Top 5 Reasons Your Baby or Toddler Is Waking Up Early

Victoria Bermudez

Victoria Bermudez

Nothing starts the day off on the wrong foot like a morning wake-up time with a 4 or a 5 in front of it!  Early morning wake-ups are tough on our children and on us parents.  We are going to look at the top 5 reasons your baby or toddler is waking up early.

When we start the day too early, it can throw the whole day off. Waking before the birds make it hard for our little ones to make it to their normal nap times, creating an overtired kiddo.  Poor naps result in an early bedtime (hopefully) or putting your little one down at their normal time. Now they are super overtired. If these patterns continue for too long, all of a sudden WHAM! Your child is overtired and you are stuck with an early morning wake up. 

As parents, we’ll be hitting the brew button more often, trying to make it through the day fueled by caffeine. Counting down the seconds before you can climb under the covers again! 

If it has happened once or it is reoccurring, you are probably Googling “why is my baby waking up early?”

We are going to explore possible reasons that can cause your child to wake up early and provide you with tips to help get your little one back to waking at a normal time so you can lay off the caffeine and get the rest you need!

What’s a Normal Morning Wake-up Time?

Most babies wake in between 6:00 – 7:00 am and toddlers in between 6:00 and 7:30 am. These are age-appropriate morning wake times that set our little ones up for schedule success. 

Reason #1: Bedtime is Too Late

This isn’t going to make any sense, but yes, a too-late bedtime will cause an earlier wake-up! Logically, we assume that a later bedtime will result in a later bedtime, but sleep isn’t logical – it’s biological.

If children go to sleep too late, they will be overtired and get a rush of cortisol, a stress hormone.  Not only will it create an early morning wake-up, it can also cause difficulty settling to sleep, night wakings and more restless sleep. 

Tip: Move bedtime earlier – most babies and toddlers do best with a bedtime between 6:30 – 7:30 pm.

Reason #2: Bedtime is Too Early

Conversely, we can only expect our little ones to spend so long in the crib overnight! An early bedtime (5:30-6:00 pm) can be helpful to make up for lost sleep when a nap is skipped or short. But if we hold onto an early bedtime for too long, we are essentially shifting the whole schedule early and that wake-up will creep earlier and earlier! 

Tip: Find the bedtime sweet spot for your little one.  This article will help you determine your baby’s ideal bedtime.

Reason #3: Your Little One is New to Learning Independent Sleep Skills

The sleep that happens in the morning is the very lightest sleep of the night. Because of this, the early morning hours can be the hardest to transition from one sleep cycle to the next. Baby has almost had a full night’s sleep, they’re feeling nice and rested, and although they need that last hour or two of sleep, it’s a little tricky. This is temporary and usually resolves on its own.

Tip: Set an ok to wake time after 6:00 am and stay consistent with it. In time your little one will learn to put themselves back to sleep and extend to a more normal wake time. 

Reason #4: Light is Sneaking In

The darker your little one’s room, the better they will sleep. Sunlight and any cool colored light sources inhibit our sleepy hormone production and sends signals to our brain that it’s time to be awake!  When the body is already in the lightest sleep of the day, in the early morning, if there is light peeking in, it will make it even harder for your little one to settle back to sleep. 

Tip: Make your child’s room pitch black. We love the Blackout-EZ.

Reason #5: Your Little One is Used to Getting Out of Bed Before 6 am

Not only does light tell our brain it’s time to be awake, but the stimulation of parental presence and actually having the day start at this time will really solidify and cement these early morning wakes.  

On top of that, our go-to for an early morning wake-up is milk, Sesame Street and cuddles on the couch. Hopefully to be able to get some more shut-eye. These are all reinforcing behaviors!

Tip: same as #3. Keeping your child in bed until 6 am at the earliest will help to reset their internal sleep and awake clock. In time, this will help them learn to sleep later.

Try these tips! If you aren’t seeing progress within a week or so, reach out to schedule a discovery call or an Ask Me Anything session.  We’ll learn more about what’s going on and talk about how we can help you troubleshoot and give personalized insight to help your family to not wake before the birds. 

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