Why Is My Baby Suddenly Waking Up Too Early?

All Ages

May 21, 2020

Is your baby suddenly waking up too early and you’re rushing to think…it’s teething! They’re starving! They’re stuck! When your child suddenly starts waking up early in the morning, you immediately rush to search a mental list of all the possible reasons why. On the blog, we are going to walk through every excuse when it comes to WHY babies wake up too early, and how to fix the habit of early wakings!

Becca, my child is teething, so they need to have Tylenol at 4:00 AM Becca. My kid shares a room. I can’t let them scream the whole house and wake up the baby. Becca, my kids getting stuck. I can’t just leave them on their belly like that. Becca, I can just starving. I cannot make them just cry it out y’all.

Today we’re going to take a deep collective breath and talk about why your child ISN’T waking up due to: teething, hunger or developmental skills.

A New Program: Early Morning Wakes

There are so many excuses that I’ve heard over the years about why your child is waking up between 4 to 6:00 AM but before I get into that, I am so excited to announce that our Early Morning Wakes Sleep E-Coaching course is here!!!

This is a specific program that we have developed after working with families over the last five years and thousands of families. All of my experience is here inside this $35 course! You are going to get EVERY strategy that I would use per age per child to break down why they are waking up early ready to start the day. If your child has been averaging nine to 10 hours of sleep instead of 11 to 12 like they need this course is for you.

  • If your child has been waking up early for over two weeks, this course is for you.
  • If you want to have a game plan because you feel like you’ve tried everything and nothing’s working, this course is for you.
  • If you’ve been using countless excuses for months, this course is for you.

Excuse #1: Teething

I’ve heard it all when it comes to excuses on why your child won’t sleep. So I’m going to break down all of these excuses and tell you why they are just completely bogus. Okay, so let’s start with the most common: teething. I hear this on a literal daily basis.

“Becca, my eight month old is teething, so they’re waking up at 4:00 AM I give them Tylenol. And then that doesn’t even help!!”

Let’s start off with the BIG red flag: If you have been giving your child Tylenol every single night, that is not a good habit to start. No, I am not a doctor.  So, please talk to your pediatrician. If you’ve been giving your child Motrin or Tylenol on a daily basis, call your pediatrician and talk to them about that.

I’m not getting into meds here. I don’t even like those like homeopathic solutions for teething!

What I like to help with teething pressure is a frozen washcloth. Your child’s favorite teething toy. We’re good with just those 2 options! Those teethers that are great for the daytime are also perfect during bedtime routine.

Why Is Teething Not An Excuse?

Most importantly, children gain and lose teeth until they are 12 years old. So are we just going to like push sleep to the back burner for 12 years? No! I would be out of a job if we did that! And we would all be walking around like sleepless zombies!

We’re not putting sleep away until they turn 12 and “Oh good. They’ve gotten all their teeth now we can sleep!”

That sounds kind of ridiculous, doesn’t it?

Anyways, I remember getting my molars and I was not withering in pain! This article by the AAP also explains the teething process as “pressure” and not PAIN…which parents are very quick to use as their #1 tool of defense. BUSTED!

Your child is not waking up every single night for weeks on end at 4:00 AM in teething pain. That is not what’s happening. It doesn’t take that long for a tooth to pop through. If you do think it’s teething pain, then here’s what I want you to do at bed time routine. Let them chew and not on a frozen washcloth!

Let them chew on a frozen washcloth to relieve any pressure while you’re trying to read the book to them and then take the frozen washcloth away and put it aside.

Talk to your child’s pediatrician about any type of Motrin or Tylenol.

The teething excuse is generally stated as a habitual waking tied to what your baby could be looking forward to.

If your baby wakes at 4AM and you think it’s teething, so you decide to go rock them back to sleep…it’s not teething, Mama! It’s the habit they now believe: I cry, Mom rocks me.

Excuse #2: Getting Stuck On Baby’s Belly

Now, what about rolling around and getting stuck? I’ve heard this often:

“My child is waking up at 4:00 AM because they’re stuck on their belly! I need to help help them!”

You guys, I’m not a monster. If your child is legitimately stuck while they’re learning to roll belly to back and back to belly, then you’re of course going to go over there and like flip them!

But if this has been going on for over two weeks, I need you to consider allowing your child to figure some things out. Here’s how you can do this:

  1. Help them during the daytime.
  2. Learn how to go from belly to back and back to belly practice with them on the floor.
  3. Give them some great tummy time.
  4. Go in their room during the day and allow them to practice (while you sit beside them) in the crib for a few minutes

Sometimes they forget like they can do it fine on the floor and they get in their crib and they’re like, I forgot, how do I do this?

So it is a thing that they may kind of need reminding once they get in the crib.

But generally a developmental regression is about two weeks and then we’re good. If it’s been going over two weeks, we should probably double down on practicing with them.

If it’s been longer than 2 weeks, let’s again ask ourselves: What is baby expecting?

If you keep flipping, flipping, flipping, and they’re just expecting you to come do that, they could be anticipating your help or they could be looking forward to something.

What are they looking forward to? Are you tired of flip, flip, flipping? So let’s go nurse, let’s go to my room and go back to bed.


Excuse #3: Your Child Is Hungry

I promise…I am not going to starve your child.

First, let’s look at night feed expectations. Inside my Sleep E-Coaching Programs we have a feed in the nighttime for 4-5 Month olds, but once you’ve talked to your pediatrician and you know your child can sleep without a nighttime feed (~6 months), we are good!

Your child should not be waking up at 4:00 AM starving if they’ve had a full and alert bedtime feed.

Manipulation is the name of the game. If your child knows I can scream X amount of time and get what I want, guess what they’re going to do every day. They’re going to scream until X amount of time and they get what they want.

I have stories upon stories upon stories of toddlers I’ve worked with who wake up at 4 and 5:00 AM and scream the house down. Guess what they are asking for? They’re screaming for their precious sippy cup of milk!!

And that’s a problem because they don’t need to be depending on milk as their primary source of nutrition. (See this podcast with Jessica Gust of Elemental Nutrition)

I’m telling you right now that if your child is screaming the house down at 4 and 5:00 AM for their sippy cup of milk, they’re not starving.

They’re manipulating you.

And so I really want you to figure out what are they looking forward to and then why do we keep giving into them?

They don’t need milk at that time. It’s just easy to give in at that time.

Solving early morning wakings is hard. It’s not easy. It’s not a walk in the park. If it was, I wouldn’t have this YouTube channel, I wouldn’t have a job.

But when we teach your toddler that we have certain expectations, we don’t have milk at 4:00 AM we don’t have milk at 5:00 AM we start our day, we have breakfast together and enjoy milk at the table.

All throughout the day filter how they eat and how they respond to milk.  We should be using this filter no matter the age of the child all throughout the day.

Do they see milk for sleep or for nutrition?

Remember: This is excluding newborns! 

Ask yourself: How is my child eating throughout the day? Are they eating full feeds? Are they getting all the ounces or all the feedings that they need?

Talk to your pediatrician if you need specific guidance there.

Typically, a toddler is manipulating the system at 4 or 5:00 AM because they know if I cry for X amount of time, I get what I want.


The Biggest Issue With Early Morning Feeds

If you give your child a feed at 5 or 5:30AM and they go back to sleep for an hour and they get up and they’re like, “Eh, I’m not really interested in eating first thing in the day.”

That’s a problem.

It totally throws off the rest of the schedule!

We teach our children that we start our day! We get going and we have our feed and we move on.

If you offer a 5:30AM feed and the rest of the day is really difficult to get them to eat…you know there’s an issue!

So we want to make sure we have a full day of good feeds, that they’re not waking up four to 5:00 AM because they’re starving.


Excuse #4: Sharing A Room With A Sibling

Room sharing with a sibling is probably the excuse I have the softest spot for. Because, I get it! Our daughters are 4 & 5 and have shared a room for over 3 years.

So it’s really hard when one of them wakes up early! I always have a low lying anxiety that they’re going to wake up the other.

However, if your child is room sharing, we have to look at the expectations here. If one of them is waking up in the morning screaming the house down, whether it is for milk or attention or whatever it is, that’s the root issue that we need to address.

And I would actually challenge, especially if there are twins situation, sometimes twins and siblings can get really accustomed to the other child’s noises. So you may be feeling really sensitive to like one of your children’s early wakes, when in reality the other kid may be completely fine and keep sleeping through!

You may think it’s easier to just pull the early riser out of the room early, but then everybody besides that other kid is going to be cranky all day! That is not the expectation we want to set overarching with all of these issues.

Your child is waking up between 4 to 6:00 AM because of a habit that they have ingrained in their head. Essentially they have been trained to believe “When I get up, I get ______.”
It is absolutely our job to reset and create great habits that last a lifetime.


Conclusion: Why Babies Wake Up Too Early

If any of those excuses have been planted in your mind and you are convinced that your child just simply can’t sleep a full 11 to 12 hours because of teething development, sharing a room, any type of excuse that you’ve laid on the table…I challenge you to reverse that thinking. Your child needs a fuller night of sleep.

Inside of our Early Morning Wakes Sleep E-Coaching program families are finding solutions.

I have worked with thousands of families around the world to help solve their sleep issues and their child’s early morning issues. And while you think you’ve tried everything and while you think there’s no hope for your child, I want to challenge you that that is simply not true.

Inside of our early morning wakes course, we have an entire seven point checklist that you will have access to understand everything about your small details and your big pictures. You’ll learn:

  • Why your child is waking up early?
  • You’re going to understand how to properly time awake windows
  • How to know when it’s a regression or a new habit forming.

Nobody needs to just survive early wakings or just start the day at 5:00 AM (if you don’t have to). We can create a fuller night of sleep together.

Would you join me in continuing to make sleep a thing inside the Early Morning Wakes Sleep E-Coaching program?

Sweet dreams, see you next time!
Becca Campbell

Why Babies Wake Up Too Early | Little Z Sleep

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