Common Problems

Early Rising

All babies and young children come into a light sleep sometime in the early hours. Some will settle back to sleep for a further hour or so but many do not. With a night waker at least there's the promise of another few hours of sleep once the baby is back in bed again. But with a baby who greets her parents bright and alert before the sun is even up, there's no hope of further rest until night falls once more. And yet this rude awakening is faced daily by countless parents. Often, parents have no choice but to learn to live with this problem. But in some cases, it is possible to reset the clock:

Keep it dark - some babies (like some adults) are particularly sensitive to light when they're sleeping. Especially when the days are longer and it becomes light earlier, keeping baby's room dark can help her stay asleep longer.

Getting cold - kicking off the bed covers can also cause babies less than six months to wake early. Try using a sleeping bag as this will also help if baby is moving around the cot and rolling. The bag allows your baby to move around unrestricted without the worry that he might get cold in the middle of the night. It is important to choose a sleeping bag that is suitable for the time of the year.

Keep baby up later at night - it's possible that your baby is getting up earlier than she should because she's going to bed too early. Try putting her to bed ten minutes later each night until you've gradually postponed her bedtime an hour or more. To make it work it will probably help to move her naps and meals forward simultaneously and at the same pace.

Keep baby up later during the day - some early risers are ready to go back to sleep in an hour or so. To discourage this, postpone her return to the cot by ten minutes more each morning until she's napping an hour or so later. This may eventually help her to extend her night's sleep.

Keep daytime sleeping down - a baby needs only so much total sleep - an average of 14.5 hours at around six months of age, with wide variations in individual babies. Maybe yours is getting too much sleep during the day and so would need less at night. Limit daytime naps cutting one out or shortening all of them. But not to the point of your baby being fatigued by the end of the day.

Keep her waiting - don't rush to greet her at the first call from the cot. Gradually lengthen the time before you go to her, starting with five minutes (unless of course she's screaming). If you're lucky she may roll over and go back to sleep or at the very least amuse herself for a while.

Keep a stash of toys in the cot - try keeping a supply of safe toys in the cot (activity centres attached to the side of the cot, stuffed but not plushy animals which might pose a suffocation risk and other cot safe toys) for your baby to play with before you rise.

Keep her waiting for breakfast - If she's used to eating at 5:30, then hunger will regularly call at that time. Even if you're up with her then don't feed her right away. Gradually postpone breakfast, so that she's less likely to wake up early for it.

All these efforts may unfortunately be in vain. Some babies just need less total sleep than others and if yours turns out to be one of them, you may just have to rise and shine early until she's old enough to sort her own breakfast out! Until then, turning in earlier yourselves and sharing the pre dawn burden by taking it in turns getting up with your baby (this will only work if mummy isn't required for feeding) may be your best survival technique.

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