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Early Rising and Naps: Wake Time is Ruining Our Nap Schedule

A reader named Ann wrote in for help with her son’s early rising and naps. She wrote:

“I’ve been trying to get my 5 month old on a good nap schedule, but it’s so hard as he wakes up at different times each day. If he wakes up at 5:30 a.m., he can’t stay up until 9:00. And if I put him down for a nap at 7:30, then he isn’t ready to nap again until 11:00 or 12:00 depending on how long he slept. But if he gets up at 6:30 or 7:00 a.m., he can stay up until 9:00 and I can usually have him nap at 9:00 and 1:00. I’m no sure how to overcome these different morning wakeups. Please help.”

I’ll answer her questions about:

  • Sleep-training readiness
  • Early rising
  • A flexible nap schedule

early rising and naps

Not Ready for Strict Sleep Training

The important thing for you to know at 5 months of age, I don’t recommend strict sleep coaching quite yet, and especially not with nap coaching. But it is important for you to know that I think that your baby needs at least 3 naps a day and sometimes 4 while you are working on the early rising, especially if he is only taking 45-minute naps.

You didn’t say what you do when he wakes up at 5:30 in the morning, but hopefully, you’re not getting him out of the bed yet and starting the day. I also don’t know what is happening at night, if you’re feeding him during the night or at 5:30am.

Is your baby ready for sleep training?
Read: Gentle Sleep Training with The Sleep Lady Shuffle

Early Rising

Let’s say he is sleeping through to 5:30am and when he wakes he is not hungry yet. I would try to do what I can to get him back to sleep, patting, shushing, calming, etc. and try until at least 6:00am. And then, of course, at 6:00, if there is no sign of him going back to sleep, I’d leave the room, come back in, do “dramatic wakeup” and start the day. “Dramatic Wakeup” is when you come into the room, open the curtains, turn on the lights, and cheerfully say, “good morning!” This is a cue to your baby that it’s appropriate to get up for the day.

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My first rule would be no napping before 8:00 a.m., just so that we don’t ingrain the early rising. I know that this is hard because it’s a tricky dance and he gets a little overtired but I want you to try to make it until 8:00 a.m.

Need to know more about early rising and naps?
Read: Early Rising in Babies and Toddlers – 10 Tips to Resolve Early Wake-Ups

early rising and naps
Babies often keep 3 naps until 9 months of age.

A Flexible Nap Schedule

From there, you’re going to end up needing three naps. Especially if, for example, he sleeps from 8:00 am to 9:00 am, he is going to need his next nap between 11:00 am and 12:00 pm. He will definitely need a third nap to make it to bedtime and that’s okay. That’s very common. Babies often keep 3 naps until 9 months of age so, not to worry.

Wondering about newborn and baby sleep schedules?
Read: Newborn Sleep: Is There A Typical Newborn Schedule?

Again, three or four naps a day is okay while we’re working on early rising and making it to a 7:00 pm bedtime without being overtired.
Once your son starts to go back to sleep at 5:30am, I would make sure you wake him up by 7:30 in the morning. That might be hard to imagine, but we do want to regulate that wakeup somewhere between 6:00 and 7:30 in the morning. That will help you regulate his nap times so that he is well rested by the time he reaches bedtime at 7:00pm.