When you first have a baby, it’s hard to imagine there will be a time when you ever get a full night’s sleep again. However, a child soon slips into a routine and by six months you can at least expect a decent chunk of night-time sleep.
However, as the need to wake for feeds or being disturbed by teething bouts subsides, another trend creeps in to ruin any parent’s good night’s kip: early waking!
It’s one thing if a child wakes up at 3am and needs a cuddle for a few minutes while they drift back off to sleep, but it’s quite another matter if they wake up at 5.30am, almost morning (!) and are bright and breezy. You just know there is something about their alertness as you pick them up from their cot – that straightbacked desire to look around them and get out of their gloomy bedroom – that makes it impossible to lull them back to sleep!
Some early rising is caused by one-off triggers such as waking in an unfamiliar room when you are away, or a new tooth coming through, or the morning being a little colder than the weeks have been recently, the jump back or forward an hour in the clocks. These are understandable, but can turn into a new habit, so if you child is usually a later riser, make sure you nip this new habit in the bud!
Ease off the day naps
Half way through their first year, babies stop napping twice a day and start to have one nap, around the middle of the day.
If your baby is waking early and then napping happily by 10am, try to make this morning time an alert period – a refreshing visit to the park, a stimulating play session on the living room carpet, a visit to a friend’s house. Even by this age, having to stretch out their nap times will make them use the nighttime sleep as the one key time for rest.
If they like to nap in their pushchair or the car, try to avoid long trips out around the times of the day when they are having ‘top-up’ naps, rather than their main midday nap. Otherwise they will always stock up their snoozes and the nighttime nap will fail to get any longer!
Keeping light out
It can be more of a problem during the summer months when it’s light early, but do think about making the nursery curtains as heavy and full as possible.
If you go to any curtain store or the curtain department of somewhere like John Lewis, you will find curtain linings that are made particularly thick so they don’t let light in.
Is your child’s room warm or maybe cold enough?
When your child goes to bed, the heat of the day or the evening heating is still on. Deep in sleep, this carries them cosily through the main part of the night. However, as dawn approaches, they will begin to sleep more lightly again and if their room gets very cold, or too stuffy and sweaty, this might make them rise more quickly.
Think about draughts, or giving the room a bit of air. If your child’s room is always warm, switch off the radiator so it doesn’t warm up too quickly in the morning.
The same goes for noises. A sleeping baby doesn’t need to be crept around, but a half-waking one will notice the clatter of the refuse collectors or those noisy songbirds!
Think about what you are doing!
If you do have to get up every morning with your child, what do you do? Do you make him a bottle of milk? Do you switch on his favourite DVD so you can at least sit back and try to have a snooze?
To a baby, these are rewards worth getting up early for!
Try to string out the time between getting up and having breakfast at a time more suitable to normal waking at 7am or 7.30am. Keep the lounge quiet and not quite so much fun.
Add some amusements in his cot
If your baby is awake, go into his room. Give him and cuddle but gently remind him that it’s not time to get up yet and put him back down. Offer him some of his cuddly toys as amusement and say you are going back to bed and will return a little later.
At first he might be rather put out by this, but he might well get into the routine of it, and at least it gives you the chance to wake up more slowly in your own time!