baby wake up so early?

“Early morning wakings” fall between 4:00 and 6:00 AM, earlier than that is considered a “night waking”.

Falling asleep at night, the conditions are ideal: it’s dark outside, the temperature has dipped, your child’s body and brain are tired from the day, and biologically, this is the time of day a person’s body expects to go to sleep. But from 4:00 – 6:00 AM, the opposite is happening; babies have rested, the sun’s coming through the blinds, melatonin levels start to rise, and their sleep stages get lighter. While children might need more sleep, their environment is often encouraging wakefulness. 

Possibilities for why your baby might be waking early:

  • Sunlight is sneaking in: Make sure the room is dark enough. Blackout blinds or curtains are a good idea for keeping that nursery or bedroom as dark as possible.
  • Bedtime is too late: Babies don’t really “sleep in,” and in fact, a later bedtime can have the opposite effect that it does in adults! Even shifting bedtime 20-30 minutes earlier can make a huge difference. Think about a 6-6:30pm bedtime, and see if that resolves early mornings.
  • Overtired baby at bedtime: Sometimes the bedtime is right on time, but your kid is up too long during the day due to missing a nap or staying awake too long before sleeping. If you constantly feel like your child is going to bed exhausted, you may want to consider moving the last nap later in the day to get a happier bedtime.
  • Early nap timing: Sometimes an early first nap can guarantee early wakings! Based on your baby’s age, they may see that early nap as an extension of sleep, especially under 3-4 months. 
  • Too many naps: Sometimes babies wake up because they aren’t tired! If the total nap hours and nighttime sleep hours add up to the recommended amount for your child’s age, you might consider dropping a nap to extend those nighttime hours. 
  • Hunger: The stretch of sleep leading up to 6am will likely be their longest stretch without eating, so it is natural for them to wake up hungry. If your baby is waking up hungry prior to 6am (and that is too early for your family to start their day), consider treating it as a ‘middle of the night feed’ with low stimulation, and putting them back to bed after. 

It’s important to remember that figuring out wakeups and bedtimes is a process, not a set of hard and fast rules. Sometimes your baby might be getting too much sleep, sometimes not enough sleep, or maybe their room is too bright, or none of the above! Whatever the circumstances, remember to be patient and kind to both yourself and your baby as you figure it out together.

 

This article has been reviewed by our team of experts.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article does not constitute medical advice. If you have concerns about any health or medical condition, diagnosis, or treatment you should consult with your pediatrician or a licensed healthcare provider.

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