Author Topic: Early Waking  (Read 11956 times)

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Offline amayzie

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Early Waking
« on: May 08, 2013, 10:30:31 am »
(Thanks, Chell, for this great post!!)

Early morning waking is one of the most common sleep problems experienced (community pharmacy 2001) and can be one of the most difficult problems to correct. (Ferber 1986) (Hames 2002)
However, don’t let this put you off trying to understand and fix the problem. There are many reasons why babies wake, and some of these problems are straight forward to remedy. Remember, we are there to support you through your difficulties.

Early morning waking is subjective, in that it depends on what parents’ class as early. Generally speaking the average cycle runs from 7.30am-7.30pm. Having said that, these times depend on how old your baby is and they may not be sleeping 12 hours a night until around 6 months old. (Ferber cited by CChiang (BW general sleep FAQs)

There are several reasons why early morning waking occurs.

1. Hunger
Early waking can occur due to straight forward hunger, because the baby is too young to be able to go longer between feeds.
Remedy by feeding (Hogg 2005) and treat this as a night feed (Ford 2006).

2. Learnt hunger
 Babies can learn to feel hungry. When they have been used to being fed at a certain time every day, they come to expect that feed and so wake wanting to be fed, even if perhaps they don’t actually nutritionally need that feed. Think about when you have perhaps been on holiday and had a cooked breakfast every day, when you come back home, you may start to feel hungry at the same times you ate this meal.
This problem can be rectified, by gradually delaying feeding times in very small increments. (Ferber 1986). If bottle fed, feeds can be eliminated by gradually watering down the milk (Hogg 2005). How we stopped the night feeds with a 9 month old

3. External stimuli
Babies can wake early due to physical stimulation, such as noise or light, heat (central heating coming on) or cold (kicking off covers), or a leaky wet nappy etc,
By 5am, after completing most of the night time sleep, the levels of the hormone cortisol starts to rise and motivation to sleep is less strong (Ferber 1986). If babies experience any one of these stimuli frequently enough, they can begin to anticipate it and wake spontaneously, thus becoming a habit. (Ferber 1986)
The following ideas may help.   
    Blackout blinds/tin foil taped to the windows (bear in mind that if 
    the windows are opened it will make a rustling sound in the wind)
    Sleeping bags / gro-bags
    Double diapering
    Safe toys, left so that the babe can amuse themselves
    Star chart (toddlers)
    Drink, biscuit (toddlers) (Sears and Sears 2005)
    Using an alarm clock (toddlers) (Sears and Sears 2005)

4. Accidental parenting
Early morning waking can be due to accidental parenting. (Hogg 2005)  The idea is that the baby wakes randomly, and your response reinforces it, causing the baby to repeat that behaviour. For example, if they wake and you feed, rock, or bring them in to bed with you frequently, they will then get into a habit of waking at that time, and will need the same response to go back off to sleep. Anything that motivates them to continue waking will reinforce this behaviour. (Ferber 1986) (Community Pharmacy 2001)
If you are feeding them, try to gradually delay this over a few days (Hames 2002). If you are rocking them, you will need to implement a new method to get them back to go sleep, i.e. pat/shush, pick up put down or wake to sleep (Hogg 2005). If you are bringing them into bed with you, you will need to get them used to going back into their own cot, and use the above sleep training methods. Please check out the FAQs on the boards specifically relating to the use of these methods.

5. Needing less than average sleep
All babies are individual. Some just need less sleep than average.
Watch for behavioural cues, which will tell you whether or not your baby is well rested on the hours of sleep he or she is getting or whether they are overtired (Hogg 2005).If they need less than average sleep, then delaying bedtime gradually will result in them waking later.

6. Unrealistic expectations
If you are expecting too much sleep from your baby, they may start waking early in the morning, simply because they are well-rested and ready to go for the day. 
Solution: Some combination of shortening naps and delaying bed time so that the total time sleeping is less, making your LO need that morning sleep.Check out FAQ’s on the general sleep board for typical hours of day and night time sleep.

7. Overtiredness
Early waking can be caused by the baby being overly tired. (Hogg 2005, Community pharmacy 2002, Ferber 1986) due to too much activity time, or too little sleep. If the activity time before bed is too long, babies can become stressed, irritable and overactive. (Ferber 1986). This then makes it hard for them to relax and they may fight against going to bed. Overtiredness increases the number of wake ups during the night (Ferber 1986, Hogg 2005)
Address this problem by keeping activity time short, closely observing non verbal behaviour for tiredness cues then acting immediately. Ensure they get correct amount of day time naps.

8. First nap of the day is too early
Early waking can be due to the first nap of the day being too early. The final part of the night time sleep cycle can become separated, appearing as an early morning nap. (Hames 2002) (Ferber 1986)
This can be resolved by gradually pushing the first nap of the day further forward very slowly, over several days.

9. Having an early sleep phase
A normal sleep phase is suggested to run from 7.30am-7.30pm. (Ferber 1986) If a baby has an early sleep phase, they will be irritable in the late afternoon, or early evening, waking early in the morning, but also wanting to go to sleep early in the evening or even late afternoon. An early sleep phase can be created by regularly allowing the baby to fall asleep early (Ferber 1986). Early sleep phases are more common in infants than in toddlers. Many early risers eventually outgrow this problem. (Hames 2002)
It is sometimes possible to alter the pattern and can take a couple of weeks. To do this, get them into a good 12 hour daily routine, starting at that early hour when they wake (which also means an early bedtime), and then gradually shift the entire day back in 15 minute increments. You will need to alter the whole routine,including naps and feeds as well as bedtime.
However sometimes it is not possible to change an early sleep phase, but most babies will outgrow this problem. (Hames 2002) If you have tried all that you can, with patience, consistency and persistency, it may be that you need to accept that for the time being they are ‘larks’ and just need to go to bed early (and you too), so that you both get the sleep you need. (Hogg)

10. Developmental Changes
Babies can sometimes start waking early (or at other times), due to experiencing new physical or psychological milestones (Sears and Sears 2005). They may wake to play or try out their new found skills.
If your baby is happily awake then leaving them may result in them returning back to sleep. If not you may need to implement one of the baby whispering sleep training methods.


Ferber, R. (1986) Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems, Dorling Kindersley Publishers Ltd, London.

Ford, G. (2006) the new contented little baby book, Vermillion
publishers, London

Hames, P. (2002) Help Your Baby To Sleep, NCT Publishing, London.   
Hogg, T. and Blau, M. (2005) The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems,  Aria books, London.   

Sears W. and Sears M. (2005) Baby sleep book, Thorsons, London   

          community pharmacy 2001

NB: Please note that although other references have been used, only the sleep training methods promoted by Tracy Hogg are recommended.
« Last Edit: July 01, 2015, 10:28:25 am by Jaime »
Katy, Mummy to Hamish!