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Helping the baby who wakes up too early

Posted by Karen Faulkner on
baby waking early, baby sleep help, baby waking 5 am, 5 am club, why is my baby waking early, online sleep program, Nurture Sleep Program
I've had so many babies who are waking up at 4am, 4:30am and 5 am and are driving their poor parents demented. I'm sure daylight savings has contributed to some of this! And teething and illness ...

So a blog was well overdue! So here it is poor sleep deprived parents. I'd like to know what you find helpful so when you fix it leave me a comment and we can help each other!

Now babies, I'm going to name and shame you …Bailey, Alice, Luca, Abigail and I'm adding some toddlers to the piece …Ari, Ben and even Miss Freya who has been known to do a 5:30am wake up. I'm sending my sister a Groclock to do some teaching in the hope of a quick turn around!

Early morning waking occurs for many reasons

early morning waking

The danger with starting your day at 4 or 5am is that it can become the new normal and a fixed event and even get earlier… eeek!

I can totally understand the temptation to just give in however over the long term it won't help you. It's actually more important to address the early morning waking compared to any other regular night time waking.

How Much Sleep Is Enough?

Most babies need a lot of sleep (11-12 hours at night and an extra 2-3 hours in the day. 14-15 hours in total). Go by their mood and if they're cranky on getting up and cranky in the day they're not having enough sleep. Sleep is important for so many reasons and I'm sure I don't need to remind you. So here are a few ideas to think about and maybe give a try ...

Later vs Earlier Bedtimes

Some parents put their babies to bed later than usual hoping that a finite amount of sleep is needed. However this only makes things worse. Often the reverse is needed, an earlier bedtime of 6:30pm may be the solution. Deep restorative sleep is from 7pm to 1am so if your baby is going down at 8pm they are actually missing out on an hour of the deep sleep. Deep sleep reduces cortisol and helps prevent stressed babies and night waking.

I was helping a sleep deprived toddler who was whingy all day and going to bed at 7:30pm or 8pm and once I met him I realised he needed an earlier bed time and guess what? He now sleeps till 7:30am and his parents have to wake him! 13 hours of blissful sleep. I went round for the night time settle and he was refusing his dinner, didn't want a bath. He was basically overtired. So it was as simple as an earlier bedtime.

early morning waking

Going down too early for a daytime nap

Babies over six months old who are having a morning and afternoon sleep may need a later morning sleep rather than 9am. If the gap between waking and going down is increased a bit it may help you get them down earlier at night. So try and do a 9:15am or 9.30am put down and see if this helps.

Try for day sleeps in the cot at home

Sleeps in the car or out and about are often the stealers of good night time sleep and then you get a little cat napper. Good long restful sleep in the day will promote the same at night. Never forget that sleep promotes sleep. The more you get, the more you need and want. So think about those day sleeps and where they are occurring. As long as more sleep is in the cot than the car or stroller it's unlikely to regress. And particularly the long sleep in the cot during the day.

Winter temperatures and what temperature babies need for sleep

It's important the room temperature is cooler for inducing sleep and keeping baby asleep. Try for 16-18°C (60.8-64.4°F) at night. Use merino layers on the baby with a sleeping bag type of garment. If they are nice and toasty they may sleep so much better. I have just had a report from Miss Abigail's mum that an extra skivvy under the Grobag did just the trick, she resettled so much easier and slept longer.

Babies waking at 3 or 4am may be waking because they're cold. Night temperatures drop at 3am as does the internal body temp. Babies lose body heat 4 x as fast as an adult. Socks on baby may help, especially when it hits 3 and 4am. At night the temperature drops and if baby's feet get cold it's really hard for baby to go back to sleep. You may need an extra blanket or merino wool jumper or body warming vest on baby at 3am.

Your sleeping bag needs to be merino wool or 2.5-3 tog for a room temp of 16-20°C (60.8-68°F) in winter. If your child's bedroom is very cold, below 12-16°C (53.6-60.8°F) then definately merino wool or a 3.5 tog.

Merino wool sleep suits retain heat much better than cotton so are a better option for Winter.

Summer temperatures

Australia gets incredibly hot in summer so be careful not to overdress babies. Any temperature over 26°C (78.8°F) dress baby in a nappy with or without a short sleeved singlet.

Using a fan in extreme heat can be helpful. Babies need to adapt to Australia and using air conditioning too often affects this. Obviously, it depends on the age of the baby and how hot it is. If you have a newborn and it's a 40°C (104°F) day use either air conditioning or an electric fan to cool them. Older babies have a more adaptable thermostat.
room temperature and baby sleepwear

How much clothing should my baby wear?

You will need to judge this based on many factors - room temperature, how warm or cool your baby feels, what sort of clothing you use.

Use only natural fibre clothing - cotton, bamboo or merino wool are best and layers.

Use merino wool against the skin as it helps regulate temperature. Some of my favourite options are Hello Night kids sleepwear

Is the room dark enough and conducive for sleep?

You may need darker curtains or a block out blind. Remove all mobiles and think about night lights and music i.e. not using them at all. Sleep associations are powerful things and bedrooms should be calming and restful places.  Watch this video starting at the 50 second mark to see me demonstrate the application of tin foil

Or Bedroom Blackout Blinds and use the code Nurture10 to get 10% off your purchase.

Are they teething or in pain?

Teething pain can cause night time waking. Do they need Panadol (paracetamol), Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Nurofen (ibuprofen) ? If you're in pain you can't go back to sleep easily, it's the same for a baby. They have an acupressure point on the fleshy part of the palm between the thumb and forefinger. Try pressing several times a day to provide pain relief. Check their temperature to make sure you're not missing anything. You can use a standard thermometer and a normal temp is 36.5-37.5°C (97.7-99.5°F). Or feel the back of their neck or the optimum place is touching their tummy with your hand.

Are they having enough solids in the day?

solid food for baby

After six months old they should be fed to appetite and offered food first, milk second. They need a lot of good nutritional quality food and may need two to three Weetbix for breakfast and up to one to one and a half cups of food at each meal. Offer main and dessert at lunch and evening meal. Food has more calories than milk so beware of giving more than three breastfeeds or 750mls (25 fl oz) of milk if six to 12 months old.

Over one year old (and if giving yoghurt and cheese you can cut the milk down to one to two cups a day). Think about what they're eating and low glycaemic foods fill up for longer giving a slow release of energy (basmati rice, pumpkin, sweet potato, weetbix, porridge oats, quinoa, bananas). Calorie dense foods are important, adding dairy to each meal e.g. butter, cheese, cream. If dairy intolerant/allergic add avocado, coconut cream, peanut butter, oily fish and cook food in coconut oil. Fat has more than double the calories of carbohydrates. Read more on fixing your baby's sleep with diet on my other blog here:

So what do you do when they wake at 4am or 5am?

You should resettle. If they are six to 12 months old use Magic Presence or Mantra Magic. We are teaching them that whilst we are there for them they are not getting up and getting fed till a more reasonable hour.

It may take up to three weeks before the new wake up becomes 6 or 7 am but it will pay off. So don't give in, persistence is the key. Babies are going to protest, it's what they know and they know by crying they will get responded to.


Whatever you do try not to feed or put into your bed before 6am as this rewards the behaviour (the crying).

Try not to pat or take out of the cot for a cuddle too often. The least you do, the least you have to do. We are reminding them it is night time.

And if they're over 16 months and all else has failed to help try a Gro-clock. it may save your sanity!

Baby still not sleeping?

The Nurture Sleep Program will take your baby from sleepless to slumber in up to 7 easy lessons across 3 age groups. FOODS that promote sleep
    • ROUTINE: easy, flexible, sleep-ready
    • ENVIRONMENT: getting it right
    • DEVELOPMENT changes: how these affect sleep

    • SLEEP METHODS: secret tips that will change your life
It will stop the guesswork and give you:

✅ A tried and tested approach (20 years of helping families with baby & toddler sleep)
✅ Evidence-based
✅ Gentle baby sleep methods
✅ Holistic assessment
✅ Nurture & Nourish nutrition program - all recipes have sleep inducing ingredients and a perfect balance for a good nights sleep
✅ Access to a closed Facebook group for one on one support from Karen and 90+ timecoded Facebook Live videos
✅ Prevention for under 4 months so no need to do sleep training ever

Can you tell Karen is getting rather excited for all you parents who need a good nights sleep and one that happens EVERY SINGLE NIGHT and not just in a blue moon? 

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  • Janina on

    Thanks Karen. But how do I get Harry to sleep at 7?
    He actually asks for bed around 10ish , we’ve tried to put him to sleep before but he just doesn’t .
    While I’m here , what do you recommend for a bad bad bad nappy rush?
    I wish I could go and see you but I now work full time.

    Many thanks , Harry sends kissesssss ;)

  • karen on

    Hello Janina,
    I’ve had a look at your previous comment and Harry’s having too much day sleep which is why he won’t go down at 6:30 or 7pm. He only needs one afternoon sleep now which is usually around 1-3pm, a maximum of 2 hours and not after 4pm. If he goes down after 4pm you won’t get him to bed at 7pm. He definitely doesn’t need a morning sleep! So for a few days he’ll be a bit cranky till you turn it around but it will be so worth it. Just think of those lovely evenings with just you and George and that will help you see it through.
    Nappy rash that’s really bad is probably fungal so I’d use either Dermaid (a mild steroid 3 times a day for 3 days) and an anti fungal such as Clonea or Canestan or use Daktozin. You should use the anti fungal cream for 3 weeks or it may come back and use 3 times a day. A really good barrier ointment is Bepanthem. It may take 3 weeks till its healed, persevere. If you have a look at my blog on nappy rash and thrush theres a few pictures you can look at which will show if its thrush or not.
    Hope works going well and kisses back to Harry :-) XXX I bet he’s so cute but will be even cuter with a 7pm bedtime!!!LOL

  • Janina on

    Hi Karen , hope you are well. Just read your blog about sleep.
    Harry goes to bed around 9:30 10pm and wakes up at 6,6:30am , he has 1 or 2 naps during the day. His morning nap hours could be 2-3hrs and no afternoon nap or 1-11/2 morning nap with anther afternoon nap or no nap at all and grumpy bubba . Do you think Harry is not getting enough sleep?
    Should he too have 14hr sleep all in All?
    he wakes up in the morning crying out loud and then he screams for Daddy because mummy won’t pick him up.
    Many thanks, as usual ur blogs are great!!!!


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  • karen on

    Hello Janina! nice to hear from you, hope alls god in your world. Yes I think he needs more sleep. He should be having a bed time of 6:30-7pm. He needs an afternoon sleep of 1-2 hours but no morning sleep once over 1 year old.The fact he’s waking up cranky says that he needs more sleep to me. He should wake up happy and talking/singing to himself.He needs around 12-14 hours at his age.To sort it out you may need to keep him up till his afternoon sleep and he may be cranky for a few days until he’s on track. Hope that helps, Karen :-)

  • karen on

    Thank you for your comments Natasha, really helpful. Yes I love the groclock too. I have sent one to my sister for Miss Freya. I think she needs to wake up a bit later than she is doing! I thought it was a nice way to pass a message on. LOL

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