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My son who is now 7 months old started waking up an hour early for about the past 3 weeks. He does not do this consistently. I was looking over my notes and it seems that he has been waking between 5:45-6:30 but occasionally sleeping in until 7am (which seems to happen mostly on weekends). I should add that I have dark out blinds in his room and a white noise machine running all night long.

Here’s my theory for why he is waking an hour early:

First, it is getting lighter sooner. I think this is setting off a natural alarm clock in Cooper that says, “rise and shine”. Unfortunate for Chris and I because our alarm clock says, “no thanks we need another hour”. I have tired to darken the room even more than it was, but there is still a faint bit of daylight creeping through, enough to make it appear to not be night but morning. The hormone that signals sleep, melatonin starts to decrease in the early morning hours, causing us to have lighter sleep. Sunlight also decreases the amount of melatonin that we produce.

Second, our neighbors above us (we live in a condo) have been waking up early in the morning it seems. I hear them somewhere between 5am and 6am. I can hear their footsteps and water running. Occasionally, I might even hear their dog tramping across the floor or let out a bark. They are not being overly loud, but the noises are enough to stir me awake. (I am a light sleeper to begin with.)

Conclusion: I think I am just going to have to accept the fact that Cooper is waking at 6am. I cannot not tell God to make the day light come up an hour later and I cannot tell my neighbors above us to wake up later. This just means that Chris and I need to go to bed an hour earlier at night and wake up at 6am instead of 7am. Oh well!

Future Action: Since we are moving to Texas in a month, the time zone will change and we will be an hour behind Maryland time. This might be the chance for me to get Cooper back to waking at 7am. I will be in a quieter house with no condo neighbors and the time change will make it easier for me to just shift his schedule.

There are many reasons your little one could be waking early in the mornings

  • might need less sleep– check my post about the average amount of sleep your infant should be getting daily. It could be that your child is older and now requires less sleep at night or during the day. If your baby is getting too much daytime sleep, it could be causing him to wake early. Or if you little one is sleeping too long at night, they could be waking up.  https://blogginaboutbabies.wordpress.com/2009/04/08/sleep-requirements-for-infants/
  • morning nap is to close to nighttime sleep- if you don’t keep your baby up long enough in the morning, your little one could be confusing the first nap of the day as part of his nighttime sleep. Try extending his wake time between the time he wakes from nighttime sleep to the first nap.
  • afternoon nap is to close to nighttime sleep- the last nap of the day or the afternoon nap if you are down to two naps is to close to nighttime sleep, this could also cause your child to possibly wake up early.
  • hunger- your child could be going through a growth spurt or just need more food. Try feeding him more solids or offering bottles/ nursing more frequently during the day to prevent him from waking early in the morning. You can also try to offer a later dinner that has more carbohydrates to keep him fuller longer. You can also do a late night feeding (some people call this a dream feed). A late night feeding is when you feed your baby after already being asleep for the night between 10-11pm. This might help to hold his hunger out longer in the morning.
  • needs a longer awake time- you might try keeping your child up longer in between naps and nighttime sleep. Your child may not be tired enough to sleep for a longer stretch. If you adjust their awake time, they may sleep longer. See my post on infant schedules, it includes average awake times for infants. https://blogginaboutbabies.wordpress.com/2009/04/16/infant-schedules/
  • overtired/ overstimulated- if you child has been not sleeping well and may have had a lot of disruptions to his sleep, then that too could cause him to wake early. Try to get your baby to bed during their “sleep window” before they become overtired/ overstimulated. Stay as consistent with your schedule as possible too- this helps to get your little on back on track. See my post on sleep windows https://blogginaboutbabies.wordpress.com/2009/04/23/sleep-windows-get-them-to-bed-before-its-too-late/
  • too bright in bedroom- the room may be to bright in the morning. Invest in some darkening blinds or put cardboard up to block the light.
  • too noisy- invest in a good quality sound machine/ white noise machine, run a fan, or play soft music in the background to block out external noises from loud neighbors, your own home, or outside.
  • room temperature is too hot or too cold– make sure to dress your baby appropriately for bed. If they are either too hot or too cold they will wake more easily, especially in the morning when melatonin, the hormone that helps us to sleep, is wearing off.

Some kids are just early birds

If your child wakes up happy, you have tried all the suggestions above, and you have seen no improvement, then you might just have to accept the fact that your child is waking early. Some children just wake early. Just adjust their schedule as needed to accommodate the earlier wake time.

Other Resources About Early Risers

Note: many of the ideas were pulled from Good Night, Sleep Tight p. 98-100 and the internet resources provided

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In Kim West’s book, Good Night, Sleep Tight, she write about choosing the right time to begin sleep training. It does not matter if your baby is a new born or two years old. You must make sure that when you begin sleep training that you will not have a lot of disruptions or events planned. She recommends you block off 3 weeks and not have any plans, trips, or visitors that will disrupt your sleep training and routine that you are about to establish with your child. For instance, you would not want to start sleep training if it was the Christmas season and you knew there would be visitors or parties planned that would throw off your routine and planned sleep training. Also, do not start sleep training if your child is in the mist of teething, illness, or a growth spurt. They will only hinder your progress.

I have a neighbor with a baby. She started sleep training with her son right before Christmas and New Years. They started to see some improvement in his nighttime sleep but then traveled home (out of state) for the holidays. Of course that right there was a huge disruption to their sleep training. He went to bed late and all his relatives wanted to hold him and possibly keep him up late. When they returned from their trip, their son’s sleep was as poor as it was before they left. They has to start all over with the sleep training.

If you are starting out with a newborn, I recommend that you block out even more time to establish a good routine and sleeping patterns. Give yourself until your child is at least 8 weeks old. Your baby experiences rapid growth during the first 8 weeks and it will take longer for your child to ease into a solid routine. Don’t be come a hermit or stop allowing all guest over, just try to keep the disruptions to your baby’s schedule to a minim. Try to keep you baby at home for all her naps and nighttime sleep.

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“Inconsistently reinforced behavior is the hardest type to modify or extinguish. It takes the longest to change, and it often provokes even more of the tears we are trying to avoid.”
p.15 Good Night, Sleep Tight

I could not agree more with this statement! If you want your child to learn how sleep through the night or during naps, you must be consistent. Develop a plan of action and stick to it! With Cooper we decided to use the Cry-It-Out (CIO) method that is laid out in the book Baby Wise. While in the beginning of the CIO, I felt weak at times. Cooper would sometimes cry for a full hour before falling asleep at night, but we were committed to our plan. Finally after a week, his crying had diminished to 5-10 minutes of crying. Sticking to our plan had worked!

But I have had weak moments, particularly in the middle of the night. When we were trying to eliminate the middle of the night feeding (which I knew he no longer needed, but was waking out of habit), we started to implement CIO. The first three nights were hard, he cried for 45 minute to an hour. By the fourth night, his crying had decreased to only 30 minutes. However the 5th night, I caved in and feed him after he cried for 20 minutes because I was tired and I hated to hear him cry. It took me twice as long to get rid of the middle of the night feeding because he now expected me to come in a feed him. I learned early on that be consistent with our plan was important! Otherwise, I was going to spend more time trying to obtain our goal and with more tears!

What ever sleep training method you chose to implement with your child, make sure you stick to it. Don’t do most of the time, do it all of the time. Children thrive off of consistency! They need to know how to behave, but if you keep changing it up, they will never learn what type of response or action you are looking for.

Here are steps for staying consistent when implementing sleep training:

  1. Write your method/ strategy down
  2. Work on one goal at a time. Whether that is eliminating the middle of the night feeding or waking early from a nap. Just choose one thing to tackle at a time.
  3. Have support. Make sure you have someone who will support you weather that is your spouse or a friend you can call. Just make sure you have someone who can encourage you to stick with your decision and plan!

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I have found that Kim West’s book Good Night, Sleep Tight to be a great resource for infant sleep questions. I really like how she has laid out the amount of sleep an infant needs from birth to age 5. I have made a quick reference list below for each age.

You may also want to check out these post:

0-4 Weeks
• total 16-18 hours, half at night and half during the day
• by the end of the first month they sleep an average of 15-17.5 hours total, about 8.5-10 at night, 6-7 during the day spread over 3-4 naps.
• They still wake up 2-3 time during the night

4-8 weeks (second month)
• sleep an average of 15-17 hours total
• 8.5-10 hours at night, 6-7 during the day spread over 3-4 naps
• some will wake only once to fed, although others will still need 2 night feeding for a few more weeks

8-12 weeks (third month)
• average 15 hours sleep
• 10 hours at night, 5 hours during the day spread out over 3 naps
• sleep 6-8 hours stretches before a nighttime feeding, by end of month most babies should sleep 8 hour uninterrupted

4-5 Months
• 4 months can sleep 8 hours at night without a feeding
• 5 months can go 10-11 hours a nigh without a feeding
• 4 hours during the day spread out over 3 naps

6-8 Months
• need an average of 11 hours of sleep at night (uninterrupted)
• 3.5 hours of day time sleep over 2-3 naps

9-12 Months
• 11 hours at night (uninterrupted)
• 3 hours of day time sleep (over two naps, with the occasional cat nap, but that is usually given up)
• Morning nap is usually 1.5 hours, afternoon nap is usually 1.5-2 hours (by 12 months the afternoon nap is usually 1.5 hours)

13-18 Months
• 11.25 uninterrupted nighttime sleep, 2.25-2.5 hours sleep during the day
• They start with 2 naps, by 18 months usually down to one midday or afternoon nap

1.5 years- 2.5 Years
• 1.5-2 years: 11.25 hours at night, 2.25 hours for one midday nap
• 2 years: 11 hours at night, 2 hours during the day
• 2-3 years: sleep will drop to 10.5 hours of sleep at night, 1.5 hours of sleep during the day

2-3 Years
• 10.5 hours at night, plus a 1.5 hour afternoon nap

4 years
• 11.5 hours at night, most don’t need a nap and if they do it is only 45 minutes (this could be 45 minutes of quite time too)

5 Years
• 11 a night, quite afternoon time is beneficial

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