A question I get asked ALL the time is “how do I get my baby to sleep later in the morning?”. A recent conversation I had with a mum went something like this: ‘My one year old wakes up at 5:00 AM, and won’t go back to sleep even after I give her a bottle. She then struggles to make it to the first nap of the day. She then goes to bed at 7:30pm, and has two solid naps during the day. How can I fix this?’
If this sounds like you, you are not alone in this. This is the number one question that I get from parents everyday. Their babies are waking up too early! Here are three hot tips that can help with this:
Tip 1: look at darkness.
That’s always the first place I look, especially when the summer months are upon us, we really need to keep light out. People often think that they’ve got it dark enough, but it can always be darker, because even the slightest change in light variation can stimulate a wake up in anybody. As an adult, you can look at the clock and notice that it’s not time to get up, yet. A baby can’t do that.
Tip 2: cut out a feed.
In this particular case mum was feeding her baby girl. Given the age, there should be absolutely no reason why this little girl would need a night feed. My worry with this is that 5:00 AM might actually get earlier and earlier and earlier, instead of buying you more time, because to this little one, there’s no difference between a 2:00 am feed and a 5:00 am feed. I would consider pulling that feed. We often stimulate our babies and can wake them up more as at this time of the morning we are in our lightest sleep (seeing we have slept the rest of the night). After the feed at this time, they go back to the cot and think, ‘What am I doing here? I feel ready to go. Let’s start the day.’ That’s why you’re having the struggles that you are. Happy to discuss different ages with anyone and getting rid of night feeds, because this is a different topic altogether!
Tip 3: morning nap.
In this scenario it was mentioned that the little girl was having a really hard time making it till the first nap of the day. I find that what can happen is, if a baby wakes up too early in the morning, gets up, starts the day, he’s going to be fatigued fairly quickly. It’s tempting to start putting them down earlier and earlier and earlier for that morning nap. You don’t want to do that! If you do that, you will get stuck in this viscous cycle of them waking up too early, going down for a nap at 8:00 AM, and throwing off your whole day. That will just absolutely mess up with his body clock. You’ll have to have more naps than normal, which will be completely foreign to him, and it’ll just cause a whole bunch of problems. If it’s 9am, even if they have been up since 5am, you’ve got to hang in there until 9am. My advice would be to give him a bit of fresh air around 8am, make sure that you give enough snacks and food to keep energy levels up, to really encourage them to hang in there. I have done this for my twins and it can be tough but it works.
It’s similar to if you got up at 5am, wandered around, maybe had a snack, and then eventually went back to bed and finished your night. That’s what is happening here, most likely. Hang in there until the first nap of the day. I always suggest that people do not change bedtime. That is super tempting when you’ve got early risers. You think, ‘Oh, if we just keep them up late, they will sleep later in the morning.’ That hardly ever works. In fact, all you end up doing, then, is creating a huge amount of over-tiredness in your child, which leads to more fragmented sleep overnight (night wakings) and even earlier morning wake ups. Whatever you do, don’t do that!
If you need help with your child’s sleep don’t hesitate to contact us for a free 15 minute telephone consultation.
Linda Hamilton is Director of Through the Night Sleep Consulting. As a twin mum and a qualified baby, toddler and child sleep consultant she is passionate about helping every family see sleep success through life changing results. If you would like to discuss the best sleep solution for your baby get in touch with Linda at www.throughthenight.com.au