A goal of every new parent is to get their baby to sleep through the night. If your sweet bundle is consistently sleeping 7-8 hours at night, congratulations, you've conquered one of the first goals of infant sleep training.
But now you are confronted with a new problem: baby is waking up too early. She is bright-eyed, hungry and ready to start her day at 5 a.m. Now you start asking yourself, “How do I help her sleep longer?”
I remember this problem well and honestly, I couldn’t always figure out how to help my infant sleep longer and later into the morning. My sleep deprived brain couldn’t read and assimilate the necessary information to identify my role in the parent-directed process. Many of my friends had similar problems as well, so you are not alone.
But I have good news:
1. My four year old is a champion sleeper and now sleeps until 7:00 a.m., so there is hope.
2. I’ve compiled all the necessary resources for you in one easy place to get to the bottom of this issue and find a solution.
Here are some things to consider to help baby achieve the optimum sleep length during the night.
The key to troubleshooting any sleep issue is remembering the foundational factors of sleep laid out in 3 Tips on How to Get Baby to Sleep Through the Night with Babywise.
1. Order – Following the parent-directed feed-wake-sleep routine helps your baby organize his days and nights into predictable rhythms.
2. Quality – The importance of a full feeding each time. Particularly with the first feeding of the day, which helps to facilitate healthy nighttime sleep.
3. Consistency- Regular and predictable feeding periods lead to stabilized feed-wake-sleep routines and therefore, uninterrupted nighttime sleep.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when baby is sleeping through the night, but waking up too early.
1. Is an early wake-up happening consistently or is it due to sickness, tummy discomfort or some other temporary issue? Is some outside stimulus waking him, like the garbage truck or sun rays streaming in? A simple fix could be a white noise machine or room darkening shades. For other possible issues see Isolating the Source of You Baby’s Sleep Problem, Baby Sleep Problems Part 1 and Part 2.
2. Have you tried leaving baby to cry for 10-15 minutes to make sure he is truly awake? He may be moving from an active sleep to a deeper sleep.
3. Are you watching for merges from one growth stage to the next?
Merge one generally takes place between three and six weeks where the two middle of the night feedings (around 2:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m.) are merged to one 3:00 a.m. feeding.
Merge two is between seven to ten weeks. This is typically when babies drop the middle of the night feeding and start sleeping 7-8 hours a night. This merge requires some adjustments to baby’s routine to ensure adequate feeding. In turn, this will also assist in a longer night sleep. The first and last feedings become strategic in maintaining a predictable routine.
4. Have you tried feeding him at a 5:00 a.m. wake up and then putting him back down to sleep? If he goes back down, awaken him at 7:00 a.m. and feed him again (even though it was less than three hours ago that he was fed) to get him back on a normal morning routine.
5. Is the issue the four month sleep regression? Read Understanding the 4 Month Sleep Regression to determine how to work through it.
Remember, anything you do needs to be tried for several days, especially if it’s time to merge two feed-wake-sleep cycles into one. Sometimes it may feel like you are taking two steps backward and one step forward in order to establish a new pattern, but persistence often pays.
Be consistent but flexible, and trust your instincts as a mom. Should you have any doubts about what your baby is experiencing, don't hesitate to check with your pediatrician if you feel it is something more than just a simple sleep problem.
Annie Wiesman is the co-author of “Education Begins at Birth: A Parent’s Guide to Preparing Infants, Toddlers, and Preschoolers for Kindergarten.” She is a former kindergarten teacher turned stay-at-home mom who enjoys traveling, hiking in the mountains, and creating memories together with her husband and little girl.