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Attention all miserable parents!
Every May it’s the same. Parents coming out of the woodwork asking me to help with their sweet little angels that are suddenly waking at ungodly hours. How do we go about fixing these early morning wake ups?!
Here’s What’s Happened:
Your baby may have been sleeping a sweet 7-7, just like all the parenting books said they should [Maybe even 8-8, but I wouldn’t tell too many parent friends that if you still want to be invited to Zoom dinner parties]. Maybe they were starting to sleep 7-6 but it wasn’t too big of a problem just yet… Then daylight savings happened. All your prayers are answered! That 6 or 7 am wakeup is now 7 or 8. You likely push bedtime back too and now you’re on the schedule that you always dreamed of.
Or maybe you shifted their schedule slowly so they were on the same schedule. Either way..
Slowly, slowly, that bedtime began to creep earlier again.
Here’s The Bad News:
It’s biology. And it’s totally normal. Babies [and kids] don’t care about the time on the clock. And they definitely don’t care that you stayed up until 1am binging Tiger King. Their bodies are readjusting to the sun with a fun little thing you’ve likely heard of called their circadian rhythm.
So now they are going to bed later, but getting up earlier, and earlier, and earlier…
And The Good News:
Sure, it’s natural to wake up with the sun…but we don’t have to like it.
And we can fix it.
- Step 1: Blackout the room. And I mean BLACK out, not just hanging curtains. I advise going in there at 6am and closing your eyes for a minute, then open your eyes. Can you see anything? Light from under the doorframe? A change of color in the curtains? Or can you still clearly see the changing table and the art on the walls? If you can see anything besides total darkness, your baby can sense that light change through their closed eyelids enough to send out their little wakeup alarm. I usually recommend grabbing some cheap black paper Redi-Shades, or even black trashbags. Adhere them to the windows top to bottom and side to side for a few nights. If it fixes the problem- awesome! If it doesn’t- you’re only out $20 max and you don’t have to bother investing in longer term solutions. [Pro-tip: Use an industrial stapler and fold carefully the red-shades will last for years!]
- Step 2: Set your wakeup time. Some parents scoop their babies out of bed when they wake up [even if it’s at 5am], while others leave them in their room until their desired wake up time. I usually recommend an in between option. Scooping them up sends the message that it is yes indeed morning time. And leaving them awake in their crib from say 5am-7am, doesn’t give them enough time to get out their energy before their first nap of the day. Attn: I have to tell you something you may not like. 6/630 is a normal and very typical wakeup time for your baby. But I think we can agree that striving for 6/630 and achieving it is much better all around for everyone than being up at five, yes? When you start their day let the light shine in and offer a feeding [bottle or solids] right away.
- Step 3: Tweak the day. This is individualized based on your baby. I can’t recommend nap routines without a consultation but generally try hitting the sweet spot of awake time before bed. For two naps this means 3-4 hours of awake time before bedtime. [More info on naps here!] Get some nice exposure to sunlight before you start the bedtime routine to help establish that internal rhythm. Aim for bedtime around 11.5 hours before the wakeup time we made up. This bedtime will likely be EARLIER than your original bedtime. For example: Bedtime at 630, and if baby wakes at 6 or 630 they’re in that ideal 11-12 hour nighttime range. Bedtimes after 7pm often lead to the earliest wakeup times.
- Step 4: Make sure there aren’t other factors at play:: Is your baby eating enough calories during the day to not be waking up hungry? Are you limiting screens and loud/busy toys in the hours before bedtime? Is there a lingering dream feed that you need to cut out? Is your baby getting an appropriate amount of stimulation and movement in between naps?
If any of these tricks work, take a photo of your well rested baby and tag us on instagram @nightingalenightnurses.
Is this plan not working for you? Feel free to reach out HERE to book a free consultation. We offer virtual services nationwide. Oftentimes sleep isn’t something that can be fixed from a blog or a book- your baby/little one is their own unique little being!