What to do with too early wake ups?

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Today I share my tips about what to do in case your baby started to wake up waaay too  early!


Today I will answer a question that I got almost two weeks ago. I feel like I'm starting to get too many questions, so I'm a bit behind, sorry for that. There's an ongoing list of questions that I receive, and I try to go through them one by one, but this list is getting longer and longer. So how do I choose my questions and how do I build this list of questions, you might ask? Well, when I started this podcast, I used to look at Facebook groups on baby sleep coaching and baby sleep. Or I looked at different forums, for... for example, the one on Reddit I like really much. And I looked at the questions that people asked from each other, and I searched for interesting ones. Well, I haven't done this for a long time, because people then started to ask questions directly from me, either in these forums and groups, or they sent me emails.
And now I I'm basically building the list of questions from these direct questions and I try to answer them in order, but now there are more than 10 questions on my list, which doesn't seem much, but it means that it will take me more than 10 weeks to go through this list if I publish weekly episodes, and I really can't publish more than one episode a week. So that means that that is two and a half months to get to the last question. So if you ask a question from me now, then you will get to the bottom of this list and you will have to wait this long to get your question answered. I know this is a lot when you have an urgent question. So I have decided that I would provide a way for my listeners to jump to the front of the list if they have an urgent question.
So the first thing that you can do is that you can sign up for my mailing list. So I will answer questions from people on my mailing list first. So the mailing list is on my website. You can go to shop.mybabysleepproject.com and you can sign up at the bottom of the page. This is a very new mailing list, so I've just started it. No one has asked any questions from me from there. So if you sign up now, you have a very good chance that I will answer your questions next week. I have also set up a page on Patreon where you can subscribe for $1 per month to become an official patron. And if you do that, your questions will get even higher precedence then questions from my mailing list subscribers. So since I have just started my mailing list, this might not be necessary of course, it depends on how many people will sign up for the mailing list this week. I will link where you can subscribe to the mailing list and to Patreon in the show notes. So you will find the link in the show notes.
And of course, I answer all questions from my readers, the readers of my book, The Baby Sleep Book in the private Facebook group that is only for the readers. I usually answer their questions there, in the Facebook group. But sometimes, if I think that the question could be interesting for more people, then I will make an episode about it too. If you are thinking about buying The Baby Sleep Book, then don't forget that listeners of this podcast get a 50% discount on The Baby Sleep Book, both the audio book and the ebook, if they use the discount code PODCAST. So use the discount code PODCAST, if you would like to buy The Baby Sleep Book.
Okay. So today's question is the following: "How can I make my five-month-old boy wake up at previous 7:00 AM instead of the new 5:30-6:00 AM wake time? Bedtime is between 8:30-9:30 PM with two-three naps during the day. Naps are around 35 minutes at 9:00 AM, 30-45 minutes around 12:00-1:00 PM. And about two hours anywhere between 3:00 PM to 7:00 PM."
Okay, so first let's look at your son's schedule. So if I understand it right, then he wakes up between 5:30 to 6:00 AM. Then he has his first nap around nine o'clock, 9:00 AM for about half an hour, and then the second nap is between 12 and 1:00 PM, also for about half an hour. And the third nap is between 3:00 and 7:00 PM and it is two hours. And then bedtime is at 9:00 PM. So from 9:00 PM to let's say, 6:00 AM in the morning, that's nine hours sleep at night. And for the naps, he has half hour for the first nap, half hour for the second nap, or a little bit more, and about two hours for the third nap, which is three hours daytime sleep. So altogether that's nine plus three, 12 hours for the day. And you would like him to wake up one hour later, which means that that would be 10 hours sleep at night plus three hours sleep during the day, so 13 hours altogether.
First of all, let's look at your goals. So is it reasonable? Is it a reasonable goal? Okay. So let's look at what the National Sleep Foundation has to say about the sleep needs of children, your son's age. So according to the National Sleep Foundation, the recommended daily sleep for infants between 4 and 12 months is 12 to 15 hours. Below that, it may be appropriate to sleep 10 to 12 hours. So that means that 13 hours is within the recommended range and 12 hours, so the amount that your son sleeps currently is on the lower end of the recommended range. So it might be still appropriate, depending on his individual sleep needs, but the average kid sleeps more than that. Okay.
But the National Sleep Foundation has the age range from four to 12 months, which is a huge age range, so let's look at some other data. I like this research from Iglowstein from 2003, where they asked more than 400 children, I mean, they asked the parents of more than 400 children about their sleep. And he has data for six months old, so that is close enough for your son's age. According to their data, six months old kids sleep 14.2 hours, with nighttime sleep being 11 hours and daytime sleep, 3.4 hours. So almost three and a half hours. So it means that, for the daytime sleep, your son is close to the average, but for nighttime sleep, even, even with your goal of getting up at 7:00 AM, he sleeps less than the average. So currently he sleeps only nine hours at night and you aim for 10 hours at night. Okay.
So this means that you might try to aim for more sleep. Well, I don't know your child, and it can be the case that your son needs much less sleep than the average child his age, but statistically it is unlikely. So all-in-all your goal seems definitely doable. And also, since he just started to wake up earlier recently, it means that that extra one hour in the morning is definitely possible, because sleep needs usually do not decrease abruptly. So usually they decrease gradually. So if he just started to wake up one or one and a half hour earlier than usual, than it might have some other cause.
Okay, apart from that, your child takes two or three naps during the day, this is more typical for six-month-old babies or... according to some other sources, even for seven months old babies. But you can say that two or three naps is close to the average. But I would try not to go down to two naps, so like three naps is, should be more like the goal. But it doesn't matter if some days he just naps twice. From the schedule that you've wrote, it seems that the wake window is three hours for your son. And the average for this age is two and a half, three hours. So that's, that's fine. Okay, so after we determined that your goals are very much reasonable and also that you might even aim for more, more sleep, let's look at what I suggest.
So my tips: tip number one. This might sound strange. My first tip is to try an earlier bedtime. I know that this, this might sound strange, because then you would think that you're, if you put bedtime earlier, your son will just wake up even more early, but it works with the majority of children. It doesn't always work, but it's worth a try. So I didn't believe it either, with my daughter, he, she also had this period when she started to wake up much earlier. Actually it was like one sleep cycle earlier. And what I did, I, I put her to bed at different times for a week. So like experimented with different bedtimes throughout a week. And I wrote down every day, what time I put her to bed and the next day, what time she woke up, and believe it or not, at the end of the week, I plotted the wake up time and the bedtime together, and it turned out that actually the earlier I put her to bed, the later she woke up. So with an earlier bedtime, like half an hour earlier, I could get a half hour later wake up time, which is one hour more sleep for her. Okay. So this is my number one tip. How about you try an 8:00 PM bedtime instead of 9:00 PM. It's not too far from what you do now, but with this, you would get from 8:00 PM to 7:00 AM, 11 hours nighttime sleep. And that is the average for this age. So let's try an 8 PM bedtime!
Okay, my tip number two is a strict schedule. I know that many people don't like a strict schedule. And I also know that many babies tolerate a very, very flexible schedule or even thrive on a very flexible schedule, but I always suggest to try to stick to a schedule as much as possible, at least until you solve the problem you are trying to solve. And after that, when you solve this early waking problem, after that, you can try to relax the schedule a little bit and see how your son reacts. Okay. So why is it important to stick to a schedule? If you don't stick to a strict schedule, you can't really experiment with things. There will be just too many moving variables and you won't know what works and why. For example, when you experiment with the bedtime, when you, when you are trying different bedtimes to see which one works best. And if you keep changing the nap times too, you will never be able to tell whether what worked was because of the bedtime or the nap time, or maybe just a coincidence. So if you want to figure out what's best for your son, then try to keep a strict schedule until you solve this problem.
Okay, so what should be this strict schedule? You described a three nap day, and I advise that you stick to three naps until your son is a little bit older. And you said that the third nap is between 3:00 and 7:00 PM. So I think 7:00 PM is too late, because then the wake window between the second and the third nap is just too long. And you could see that it was... the wake window of your son was pretty consistently three hours between waking up time and the first nap, and between the first nap and the second nap. So why make it that much longer between the second nap and the third nap? Also, another problem could be if the third nap is that late is that he might not be tired enough for bedtime. So maybe that is why you put your son to bed at 9:00 PM, because napp is quite late, the third nap is quite late, so of course you won't be able to put him to bed at 7:00 PM or 8:00 PM.
Okay, so let's see how an ideal schedule would look like for a five months old with your desired wake up time. So let's say the baby wakes up at 7:00 AM. Then, the first nap would be from 9:30 to 10:00 AM, that would be just half an hour. Okay. So like sample schedules that you would see on the internet usually distribute naps evenly, but you said that your son usually sleeps only half an hour for the first and the second nap and he sleeps more for the third nap. So if this is something that he likes to do, then it is okay. So in this case, the first nap would be from 9:30 to 10:00 AM. The second nap would be from 12:30 to 1:00 PM. And the third nap would be from 3:30 to 5:30. So that would be the, two... two-hour-long nap. And then bedtime would be at 8:00 PM. So from 8:00 PM to 7:00 AM, you would have 11 hours nighttime sleep. And then for the three naps, you would have three hours all together.
Now, it might be the case that the third nap is so long for your son, only because that long wake window before the third nap. So by the time you put him down to the third nap, he's very tired. So he will sleep longer for the third nap. And that in turn will make it impossible for you to put him to bed in time. So maybe the reason of the whole problem is that huge wake window before the third nap. Okay, so look at my ideal schedule and try to experiment with this. If you see that with this new schedule, your son starts to sleep less for the third nap and more for the first and the second nap, then that's absolutely fine. If he doesn't, then the longer third nap is just his preference.
Okay. My tip number three: think about the environment. So sometimes something changes in the baby's environment and that wakes them up. Sometimes nothing changes in the environment, but the baby changes and the things that didn't disturb his sleep before minght start to disturb his sleep now. For example, if you sleep in the same room, do you snore, or does your partner snore? Maybe you just started snoring because you've got a cold, or maybe you have been always snoring, but your baby just became more sensitive to noise. Is there maybe a noise that's coming from outside that wakes him up? For example, a bus or a dog starts barking at the same time every day, or whatever. If this is the case, you can try some white noise and you play the white noise at a low, lower volume throughout the night. And this will mask the outside noises.
Also think about blackout blinds. So I'm not sure where you live, but, but if the sun comes up too early, that definitely can wake babies up. My son could never sleep when it's not dark enough. So like when he was smaller, he would sleep in a dark room until 8:00, or 8:30 AM. But if there were no blackout blinds, or even if just a little light peaked through, then he would wake up at 6:00 AM or even earlier. So I always go everywhere with travel blackout blinds that I tape to the window, and that really helps.
Okay. And finally, my tip number four: Treat the early morning wake up as a night wake up. So I don't know how your baby sleeps at night, whether he has unhelpful sleep associations without which he cannot fall asleep when he wakes up. But I assume that this is not a problem, because he didn't write anything about this. So I will just assume that your baby falls asleep independently. And during the night, if he wakes up to feed, after that he falls back to sleep independently too. In this case, just do whatever you do during the night wake up. If you still feed your baby at night, then feed him in the morning too. And then put him back to bed just as it were the middle of the night. So do exactly the same that you do throughout the night when he wakes up. Okay. That was all. I hope that it helped and good luck!