Sleeping FAQ: 6-9 months – Early Morning Waking

My seven-month-old son has begun to wake early in the mornings. How can I change this?

My baby has been following the routines since five weeks old. He has been happy and sleeping until 7-7.30am. At five months I pushed the routine back by 30 minutes to fit in with playgroup pick-up at 12noon, which worked well. Over the past few weeks, however, my son has woken up around 6.15am. Ideally I would like him to sleep until 7.30am. Over the last few days, I have tried to drop the afternoon nap and let him sleep later at lunchtime. He has managed to keep going in the afternoon, but has fallen asleep immediately when put down at 7.30pm. The first morning he woke at 7.30am, but the last two mornings he has woken at 6.30am quite unhappy. I heard him cry for a moment at 6am and then resettle. After leaving him for 15 minutes at 6.30am, I rocked him back to sleep until 7.30am, but I am concerned about creating a problem by doing this.
Can you please suggest a way of getting him to sleep longer in the mornings? At present he sleeps from 9.30-10.10am and 1-3pm. He is settled at 7.30pm. He eats three meals a day and drinks 4oz formula at breakfast, 4oz at 3pm and 6-7oz at 7pm.

Getting a baby to change his sleep cycles when he has become used to waking early in the morning needs time and persistence. You will need to work on the problem for possibly two weeks before you see a real change. Now that your son has dropped his afternoon nap, and is probably becoming more active during the day, he may need an earlier bedtime. A common result of a baby falling straight into a deep sleep is waking early in the morning. Bring his bedtime back to 7pm, so he is more likely to spend a short time chatting to himself before falling asleep. There may be no marked difference in his waking time for several days, but gradually his last sleep cycle of the night should move forward to between 6am and 7am, or possibly later.

Letting him settle himself back to sleep may mean a few disturbed mornings. Rather than getting him used to being rocked to sleep, wait for 15 minutes before entering the room and then try to reassure him with your voice and some stroking of his head. Leave him after a few minutes and return in another ten if he is still distressed. Although this may disturb the rest of the household for a few mornings, it will be teaching your son how to resettle himself when he enters a light sleep around 6/6.30am. Continue with this and the earlier bedtime until you see some improvement. Once your son is sleeping to 7/7.30am consistently, you may need to cut back his morning nap by 10 minutes. By shortening this nap you will be more certain that he will sleep well at lunchtime.