When is early, too early?

I get asked a lot about what time babies and toddlers should be getting up in the morning. Well just like you and I, it is different for everyone. Waking early in babies and toddlers is fairly common, particularly around daylight saving time (which is not far away!) and for some households it can be frustrating and exhausting when everyone is up before the birds. The bad news is some babies are just always going to be early risers and there’s not much you can do about it.

In my experience, most babies do need to sleep past 5am and generally they will, but they might need a little help for a bit. In a perfect world, your baby should be sleeping until at least 6am. The reason why babies and toddlers are particularly wakeful at his time is because it is a wakeful time in their sleep cycles. Prior to this period they have just had about 5 hours of dream sleep and are transitioning out of that active-sleep phase. After stirring (if they do), they are supposed to drop back into a deep sleep from about 4/5am, so you may need to help them to do this. If your baby is waking too early, then try not to get them up and start the day, unless you are happy to do this. If you do get then up early then they will think this is the routine and continue to wake at this time.

Babies and young children are supposed to have anywhere from 10 to 12 hours of sleep overnight. I actually think 11 to 12 hours is better because there is so much development and activity going on they really need to rest properly. So if your baby is asleep from around 6.30pm and then they wake up at 5.30am then that is a pretty good amount of sleep!

One thing you can try to help them get past the early waking is to make sure that your child isn’t going to bed too late at night. If they go to bed too late (which is after about 7.30pm) then they can wake early. It sounds wrong, but that is what happens. Babies need to get about five hours of deep sleep before midnight in order to have enough of that lovely deep sleep.

There are my 5 top tips to help you and your child get some extra time in bed:

• Try to make sure your baby or toddler isn’t going to bed too late at night. This can cause early waking. Most babies and toddlers need to be asleep by about 7pm as they get their deepest sleep of the night before midnight and they need about 4.5 to 5 hours of this.
• Look at how much day sleep your child is having. If a child is having too much sleep in the day then they will pinch it from the night and that will usually mean they will wake up too early.
• If your baby is still being fed overnight then try to move the feed to around 4am and see if that helps. Feeding later can help babies sleep later and avoid that wakeful early morning period.
• The beginning or end of daylight saving can be a nightmare time for early waking. If this happens I would try and resettle them rather than get them up. Also make sure the room is blackened out as the sun and birds are up early and waking lots of babies up.
• Go to bed early! If your baby is waking early then that might just be the way it is just for the time being. Things change very frequently as a child grows so it might not go on for too long. Go to bed early enough so you feel able to face the day when your child wakes.

Article by Wattle Health resident expert, Paediatric Nurse, Jo Ryan.