Hi. I’m Kim West, The Sleep Lady, and today I’m going to answer Megan’s question:
“How do I get my baby to sleep until a decent time in the morning? No matter what time I put my nine-month-old baby down at night, whether it’s 6:00, 6:30, 7:00, or 7:30 p.m., he always wakes up between five and six a.m. and he won’t go back to sleep. He’s done this from about four months of age. He has been on a very strict bedtime routine and I have blackened out his windows and nothing seems to help.
Megan, I have a few thoughts that may help you.
- Find the sweet spot for bedtime.
It sounds like you have found that between 6:00 and 7:30p.m. is that sweet spot of bedtime for him. This means it is the time when it is easiest for him to go to sleep and potentially stay asleep.
- Check that his nap time totals around 3 hours a day.
You did not say how long his naps are. This is important to consider. The length of his naps will absolutely affect early rising, which I will get to in a minute.
- Nighttime sleep should be around 11 hours.
If he goes to bed at 7 pm. and sleeps until 6:00 a.m., that is technically 11 hours of sleep. That might be enough for him.
- Work on his naps.
Push them a bit later so that he can make it to a 7:30 p.m. bedtime. Then he would potentially sleep until 6:30 a.m.
Your Early Riser May Be A Natural Early Bird
If he is naturally a morning bird, meaning that he’s happy and refreshed at 6 a.m. (not five a.m.!), it may be that you’ll have to rearrange your life and your schedule to accept that this maybe who he is. You can hope that he may outgrow it; but, he might not.
Usually one of the parents is an early bird when the child is an early bird, too. Maybe that parent could be the one who’s on morning duty.
Shoot For A 6:00 a.m. Wake-Up Time
Babies are naturally early risers. There is no guarantee that you can make him sleep until 7:00 or 8:00 o’clock in the morning, even though we would all like that! However, you should be able to aim for 6:00 a.m. as a wake time. I really don’t want you starting the day before 6:00 a.m.
Reasons For Early Rising
Let’s consider the causes of early rising.
- Going to bed too late
I don’t think this is what is happening for your child.
- Nap deprivation
I don’t know whether that applies to him so consider this as a reason.
- Too big of a wakeful window from afternoon nap to bedtime
The wakeful window for a nine-month-old should be four hours maximum from afternoon nap to bedtime. If his last nap ends at 3 p.m. and he goes to bed by 7 p.m., then this is the maximum wakeful window of 4 hours. If he naps a little longer and is still ready for bed at 7:00 p.m., then that is fine.
- Going to bed too drowsy
This is a subtle cue that is difficult to get right. You really want him awake and aware that he’s being put in his crib so that he is learning to master the skill of putting himself to sleep at bedtime. Bedtime in the evening is the easiest time to go to sleep and so this is the time of day we begin sleep coaching.
It is much harder to put yourself to sleep at 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning when you’ve already had enough sleep to fight off going back to sleep, but not enough sleep to make it to the morning nap without being overtired.
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