Early morning wake ups are one of the most common and stubborn sleep problems. Your baby’s body clock can be tweaked by many things which can throw off his morning wake

time, temporarily or permanently.  Here are some of the most common reasons for that early morning wake-up call and what you can do to help your baby to sleep in later.

#1 Bedtime is too late.

Babies that go to bed too late have a much harder time transitioning through the light sleep stages in the early part of the morning and will wake before they enter the final stage of deep morning sleep. Even a bedtime 15 minutes too late can cause an early wake up!

#2 Chronic overtiredness.

A baby that has really built up a sleep debt will wake up earlier until that debt has been paid back, even if bedtime has been appropriate.

#3 Working on a new milestone.

When your baby is working on a new milestone, either physical or cognitive, he may wake earlier in the morning to practice. If you do your best not to respond to this, it should pass within one to three weeks.

#4 Nap transitions.

It’s very common to have early morning wake ups during the nap transitions. When your baby first drops one of his naps, his total wake time during the day actually goes down slightly, temporarily. It can take his body a few weeks to adjust to the new sleep schedule.

#5 Unnecessary early morning feeding.

If you are feeding your baby in the early morning hours (after 5:00 am) and your baby is not going back to sleep afterwards, there is a good chance that your baby did not need that feeding. Continuing to feed your baby at that waking will cement that early wake up. (Take it from me. Do no repeat my mistake.) If your baby is hungry in the early morning hours and you do not feed him, he will also have trouble falling back to sleep.

#6 Too much day sleep.

While the saying “sleep begets sleep” is very true, I find there is a very, very rare time when day sleep can hinder night sleep. If your baby’s naps are far too long this can interfere with night sleep. For most this means some happy night wakings, but it can also lead to an early morning wake up.

#7 Bedtime is too early.

OK. I know this contradicts #1. An early bedtime (before 6:00 pm) is a great tool for getting rid of a sleep debt, but ideally you’d have well-timed naps that allow you a consistent age appropriate bedtime of between 6:00 and 8:00pm. If bedtime is very early for too long, it can shift his schedule.

#8 Teething.

While teething is often used as a scapegoat for night wakings, the most common sign of acute teething pain is an early morning wake up. If you are still night feeding, try dosing the Tylenol during the feeding which may help dull pain by the early morning. If your baby is still waking early after those teeth have erupted, chances are it is not teething causing the early waking.

#9 You have a natural lark.

As much as we’d all love your babies to want to sleep in until after 7:00 am, there are some babies that naturally prefer to wake earlier and are clearly well-rested when doing so. These babies tend to go to bed earlier as well—they don’t need less sleep, it is just shifted.

#10 Seasons.

Your baby’s body clock is driven by light and dark—the sun. So, when the sun rises earlier in the day your baby will naturally wake slightly earlier. This often begins in May and peaks around the summer solstice. It can also hapen during the end of daylight savings. The best course of action is to wait this out and treat it as a night waking.


How to help your baby sleep later?

Most importantly, use an age appropriate schedule. This means naps that are timed in line with his body clock and developmental age so that bedtime can fall at an appropriate time. Preventing overtiredness is your best way to help your baby sleep into the morning.

If your baby has a sleep debt from skipping naps, waking early, or frequent night wakings, resist the urge to put him to bed later. Pulling bedtime earlier, even by 15 minutes, can often help your baby sleep later.


Treat any waking before 6:00 am as a night waking.

Think of the end goal—do you want your baby feeding at 5:00 am long term? Do you want to get up with your toddler to watch Caillou at 5:00 am long term? Just because it is “almost” time to get up doesn’t mean we treat it any different than a middle of the night waking. If you do, 5:30 am will slowly shift to 5:00 am, and then 5:00 am to 4:30 am. If you get your baby out of his bed at 5:00 am, he will never have the opportunity to fall back to sleep if he is still tired and will grow accustomed to starting his day that early. It may take a week for a younger baby and up to a month for an older baby or toddler, but with consistency you will see results.


Start morning off on the right note!

When it is time to wake up for the day, use a dramatic morning wake up cue.

Cheerfully enter his room, open the blinds, and sing a happy wake up song. This sends him the message that this is the appropriate time to get out of bed for the day and distinguishes it from a night feeding.

If you are still having trouble, feel free to contact me and we can discuss a comprehensive plan to get mornings back on track!

Jessica Begley

Author Jessica Begley

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Join the discussion 19 Comments

  • Aliese Heath says:

    My 16mth daughter is waking up between 4:20-5:45 mostly 4:30 and I can’t do anything to get her back to sleep!! She is teething and I can see her molars poping up she seems to be getting 2/3 at once but it seems like she has been waking things early fo so long I feel like I have tried everything and nothing works if I treat it as a night wake she screams so loud. In desperation I bring her into my bed and she won’t settle or even watch tv. She thinks she’s hungry and only wants food I think she eats to help her teeth because this is a constant after nap waking and all morning. I have a 8yr old and this is hard on everyone in the house I’m at my wits end of starting every day off badly

  • Jessica Begley says:

    Hi Aliese- I can completely understand how hard this can be on everyone in the family. The first step is ensuring that she falls asleep on her own at the beginning of the night so that she is comfortable with this skill at bedtime. Then make sure that her bedtime is appropriate (usually sometime between 6:00 and 8:00 PM depending on her napping schedule). Then I’d make sure that teething pain is under control. You’ll have to talk with her doctor about your options for medicine, but sometimes a dose of medicine once in the middle of the night can help with early morning pain. Finally, if those things don’t solve the early morning problem, you’ll have to come up with a plan for responding with empathy and respect but resolve not to bring hr into your bed, because that will only reward the early waking. Then stick with it. You’ve got this!

  • Vikki Jordan says:


    I’m hoping for a little advice. We had trouble with my 10 month old napping but seem to have sorted the day time naps out by getting her up when she wakes at around 6am.
    Her current schedule means she wakes around 6am (I am feeding her during the night when she wakes at the minute due to teething). I am feeding her at 6am and then she has her breakfast at 8 and is now napping from about 9am until 11am, sometimes a BF and then lunch at 12/1ish and two hour nap at 2pm. Tea at 5pm and bed between 6pm and 7pm.
    Can you advise any tweaks we can make to wake a little bit later but still nap well during the day for her age? Thanks in advance!

    • Jessica Begley says:

      Hi Vicki- Thanks for visiting my blog and commenting. Your 10 month old’s schedule actually sounds really great! Many babies naturally wake at 6 AM and changing their body clock can be difficult. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a try.

      Use light and dark to your advantage. If you’d like her to sleep past 6 AM, you’ll want to limit exposure to sun or other lights before 7 AM. The you’ll also want to expose her to light after her naps and in the early evening to try to shift bedtime later. I would do no later than asleep by 8 PM based on research on early bedtime. When you shift her schedule, you’ll also need to shift all of her feeds. So, no feeding before 7 AM and then shift all the other meals as well. I would start off by shifting her sleep and feeding schedule by 15 minutes every few days to a week, so that she has time to adjust. While doing so, keep track of her sleep and demeanor. If you end up with a later schedule but a baby that’s not getting as much sleep and is cranky, it’s probably not worth much! XOX Jess

  • Danielle Germani says:


    Our son is 18 months old and is waking up at 5am every day screaming. His room is blacked out, he has a white noise machine and there is nothing we have been able to find that is causing his waking. He did change from two naps to one as he was refusing his second nap in the afternoon. We were doing 11/11:30-1/1:30 for his nap time, as it seemed he would get overtired if we tried later, and bedtime 6:30pm. He used to wake up after 6 or around 6:30 before the nap transition. We have recently gone back to trying two naps this past week. First nap at 8:30/9 for an hour and second at 1pm (this one he has been taking anywhere from 45 min-1 hour to fall asleep and sleeping for about an hour. He never sleeps past 3pm and is in bed by 6:30pm. He usually takes 30 min- 1 hr to fall asleep. We have tried putting him to bed at an earlier time of 6 and later of 7. Neither makes a difference. I feel like his naps are probably the issue, but I’m not sure what to do about them. Should I keep the two naps, go back to the one, and what times should his naps be and for how long? Any advice or feedback would be so greatly appreciated.
    Thank you!!

    • Jen says:


      My son is 11 months old and has always been an early riser (4:40-5:20am). I try not to nurse him before 5:30-6am) but it’s so hard to hear him cry morning after morning. When I do rarely cave and nurse him he often goes back to sleep within 20-30 minutes but I can’t! His bed time is 6:30. He naps twice a day usually totaling 3 hours a day but sometimes I wake him up afraid if he sleeps too much during the day, he’ll wake too early. His schedule is a mess. Any advice is appreciated.

      • Jessica Begley says:

        With a 3 hour nap and a bedtime of 6:30 pm (assuming he’s asleep by then) he has clocked 13 hours by 4:30 am and 14 by 5:30 pm. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 12-15 hours for 4-11 month olds so he’s within that range. I think you could try to push his bedtime slightly later and while doing this also shift his meals and naps later. And you need to be incredibly consistent about not feeding or exposing him to light before 6:00 am. Both set the body clock to wake at that time the next day. I try to aim for 11 hours of night sleep, but some babies can only clock in 10 hours and others need 12 hours. You could try cutting back day sleep, but if his schedule is shifted earlier and his body can only clock in 10 hours at night, he may end up with less total sleep and still be waking early.

  • Hillary says:

    I’m having a bit of trouble with my 14 month old. He was sleeping really well two weeks ago and then started waking early, sometimes 4:30 and won’t settle back down on his own or with me. He acts like he has tummy trouble but his gums are so inflamed so I’m sure he’s getting his molars. Sometimes his naps are awful too so he ends up going to sleep early (which he does on his own without a fuss). I guess I’m just nervous to get stuck in this routine of very early bed and very early waking.

    • Jessica Begley says:

      Hi Hillary- It’s tough to know exactly what is going on without seeing a few days of a sleep log because there is so much to consider at this age, such as:
      – Is he still taking 2 naps? Holding on to 2 too long can make them shorter and reduce night sleep.
      – Did he transition to 1 nap too soon? This can create a sleep debt that can also impact night sleep.
      – You mention that he is going down awake at bedtime, ss he also going down at nap?
      – How early is bedtime? It’s true that an early bedtime can prevent early rising, but you are also correct that an early bedtime over many nights can shift his body clock.

      Many times we can help improve sleep by shifting the schedule slightly. As babies get older, their sleep needs change and finding the right schedule for their changing body clock can be tricky. Reach out if you’d like some help with tweaking. Happy to help!

  • Blaire says:

    My baby (almost 9 months) wakes around 5:30am daily because he soils his diaper. He almost never goes back to sleep. How can I help him go back to sleep so we can get on a normal routine?

  • Rebecca steadman says:

    Hi there!

    My 14 month old has started waking walking between 4.30 and 5.15 am regularly. He is definitely teething, I can feel molars coming through and is only just walking- only 4 steps on his own so far so is hitting a milestone as well.

    I want to leave him in the morning but he wakes his 3 year old sister who has now started getting up at 5.15 when she hears him too! If I leave him to cry, she just shouts until we get her – she has a gro clock which worked until this point! They both have black out blinds and curtains both now going to bed between 6.30 and 7pm. Eldest sometimes naps if in car or pushchair anywhere from 20 mins you 1hr depending on the journey, the 14 month old tends to have 2 hrs around 10-12 then sometimes half hr in the afternoon.

    I can’t have a rigid schedule for naps as they are at nursery 2 days, mother in law 2 days and home or out and about with us 3 days.

    Any suggestions?! 4.30 am is ridiculous!! But how do I try leaving him when he keeps waking my daughter toi?!

    Thank you!

  • Radhika says:

    My 5 month old has just started STTN she goes to sleep around 7:30 -8 pm and used to wake up around 6-6:30 am without any feed But last 2 weeks She wakes up everyday between 4 &4:30.Some days she wakes up happy and start chatting but after sometime she start crying. So I feed her, but even after feeding her she takes almost 45 mins to 1 hr to go back to sleep and sometimes she doesn’t and starts crying again.She sleeps in a crib in our room and I don’t bring her back to my bed . Is this common for her age should I stop feeding her at 4 am .Her first nap is 2 hrs after she wakes up for around 1 to 1:15 mins and second nap is 2.5 to 3 hrs after her first nap and she naps around 1:45 mins to 2 hrs . On most days her naps end by 4:30 pm.Should I continue treating her 4 am wake up as night waking or should I stop feeding her at 4 am. I tried a earlier bed time but she refuses to go to sleep before 7:30 pm.

    • Jessica Begley says:

      Hi Radhika- I think you should adjust her schedule to try to fit in a catnap around 3:30 PM and then bedtime by 7:30. A 3 hour window before bed might be too long for her. Many babies up to at least 6 month olds need a night feeding, so I wouldn’t necessarily cut that yet. If you are comfortable with it, you can try moving her to her own room as well. Often this, along with a very dark room can help them go back to sleep. Stay consistent!

  • Lauren says:

    Hi Jessica,
    Would love your help. My 11 month old is waking at 5 these days and won’t fall back asleep. I feed him at this point when he won’t fall back on his own, but he stays awake and starts the day. He typically takes a nap around 9 am for 75 mins or so (I’ve been trying to keep him up a little longer before nap 1 to shift his timing back a bit), then napping around 2 pm for 45 mins-an hour and bedtime around 7. Still waking up early and not sure how to break the cycle. He has a dark room, white noise and we’ve tried letting him cry it out, rubbing his back to get him back to sleep, but nothing is really working. Any help is hugely appreciated!!!

  • Lauren reynolds says:

    Hi Jessica,
    Would love your help. My 11 month old is waking at 5 these days and won’t fall back asleep. I feed him at this point when he won’t fall back on his own, but he stays awake and starts the day. He typically takes a nap around 9 am for 75 mins or so (I’ve been trying to keep him up a little longer before nap 1 to shift his timing back a bit), then napping around 2 pm for 45 mins-an hour and bedtime around 7. Still waking up early and not sure how to break the cycle. He has a dark room, white noise and we’ve tried letting him cry it out, rubbing his back to get him back to sleep, but nothing is really working. Any help is hugely appreciated!!!

    • Jessica Begley says:

      Hey Lauren- Early morning wake ups are so tricky but I think Amelia or I can definitely help with this. Your schedule looks pretty good, but often tweaking just a tad, along with an adjustment to how you are responding can help push the morning wake up. Feel free to sign up for the Ask The Baby Sleep Geek Consult–I don’t think you need the Full Consult. I’m also going to reach out to you directly with a coupon code for checking out my site!

  • Linda says:

    Hi Jessica,

    My child is 6.5 months old, she is taking 2 naps a day and sleeps around 630pm to 630-7am. During her sleep period I sleep feed her around 1030-11pm but she often wakes up at 3 and 545am to feed. My two questions are:

    1) is three feeds too often?
    2) is the 545am feed a problem considering that she falls right back to sleep?

    • Jessica Begley says:

      I would push to drop down to 2 feeds. I bet she would do fine with a feeding around 1 am and 4 or 5 am. I’d reduce the length or volume of the 1st till its gone!

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