Baby Waking Up Too Early? Here Are 5 Tips To Help

Baby Waking Up Too Early? Here are 5 Tips to help

Whether your early riser is a wee babe or a great big toddler, one thing is certain. Early waking is rough! The timing of your baby or toddler’s morning wake-up sets the tone for the rest of the day. AND it sets the pace for the day’s sleep and feeding schedule. That means a way-too-early wake-up call can wreak havoc on what could have otherwise been a perfectly fine day.

Clearly, early rising is a problem that needs fixing!

What Is “Waking Up Too Early,” Anyway?

Now, remember that ‘early’ is a relative term. For some parents, a 5:00 wake-up time is ideal, while for others, anything before 8:30 is considered “way too early!” That’s why it’s a good idea to establish an objective “waking too early” standard against which you can judge your situation.

As a rule of thumb, if your child’s wake-up time is after 6 a.m. and he or she is waking up fairly happy and refreshed, then you likely don’t have an early waking problem on your hands. Take a good, hard look at your child’s wake-up time. Is it after 6 a.m.? Also, think about how your child wakes up. Is she happy and energized? If your child is waking at or after 6 a.m. and seems refreshed and ready to tackle the day, then you probably don’t have an early rising problem. (As much as it may pain you to hear this!) A wake-up time of 6:00 or later is reasonable and developmentally appropriate for most babies and toddlers, provided they are getting adequate nighttime and nap time sleep.

That said, if your child is waking before 6 a.m., and/or seems cranky and tired first thing in the morning, then you likely do have an early-rising issue on your hands.

Why Your Baby Is Waking Up Too Early

Occasional early waking can be caused by a variety of factors, including….

  1. ….illness.
  2. ….teething.
  3. ….traveling (and sleeping in an unfamiliar setting).
  4. ….sleep regressions.
  5. ….potty training (for toddlers).

Honestly, occasional and intermittent early waking is nothing to worry much about. If you can trace the cause to something temporary, then simply work on getting back on track as soon as you can.

However, if your baby regularly rises before the sun, then it’s likely you have a scheduling problem to solve.

Common Causes of Waking Up Too Early (And What to Do About It)

  • Nap Timing: It may be that either the timing of your child’s naps are off, or the length of the naps themselves is off. If your child’s nap schedule builds in too much awake-time during the day, for instance, then your child may be overtired at bedtime and is more likely to sleep poorly and wake too early. What’s more, if your child’s naps are too short, then that can also cause overtiredness.
  • Bedtime Timing: Contrary to what you might guess, keeping a baby up late at bedtime will not mean a later morning wake-up time! Sleep begets sleep. A baby who goes to bed early is more likely to sleep well and wake at a decent hour. That said, older toddlers who still take an afternoon nap may actually benefit from a later bedtime. If you put a toddler to bed early, he may not be tired enough for sleep. He may instead bounce around his bed for hours before he finally falls asleep.

Baby Still Waking Too Early? Here’s How to Fix It

So, your baby is more than just an early bird. At this point, you probably know what’s causing the early waking. But how are you supposed to fix it? Good question!

First, you’ll want to start treating your child’s early-morning wake-up calls as night wakings, and not “start-of-the-morning” wakings. That means that while it’s fine to get up and offer your baby comfort and reassurance, try not to get your baby up for the day. If you do, you’re merely reinforcing that this early-morning waking is fine and normal and part of the regular routine. Do this for a week or so, and your problem may solve itself.

If, after a week of treating early wakings as night wakings, your child is still an early bird, begin making schedule adjustments. Do you need to work in an extra nap during the day? Maybe you need to shift the timing of any naps, so that your child has less awake time during the day? Consider moving bedtime earlier, or possibly later? Do you need to move feedings so that they happen closer to naps and bedtime? Perhaps you need to offer a bedtime snack? Gradually make these schedule adjustments, while still treating any early wakings as night wakings.

Generally, following these steps will resolve most early waking problems. If you’re still struggling, however, you may need a more expert approach to solving your problem.

For more early-waking help, check out our VIP members-only e-book, Shift Your Child’s Schedule. It includes helpful tips designed to shift your child’s schedule either forward or backward to fix early- or late-waking problems. Members enjoy unlimited access to this e-book at no additional cost.

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100 thoughts on “Baby Waking Up Too Early? Here Are 5 Tips To Help”

  1. Hi there, my 6 month old seems to be stuck in a weird pattern and I fear I am only making it worse!! She will generally wake up (I consider it a night waking) at 4am and I will feed her and pop her back down for a sleep again by 445am. She’ll then be awake and ready to start her day under an hour later which is absolutely horrible as it’s usually just as I am falling back to sleep myself! Her day naps seem ‘normal’ with 3 naps spaced out by 2.5 hours of awake time. I’m not sure what to do and this mini nap (one sleep cycle) so early in the morning is not healthy for anyone! Thank you for your help.

    • Hi @Holly –
      Thanks for writing, and so sorry to hear that your baby is waking up SO early and not going back to sleep for long after that 4am feed! That is so rough! To start, I’d recommend that you check out our free sample schedules for 6 month old babies. This should help with the timing of bedtime and naps, and will hopefully help with that early feed and her not going back to sleep for long! Here’s a link:
      For more help at any time, please consider working with one of our expert sleep consultants – we’d love to help! YOu can contact us at any time with questions or for help getting started! hang in there Holly!

  2. My 9 month old is waking up around 5:15 every morning, usually with a big poop. Once I change his diaper (turning on minimal lights) and get him a bottle, he’s ready to get up and going. He’s cranky and moody while we’re getting ready for the day, and crashes for an early morning nap if he’s at home. He goes to daycare during the week. They say he’s an angel, but he’ll only take an afternoon nap no matter how hard they try to get him to sleep. Then he’s a little booger before bed too.
    He will sometimes sleep in the mornings as long as I hold him but if I last him in his crib he cries still we give in and get up. We previously discussed cry it out at night and that worked well, but I’m not sure that’s a good morning solution.
    Any suggestions?

    • HI @Jacque, thank you for writing to us. I’m sorry to hear you are struggling with your 9 month old’s early waking! As you saw in the article often naps do contribute to daytime sleep, so I do wonder if him resisting his morning naps at daycare is contributing to the early wake ups. Here is a link to a free guide with tips to help improve those naps or will give you questions you can ask the daycare to see if the right environment is set (and in reality I know you have little control in this but it may just help give you a better idea of what is happening):
      If the problem persists, I’d suggest considering working with a sleep consultant that can help you create a plan you feel good about and they will try to cater it with your daycare’s schedule and routine as well! Here is a link to read about our options for that if you’re interested: services/
      Hang in there!

  3. Hi I am unsure what to do about my sons early wakings. I don’t think he wants to start his day, it is more like a night waking around 4:30/5:30. He cries a lot and seems so tired. When he was around 1 we used controlled crying to extend his nights and he would sleep from about 6:00/6:30-4:30/5:30 then I would feed him and he would sleep until around 6:30/7:00.

    We just did a reset for him (now 14 month old) to get him to sleep longer at night after being sick and travelling (waking 2-4x with feeding) He goes down around 6:30 and his night wakings have basically gone away. However, he has still been waking around 4:30-5:30 crying and not returning to sleep. We have been leaving him until 6:00 where I then go in a feed him. Sometimes we start our day at 6:00 but if he seems super tired and has been crying for 1.5hr I am putting him back down where he sleeps until 7/8.

    His naps have always been a struggle. Mornings are usually good with a nap around 9:30 for about 1 hr. Afternoons I almost always need to do a stroller nap and they are around 45 min. He usually goes to bed around 6:00/6:30. I am not sure if he is truly hungry in those early hours or if I should be forcing him to wait until 6:00? Should I then always start the day or should I put him back down?

    • Hi @Amanda – Thank you for writing, and I’m sorry that sleep is not going smoothly! Those early morning wake ups can be tough to solve and can feel brutal!
      It sounds like you are working hard to teach your son good sleep habits. Sleep problems are quite common at this age, and being sick and traveling can disrupt even the best sleepers!
      Here is a link to a few sample schedules to use as reference when planning his day and night sleep:
      We can definitely help with this issue, and if things do not smooth out, and you would like additional help with this, I do believe you could benefit from one of our Sleep Consultation packages, where one of our experts can take an in depth look at everything in your son’s sleep history and schedules, and she will work with you on a detailed plan that you can commit to and feel good about.
      You can read about all of our sleep consultation packages here:
      Hang in there Amanda, and let us know if you have any questions!

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