So, your amazing sleeper has started to wake up in the early mornings. You are absolutely beside yourself wondering what went wrong and how can you help them fall back to sleep. Early waking is very common, I will explain the solutions and how to help your child go back to sleep. Holding, rocking or feeding your child back to sleep won’t be part of my recommendations.
When my oldest child (now 7 years old) started his early waking, I just thought it was normal and perhaps he had enough sleep. I took him out of bed to start the day. You can imagine what the day looked like for us. He was tired, angry and impatient and so was I.
Years later I understood that this is not normal. While there are lots of reasons for early waking, I will focus on what to do to solve them.
Most children need 11-12 hours sleep during the night in order to function at their best during the day. Sleep helps their cognitive process and development. Children need to go to sleep at a decent time in the night and wake up at a decent time in the morning. Ideally 7 pm-7 am if over 11 months.
This is how you can solve your child early waking
5 am should be considered as early waking even if there’s light outside. So, if your child wakes at that time, or earlier, you should keep them in their room in the dark. Say the same “night night” word you use in order to convey the message that it is still sleeping time.
If they cry you can reassure them. If they are not used to you in the room when they are falling asleep you should give reassurance and leave. If your child starts to cry, give them a bit of space to settle before you go in again to reassure. Even if they don’t fall back to sleep, you should keep doing that until the ideal time for them to wake up (a time that suits you between 6 am-7 am). It is essential to be consistent in order to eventually be successful.
Once asleep it is important to let them sleep for 30 minutes before starting the day even if it past the ideal wake time for them.
When it is finally time to wake up make a big deal out of it! I call it a mini wake up party. You draw the blinds and you say “good morning” in your happiest voice! All of this to convey the message that this is morning time. Like a wind-down routine, a child needs a wake-up routine to help them distinguish day from night. Next early waking when they don’t get that “mini-party” they will learn they need to try and fall back to sleep. After a few times they’ll stop calling you and actually fall back to sleep.
After the “wake up party” you don’t want to feed straight away. This will encourage early waking every day because they anticipating a feed. The same goes for bringing your child into bed with you. Don’t do that first thing in the morning as they’ll expect that from you when they wake up early.
A note about the ideal wake up time: Be realistic and if for example your child went to bed at 7 pm, had a good night sleep, and woke at 6 am, they have probably had enough sleep. So, don’t keep them in the room too long after.
Be tuned in to your child and make a quick calculation of the hours they slept. You don’t want a frustrated child either. Assess the situation before reacting and find the middle ground for everyone’s happiness.
Love and peace