Remember the days before kids when your alarm clock would go off at 7 am. You’d press snooze a few times and enjoy a few peaceful minutes lazily waking up in bed before starting your day. But these days, 7 a.m. sounds like a dream. Your little one is waking up waaaaaay too early.
Your little one is your new alarm clock and they’re up too early calling for you at 4:30 am. And they won’t go back to sleep! No matter how hard you try, you give up and start your day at 5 a.m. Or you pull them into bed with you to try get a few extra hours of precious sleep.
And it’s like groundhogs day. Every day is the same time. Over and over again. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Your little on can absolutely sleep until the time that you’re ready to start the day.
As the nation’s leading pediatric sleep coach, I’ve worked with thousands of families struggling with early morning wakings. And I’ve helped each and every one eliminate that early morning waking once and for all. It does take some hard work and dedication on your part, but you can absolutely make this happen…without leaving your child alone to cry it out!
Here is your comprehensive guide to early morning waking sleep training.
Table of Contents
Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase.
What is an Early Morning Waking?
An early morning waking is when your baby wakes up before getting the proper amount of sleep that they need for the night.
Babies and young children need between 10 – 12 hours of sleep at night. I find that the average is about 11 – 11.5 hours at night. And most children do best with a bedtime between 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.
So let’s do the math. That would put an ideal morning sometime between 6 – 7:30 a.m., depending on when their bedtime is and how much sleep their body needs.
This means anything before 6 a.m. is certainly considered an early morning waking.
But again, the timing of an early morning waking will vary child to child. In our house, I’m not ready to start the day until 7 a.m.
And I have done early morning waking sleep training with both of my children to teach them how to sleep until 7 am. If they were to wake anytime before 7 am, I would consider that to be an early morning waking in our house.
There are 3 main reasons for early morning wakings in babies. These are (1) overtiredness, (2) the sleep environment isn’t ideal and (3) your baby doesn’t know how to fall asleep independently.
Overtiredness is really just a baby’s worst enemy when it comes to both falling asleep and staying asleep. Overtiredness is when a baby is awake longer than their appropriate awake windows for their age. All of us have experienced an overtired baby at some people.
You’ve probably seen them looking tired. Then all of a sudden they get a jolt of energy and look like they’re not tired at all anymore. They start to get a little hyperactive and when you try to get them to sleep, they really fight it.
Solution: Be sure to be following your baby’s proper awake windows for their age. A 4 month old’s awake times is going to look very different than a 7 month old’s awake windows. If you’re not sure exactly how long your baby should be awake between naps, download my free schedules by age below.
Download Your Baby’s Nap Schedule by Age
The Sleep Environment
The sleep environment in your baby’s room may not be set up currently to manage early morning wakings. Check for darkness. This is especially true in the summer months when the sun starts streaming through the windows by 6 a.m. We all sleep best in a room that is nice and dark. If your baby’s room is lit up brightly in the early morning hours, they may more fully wake up in between sleep cycles and think “hey look! It’s bright out, it must be time to wake up.”
If you live in a big city with lots of external noises, or even if you have a dog next door who barks loudly every morning, that noise could be the thing waking your baby up too early. White noise can be an excellent way to help mask those noises.
Solution: Make your child’s room nice and dark all year round with Blackout Window Covers. If you don’t already have a white noise machine, consider purchasing one. My favorite is the Hatch.
Your Baby Doesn’t Know How to Fall Asleep Independently
Think about how you put your baby to sleep each night. Do you need to do anything that helps to get them drowsy? Do they get drowsy while you’re nursing them before bedtime or with the bottle in their mouth? Do they need you to rock or bounce them to sleep? Do they need you to sit next to them and pat them to sleep? Or need you to come into bed with them to fall asleep?
How to Stop Early Morning Waking Baby
If you answered yes to any of those questions, then your baby doesn’t have the skills needed to fall asleep independently. How does that cause an early morning waking? Sleep cycles, my friend.
Your child goes through several sleep cycles each night. Their sleep cycles will generally be between 20 – 60 minutes depending on their age. What happens each night is that as your baby finishes up one sleep cycle and is ready to go into the next one, they wake up ever so slightly.
We do it as adults too. But we’ve developed the skills to put ourselves back to sleep without fully waking up. But when your baby required something from you to fall asleep at bedtime, and they’re in that little gap between sleep cycles, they’re not always going to seamlessly transition into the next sleep cycle.
Instead, they’re going to realize that they’re not in the same place they were when they fell asleep. They’re not in your arms being bounced. The breast or bottle isn’t in their mouth anymore.
And now they’re going to wake up too early and cry out for you to come and help them get back to sleep.
So what’s the secret to stop these early morning wakings with babies? The answer is simply to teach your baby how to fall asleep independently with early morning waking sleep training, which I’ll walk you through in a minute.
Reasons for Early Morning Wakings in Toddlers
But first, what are the reasons for early morning wakings in toddlers? The same 3 early morning wakings in babies apply with toddlers as well. However, I would add one more to it. Your toddler may not have the rules and boundaries needed to put themselves back to sleep or lay quietly in bed until your normal morning time.
If your toddler is getting out of bed or calling out for you well before you’re ready to start the day, be sure to check out my blog, How to Keep Toddlers in Bed to learn about how you can set loving rules and boundaries around your child’s sleep.
Early Morning Waking Sleep Training
You’re ready to teach your child the skills they need to fall asleep independently and eliminate early morning wakings once and for all. Then it’s time to start early morning waking sleep training!
There are 3 early morning sleep training methods that you can use to teach your child independent sleep skills. These are staying in the room method, interval check ins, or the cry it out method.
The first two methods are going to be a gentler approach. They allow you, as your child’s parent, to still be present to support your child on the learning curve of figuring out how to fall asleep independently and to connect sleep cycles without needing your assistance anymore.
While the cry it out method is a very effective method. At Live Love Sleep, we focus on the two gentler approaches. Check out our blog Alternatives to Cry It Out to learn more about these two early morning waking sleep training methods.
Wake to Sleep Early Morning Waking
Occasionally I work with families, where we’ve got their child sleeping independently, but they’re still seeing early morning wakings. Sometimes a child might just need a little more time. Way more often than not, you should see early morning wakings eliminated within 2 weeks of teaching your child independent sleep skills.
But if two weeks have gone by, and your child is falling asleep happily on their own, but still waking up earlier than you’d like them to, I’d urge you to try the Wake to Sleep Early Morning Waking Method.
The Wake to Sleep Early Morning Waking Sleep Training Method does not work all the time. I have about a 75% success rate with it with my clients. So it’s certainly worth a shot if your child is still struggling with early morning wakings, if they’re falling asleep independently at bedtime and naptime.
Sleep Training Early Morning Waking
Now you’ve got a good idea how to help your child sleep past 5 a.m. But if you’re not sure which early morning waking sleep training method is going to work best for your child, I’m here to help. My team of Certified Sleep Coaches and I work with families of newborns to children 8 years old to teach them the healthy sleep skills needed to sleep through the night and get those great daytime naps. We’ll tailor a sleep plan for your family and provide you with ongoing support as you’re implementing your child’s sleep plan.
Just imagine your child sleeping 11 – 12 hours through the night by this time next week! Let’s make that happen. Get started with your free Discovery Call today.
Hi ! I am looking for sleep solution for my 9 month old ! Baby is sleep trained but started needing intervention since pulling to stand happened . Also going through separation anxiety , currently having a 5 am wake up which is consistent from 2 months of age ! Also pushing awake windows very quickly ! Awake windows are already near 3.5/4/4 ! Concerned if it is too soon for such long windows
Hi Mani, sorry to hear your little one is regressing. Send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we can discuss a little more.