Baby Waking Up Too Early: Reasons And Solutions
Medically reviewed by Robyn Rosenblum, MD, FAAP
You are thrilled that your baby is finally sleeping through the night — until they start waking up at 5 a.m. every day. While you fill your coffee cup a little bit higher, you may be wondering if your baby is waking up too early.
In this article, we’ll cover the potential reasons your baby is waking up at the crack of dawn and what you can do about it.
Table Of Contents
- Is Your Baby Waking Up Too Early?
- Possible Reasons For Early Wake-Ups
- What To Do When Your Baby Is Waking Up Too Early
Is Your Baby Waking Up Too Early?
As a parent, any time your baby wakes up in the morning may seem too early. But if your little one is waking up before 6 a.m. every morning and won’t go back to sleep either by a feed, diaper change, or self-soothing — as a rule of thumb — they’re waking up too early.
Keep in mind that anytime a baby wakes up before 4 a.m., it’s considered a night waking. And anytime they wake after 6 a.m., your cutie is up for the day.
Babies typically wake up between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m., although it varies. If your little one suddenly starts waking up earlier than usual, it could be the oh-so-familiar sleep regression, sickness, or any other outside influences that can come into play.
Let's take a look at some reasons your little one may be waking up early and how to avoid it.
Possible Reasons For Early Wake-Ups
When your baby starts waking up earlier than desired, it can be an eye-opener — literally. You can’t help but wonder: Why is this happening? What has changed?
Here are some possible answers to these questions.
Too Much Sleep
Sometimes, when your baby wakes up too early, it’s simply because they aren’t tired anymore.
This may mean they’re getting more daytime sleep than they need so they may not sleep as long at night. Nap schedules change as your little one grows, and eventually, it will be time to transition to one nap. Keep this in mind if you notice an early-waking pattern.
You can also check out our Nap Schedule By Age: A Guide To Nap Success From Newborns To Toddlers article for more guidance.
Just like too many naps during the day can cause sleep disruptions, putting your baby to sleep too early at night can shift their wake window just enough to make them wake up earlier.
On the other hand, if your baby is overtired, they may be getting too little sleep. You would think that if your baby isn’t getting enough sleep they would be sleeping later, but that’s not the case. An overtired baby tends to wake up earlier in the morning instead.
Why is this? When your baby is overtired, their body releases increased adrenaline and the stress hormone cortisol. Over time, these hormones can put your little one in a sleep-deprived state, making it harder for them to relax and fall asleep.
Causes of overtiredness include:
- Not getting enough daytime sleep
- Going to bed too late
- Being overstimulated for too long
- Frequently waking up during the night
Keeping an eye on your baby’s sleep cues and learning their wake windows can help remedy the situation.
Even the tiniest bit of light creeping into your baby’s room can interfere with their sleep.
In the wee hours of the morning — from 4 a.m. to 6 a.m. — your baby is in their lightest period of sleep. The combination of being in the lighter sleep stage, a drop in melatonin, and the sunlight is a recipe for an early wake-up.
A good indicator that the room isn’t dark enough is if you can see your hand while waving it in front of your face around 5 a.m.
If you think your baby is waking up too early because they are hungry, they may need more daytime calories.
To rule out hunger as a possible sleep stressor, you can add extra daytime calories by offering an extra ounce or two at each feeding. Also, some experts recommend a four-hour feeding schedule.
While this may work for some babies, if your baby is waking up too early due to hunger, three-hour feedings may work better. Keep in mind that it may take some trial and error to make their tummies happy.
When a baby is in their lightest period of sleep in the early morning, their teeth may be bothering them, too. At this time, the daytime distractions aren’t there to detract from the inflammation that accumulates overnight.
The discomfort that the inflammation causes may result in an early wake-up or keep them from falling back asleep.
If you notice this is a consistent issue for your little one, consult your pediatrician regarding pain medications or other natural remedies.
A Noisy Environment
As morning approaches, cars start driving down the roads, dogs start barking, and the garbage truck starts to make its rounds. Families with more than one child also have the extra buzz of siblings running around the house. All of these sounds may wake up your little sleeper.
Now that we have covered some reasons your baby may be waking up too early, let’s look at some solutions in more detail.
What To Do When Your Baby Is Waking Up Too Early
Examine Your Sleep Schedule
A good sleep schedule and routine can often help curb those early morning wake-ups.
Start by examining your baby’s sleep schedule to determine if they are getting enough rest overall. As we mentioned above, wake windows are often the key to happy sleep.
Evaluate Your Wake Windows
Awake times that are too long or too short can contribute to your baby waking up early and having trouble falling back to sleep. Determine if they are being kept up too long in between naps or if they aren’t awake long enough.
Practice Sleep Training
If your baby is waking up too early, you can teach independent sleep skills through sleep training. Each baby is different, so you’ll have to find the perfect one that fits your little one.
Try White Noise
We touched on this briefly above, but it’s hard to mask all of the noises that may wake your baby up in the early morning.
White noise machines offer continual background noise to help muffle sounds that may be waking up your baby during the early morning hours.
Keep in mind that the recommended noise limit for infants is 50 decibels, so keep the volume below that level and maintain at least seven feet between the noise machine and where your baby sleeps.
As long as you follow these safety protocols, white noise machines are perfectly safe to help your baby snooze in the early morning.
Use Blackout Curtains
If light streams into your little one’s room in the morning, thankfully, there’s an easy fix.
Regular curtains or blinds rarely block out enough sunlight to keep your baby from waking early. But using blackout curtains or blinds can help keep the room dark enough so light doesn’t interfere with their sleep-wake cycle.
Wait A Minute
Another important part of teaching your baby to self-soothe is waiting about five to 10 minutes before running to the rescue if they make a sound or start crying.
Give your baby a chance to soothe themself back to sleep. If they don’t fall back asleep or are getting increasingly upset, then you can attend to them.
If it’s hard for you not to rush to your baby’s side immediately, use our Babysense HD 2- Camera Monitor + Night Light and Sound for peace of mind.
Try The Pacifier
If your baby is still dependent on a pacifier to fall asleep, they may just need the binky popped back in their mouth. After waiting a few minutes, sneak into their room and gently pop the pacifier back in. It could be as easy as that!
Talk To Your Pediatrician
While you know your baby best, always talk to your pediatrician about any concerns you have regarding your little one’s feeding or sleep schedule. They can help pinpoint anything else that may be causing early morning wake-ups.
Cheers To A Peaceful Morning!
Your baby waking up too early isn’t always quick and easy to fix, but finding the reason it’s happening is the first step to solving your little one’s early morning risings.
Remember to take care of yourself as you overcome this stage in your baby's sleep schedule, and keep the above tips in mind as you’re trying to uncover the root cause.
If you need additional help, consider a Newton Sleep Consultation Powered by Tot Squad to get advice from certified specialists on how to ensure better sleep for your baby.
We’re here to help you and your little one get the rest you need!