How to Fix Your Baby’s Early Morning Wake Ups

by | Feb 8, 2024 | bumps in the road, daytime schedule, Quick Baby Sleep Tips, Sleep Associations, Toddler Sleep Tips, transitions | 0 comments


Greetings parents! I’m Ann Marie Harriger, owner of AM Smiles Sleep Training, and today, we’re diving into the often challenging world of early morning wake-ups in our little ones. As a pediatric sleep coach, I feel very strongly about high quality sleep for both babies and parents. After all, well-rested families are happy and healthy families!

Early morning wake-ups can leave parents feeling exhausted and wondering if a full night’s sleep is merely a dream. Nature often makes it challenging for babies to get back to sleep in the early hours, which is why our consistent responses are crucial. Fear not, as I’m here to share some valuable insights and tips to help you extend those precious morning z’s.

First and foremost, it is important to understand why early morning wake ups are so common as well as difficult to curb.  About 3 hours before waking up human bodies start to prepare to wake up, this is usually around 4 am.  Human bodies do this by secreting cortisol.  Cortisol is a stimulating hormone that gives us a kickstart to get moving in the morning.  Think of it as mother nature’s caffeine.  So if your baby wakes up after about 8 hours of sleep, feels pretty rested, and then has what is equivalent to a baby cup of coffee you can see how it would be really hard for your baby to get back to sleep!

This is why it is crucial to establish a consistent response plan. Babies thrive on predictability.  Your baby will do better if they know exactly what to expect when you check on them.  Keep in mind that these early morning wake ups should be treated exactly as a middle of the night wake.  This is what will make your responses consistent.

Another very important piece is your morning wake up routine.  It is vital to have a consistent sequence when your baby wakes up (at the appropriate time) in the morning.  This sequence should mirror your nighttime cues.  For example:  before taking your baby out of the crib greet your baby very happily.  It is a really good idea to associate happiness with waking up. Next, tell your baby that it is time to wake up so you are opening up the blinds.  Follow that by telling your baby that it is morning so you are turning off the sound machine.  Last, tell your baby it is time to wake up so you are turning on the lights, and THEN take your baby out of the crib.  As you do this morning after morning your baby will quickly make the association with these steps happening before coming out of the crib.

This is so important because it is making a very strong distinction between night and morning.  That way when your baby wakes in the middle of the night or in the very early morning and you do NOT do this wake up sequence your baby is not expecting to come out of the crib.  This is one of my favorite parts of baby sleep.  It just makes sense!

Now, let’s talk about the game-changer – adjusting the timing of the first nap. Sometimes, early risers may be signaling that they’re ready for that first nap earlier than expected. Experiment with moving the morning nap to see if it results in a later wake-up time.  When the first nap of the morning is too early it is actually reinforcing that early morning wake up.  In order to shift this early wake you should consider extending that first wake window by a bit. 

I understand thinking that is crazy!  Here you are with your baby who woke up at 5 am and now it’s 6:30am and your baby wants to go back to sleep (and so do you).  Why on earth wouldn’t you let your baby go back to sleep.  Well… in order to send the message to your baby’s body that this early morning wake up is not sustainable your baby has to stretch longer than they want before that first nap.  If your baby gets to sleep as soon as they start to get sleepy their body will get the message that this early morning wake up is ok and the vicious early morning wake up cycle continues.

Consider the environment, too. Ensure the sleep space is conducive to rest – a dark, quiet room with a comfortable temperature can work wonders. Implementing a white noise machine can also help drown out any disturbances that might disrupt your baby’s sleep.

It’s important to be sure that your little one is getting the appropriate amount of daytime sleep. Babies that are getting too much or too little sleep will wake up early, so be sure to utilize my free resources to ensure your little one is getting the proper amount of daytime sleep.

Lastly, be patient and consistent. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and establishing new sleep patterns takes time. Consistency is your greatest ally in this journey. Stick to the routine, adjust as needed, and celebrate the small victories along the way.

Remember, my mission is to help families achieve the sleep they deserve. Sleep is not only vital for a baby’s development but is equally crucial for parents to be the best they can be. Here’s to restful nights and waking up to those adorable morning smiles! If you’re looking for personalized guidance, don’t hesitate to reach out – I’m here to support you on your sleep journey. Sweet dreams!


Your Sleep Bestie,

AM 🙂


AM Smiles is a highly effective baby sleep coaching service designed for busy families.

I help you harness the power of sleep training to improve the spirits and lives of you and your family through proper rest. I’d love to talk to you about your little one and help you get back to living life well rested! ❤️