October 18th Lecture Spotlight Rise and Shine: Tips for Early Rising
Written by Kim West
Mornings for some of you, it seems, begin as early as 4 AM as others of you lounge around until 9 AM waiting for your baby to wake up. Both of these scenarios, however, can have their own repercussions. Waking up too early can mean a tired family and earlier naps, throwing off bedtime rituals later. Waking up too late does the opposite, pushing nap time to later in the day and sometimes prolonging bedtime. The solution is to find a schedule that works for you and your family and teach your child to stick to it!
Early risings sometimes have a very simple solution. If too much light is coming into the baby’s room, buy room-darkening blinds (also good for napping). If an external noise – garbage trucks, songbirds, or a dad with a long commute who has turned on the shower-is waking him, you might want to try a white noise machine. Unfortunately, it’s not always so simple.
If your child is awake at 6:00 or 6:30 a.m., cheerful, refreshed, and ready to start his day- even if you aren’t- you’ll probably have to live with it- that’s a common and biologically appropriate wake-up time for a baby or small child (as long as they went to bed at a reasonable hour). Remember to adapt the meal and nap schedule to suit his early hours.
If your healthy baby is under 9 months old and you think he is waking up very early because he is hungry, try waking him for a final feeding about 11:00 p.m. as an interim step, and also work on making sure he takes more food during the day.
When your early bird stirs, go to his room immediately. You want to try to get him back to sleep ASAP, not let him scream himself awake. Give him his lovey and try to soothe him back to sleep without picking him up. Follow the Sleep Lady Shuffle guidelines outlined in Good Night, Sleep Tight. Even if he doesn’t doze off again-and not all babies will at first-do not turn on the lights or get him out of his crib until 6:00 a.m. no matter how much he protests. Getting him up earlier, while it is still dark, sends a confusing message and is another example of intermittent reinforcement. He can’t understand why he can get up in the dark at 5:45 a.m. but not at 2:15 a.m. Also, many parents I’ve worked with have learned the hard way that if they let him get up at 5:45 a.m., the next thing they know it’s 5:30, 5:15, etc.
I usually recommend that the parent stay in the room for this early-morning routine. If, however, you feel your presence is encouraging him to be more awake, as often occurs with older children, you can try leaving his room after a bit of reassurance and see if he falls asleep again on his own. Check on him every ten to fifteen minutes. If you stay in the room, keep the interaction minimal. Try sitting in a chair with your eyes closed. When the clock finally strikes 6:00 a.m. and he’s not falling asleep-and it can seem like it takes a very long time to reach 6:00 a.m.-leave the room for a minute or two. He may cry, but try not to let it bother you, you will be right back in a minute. When you come back in, make a big deal out of “good morning” time. Do your dramatic wake-up. The morning routine is the flip side of the bedtime-routine coin. Your goal is to help him distinguish between day and night, to know when it really is time to get up. Your message must be clear: “I’m getting you out of the crib because it’s morning time-not because you were crying.”
If your child has already transitioned to one nap and still wakes before 6am, don’t let him nap before 12noon. If he naps from 11:00am-1pm he will then be overtired at bedtime which will lead to early rising again-the cycle continues.
If your early riser is over 2 or 2.5 years old and sleeps in a bed, then you will have to return your child to their bed and treat this like a night wakening. Continue with your Shuffle position until the clock strikes 6:00 a.m. Consider using an alarm clock radio to help signal to your child when it is wake up time. If you sometimes let you child get out of bed and start the day before the music comes on then he or she will not take the alarm clock seriously!
Important points about early rising:
- Nap deprivation, going to bed too drowsy and too late a bedtime cause early rising!
- Skipping naps and putting your child to bed later will cause early rising-I know it’s not logical- you and I would never do that – but it is true!
- You can’t assume your child needs less sleep than the average until they are taking decent naps and sleeping through the night for several weeks.
- Room darkening shades are critical!
- Early rising takes several weeks of utter consistency to change so stick with it!
- Rule out underlying medical conditions that can cause early rising.
Patience, consistency, and understanding of both your child and his needs are critical for this process to be successful. Be firm and be loving and good mornings will be right around the corner! I wish you both many happy mornings together!
Don’t miss to join us when Kim West talks about sleep solutions for babies and toddlers on October 18th. For more information and to register please click here.
About Kim West
Kim West is a mother of two and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been a practicing child and family therapist for more than eighteen years. Known as The Sleep Lady® by her clients, over the past fifteen years she has helped thousands of tired parents all over the world learn to listen to their intuition, recognize their child’s important cues and behaviors, and gently create changes that promote and preserve his or her healthy sleep habits.
West has appeared on the Dr. Phil, Today Show, NBC Nightly News, Good Morning America, TLC’s Bringing Home Babyand CNN, and has been written about in a number of publications including The Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, Baby Talk, Parenting, The Baltimore Sun, USA Today, The Telegraph, The Irish Independent and the Washington Post.West hosts the sleep section of The Newborn Channel, played in maternity wards in hospitals across the country.
West is the author of “GOOD NIGHT, SLEEP TIGHT: The Sleep Lady’s Gentle Guide to Helping Your Child Go to Sleep, Stay Asleep and Wake Up Happy”with co-author Joanne Kenen. She is also the author of “52 Sleep Secrets for Babies” (2008)
Kim West received her master’s degree in Clinical Social Work from Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts. She lives with her family in Annapolis, Maryland.