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How to change your early riser

What is early rising? Early rising is 5 or more days in a row waking before 6.40 am.

If you are finding that your baby settles and sleeps well at 7 pm only to wake up at 5 am every morning ready to start the day, take a look at some of the common causes I have found for early rising.

The bedtime ritual

If the last milk feed or story is too close to bedtime your baby could be using this as a sleep aid and be going to bed already sleepy. Then, when your baby wakes at 5 am, she is looking for the same aid to help her back to sleep. Often just changing the bedtime ritual and making sure the last twenty minutes before bed is taken up with stimulating play will help your baby sleep until 7 am.

For more information, check out the examples of bedtime rituals on pages 139–142 of my baby book. Save Our Sleep A parents’ guide towards happy, sleeping babies.

Is your baby warm enough to sleep all night?

A big contributing factor to babies and toddlers not sleeping through the night at this time of year is temperature and bedding. The baby’s room should be heated to 20°C with an oil heater in most places however some places, for example QLD and some parts of WA, it is recommended to only heat to 18°C (for more information please see the bedding guide) or cooled to no cooler than 22°C day and night when using an air-conditioning unit. 

I have often found that just by adding an extra layer or two of cotton or bamboo blankets to your baby’s bed, along with dressing them as I suggest in the safe bedding guide, your baby will sleep in until 7 am.

If you find it is too warm to add the extra layers at 7 pm, you can also try adding them after the dreamfeed or just before you go to bed for the night. Also depending on which side of the world you are on this is a time to look at moving up or down a TOG of safe baby sleep bag. Along with adding or removing long sleeved body suits under your little ones Babygro.

Please note you do not have to cool your baby’s room to 20°C it is fine for your baby to sleep in an non air-conditioned room with adjusted bedding layers. Please see my bedding guide for more Information on this. 

It might be that your baby is having her daytime sleep too early in the day. 

It has been my experience over the years that the time a baby wakes up in the morning can be affected by the time you put her down for her first sleep of the day. I have not yet worked out why this is so, but I can tell you it does have an impact having tested this theory out on lots of babies and having always got the same results. 

So, if the warmth and the bedtime ritual are not issues, start to move the daytime sleep. This usually only applies to babies older than seven months. If you are following my routine and putting your baby of between seven and nine months down for her first sleep of the day at 9.20 am each morning but they are waking at 6.15 am or earlier from the night sleep instead of 7 am, try moving the 9.20 am sleep to 9.40 am. If your baby is over nine months, try moving the 9.50 am sleep to 10.15 am. 

If you have a toddler, I suggest moving your toddler’s day sleep forward by twenty minutes every three days until you find a time that your baby is sleeping in until 7 am in the morning. Nine times out of ten this will then have them sleeping in each morning until 7 am.                                                                                     

Too much daytime sleep

Some babies and toddlers need less daytime sleep than others, so you can also try cutting the amount of daytime sleep to see if this helps your baby sleep in until 7 am. An average amount of daytime sleep for babies under five months old is four hours and 45 minutes; for a baby aged five to seven months, the average is four hours and twenty minutes; a baby aged seven to nine months will usually sleep for four hours; and a baby aged nine to twelve months old will sleep for an average of just three hours.

Once a baby reaches twelve months old it is a little harder to give average times, but I would not let a baby of between twelve and eighteen months sleep longer than two hours and 30 minutes; a toddler of between eighteen months and two years longer than two hours and fifteen minutes; a toddler aged two years should sleep no longer than two hours; and a toddler aged three years no longer than an hour during the day.

Your baby’s diet

Some babies rise early because all of their nutritional needs are not being met. In some cases, introducing meat or fish into the baby or toddler’s diet stops the early rising. In other cases, certain types of baby food can cause early rising, I have also found custard of any variety, be it store bought, homemade from custard powder or homemade from scratch to be a problem, so it’s worth looking into your baby’s diet if she is rising early. 

Changing the 7 pm bedtime

If none of the above works, what next?  I suggest trying to move your baby’s bedtime. I have in the past moved the bedtime to 6.30 pm – and bingo! – the baby or toddler sleeps until after 7 am. So if all else fails, try moving your baby’s bedtime to 6.30 pm.

Shop the Save Our Sleep bedding guide here.

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