January 2, 2015
Marsha Podd R.N.
What is to be done with a baby who wakes early…at 4,5 or 6 am when parents want to
sleep until 7am? This is a consistently asked question about baby sleep. I wish I had a
magic wand to wave and allow things to change, but there is no easy answer to this
Children learn to judge time of day by our consistent actions and responses. Therefore,
the easiest way to teach your child to sleep until “your” morning wake-up time is to be
consistent with the time you enter your baby’s room after a night of sleep. So if 7am is
your hour to arise, avoid going into the baby’s room until then.
Baby sleep patterns are established by the waking time (not bed time). To help baby learn
about appropriate hours to start the day, be consistent with your responses. The sleep
experts recommend that parents stay out of the room until the appropriate hour, If they
hear baby cry and wake up, try and roll over and go back to sleep. Remember, a well-
rested baby is one who wakes up happy, smiling and cooing. If your baby wakes up
crying, resist going in. He may even still be asleep but crying! If your baby awakens
happy, let him hang out by himself and just be. This is great learning time for him.
Babies over 6 months of age can handle being ignored in the early morning. In younger
infants, you may want to respond after 15 minutes of crying. But wait 15 minutes to see if
baby will return to sleep. If he won’t, then feed your baby, change the diaper, hold and
gently play with him for 10 or 15 minutes, and then return baby to the crib and return to
your bed. Even if baby is awake for 30 minutes, alone in the crib, he will shortly fall
asleep. Remember to be a “robot” at night and don’t make it fun. Just do the basic
necessary, lights low, no talking. As baby matures, he may just figure out the rules!
Remember, a dark, dark room will help set the scene for good baby sleep patterns. No
glowing monitor lights, no nightlights, no glowing clocks.
Sometimes baby awakes due to a stuffy nose, being cold, or other minor discomforts. Try
and figure out what is going on for him. A little moisture in the air can help baby sleep.
You may want to try a humidifier. Temperature of the room should be ideally between 68
and 72 degrees. Humidity level should be between 40 and 60%. Investing in a room
temperature and humidity gauge can help you learn about your baby’s room at different
times of the day and be able to adjust for comfort. This helps adults too!
Early morning noises like cars starting up to go to work, the trash man, the newspaper
landing on the doorstep, or the bark of a dog can also cause a sensitive baby to wake from
sleep. Using a sound machine to block out the noise can be very helpful. My favorite is
the DOHM by Marpac. Sleep baby sleep!
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