How To Handle Your Child's Early Waking
How To Handle Your Child's Early Waking
A guide to dealing with early waking problems for your child, based on the expert advice of child sleep specialist, Andrea Grace
Step 1: Babies naturally wake up early
Early waking problems are notoriously difficult to tackle, as when your child has had a long block of sleep [even if it is not technically enough] she will find it very difficult to re settle. This is especially true in the 1 -2 year age group, when children are only too aware of the delights of the coming day.
Putting your child to bed later in the evening rarely makes any difference to the time that she wakes in the morning. This is because she is often “programmed” by both internal and external wake up triggers.
Step 2: When might early waking be a problem?
Parents vary in the opinions about what constitutes an acceptable getting up time for their baby, but generally, provided your baby wakes up happy - between 6am and 8am can be considered a normal wake up time for a baby.
You might need to address the early waking if..
1. If your child wakes before 6am and is crying and still looking tired.
2. If your child has a ritual of a dawn waking and crying, followed by a milk feed or transfer to your bed – and then back to sleep.
3. If your child is tired and grumpy on waking and then takes an early, lengthy daytime nap.
If any of the above factors sound familiar to you, then it is well worth considering some gentle sleep training in the early mornings to extend your baby's sleep.
Step 3: Assess overall sleep skills
You need to take an honest look at your baby's over all sleep ability. If early waking is part of a picture of generally poor settling and night waking, you need to address what happens at the beginning of the night and during the night first of all. You will get no where with morning sleep training if you do not have good bedtime settling practices.
Concentrate on teaching her to fall asleep independently at the start of the night and on removing any incentives for night time waking. These include:
• Giving an unnecessary night feed
• Moving your baby into bed with you during the night
• Allowing her to play or watch a DVD during the night
You should then treat the early waking just as if it were a night waking; offering the same consistent response as you did at settling and night waking times. If you approach it in this way, you have a great chance of successfully stopping the early waking.
Step 4: Teach your baby how to recognise morning
If you have sorted out any problems earlier in the night and your child is still waking early, crying, rubbing her eyes and looking very tired, it is clear that she needs to sleep on for longer and needs your help to do so.
It is not a good idea to leave her alone for a long period to cry before going in to her, as you will teach her that in order for the day to begin she has to cry for you. It is better to go to her before she becomes upset, and praise her for being in her cot.
You need to tell her that it is still sleep time and then either remain beside her or keep popping in and out to her until you reach an acceptable getting up time.
When you reach this time, you should open the curtains [even if it is still dark outside] before getting her out of the cot, just to give her a visual prompt that it is now getting up time. She will soon come to realise that when the curtains are closed it means that it is sleep time. If at the beginning of the night, you incorporate closing the curtains before she goes into her cot as a part of her settling routine, you will further reinforce this message. These visual time clues and routines are very important for babies, who obviously are not yet able to tell the time.
Step 5: Older Children
If your child is old enough you can use a bunny training clock which at a time pre set by you, will “wake up” and let your child know that it is time to get up.
When tackling your young child's early waking, the first thing to aim for is that she simply stays in her bed or cot when wak