Sleeping FAQ: 9-12 months – Early Morning Waking

My son has begun to wake at 5.30am, needs changing then so starts the day

My 9.5mth son is a great kid but he is waking now for 2 weeks at 5.30 am. I am trying everything. We have now got to the point where he only gets 15min sleep between 9-9.30. He then sleeps at 12.00 for 1.45 min….and then is up till 6.30 – 6.45.

If I give him longer in the morning then he cuts his afternoon sleep. If I let him sleep more in the afternoon I am afraid he will wake up earlier.

I have tried to leave him to cry in the morning – but he is very distressed as his nappy is leaking poo. He seems to mostly poo at night which means that his nappy is overflowing in the morning. I have bought him a bigger nappy but that does not seem to work. There is so much of it – he is teething but he is not ill.

I know that going in at 5.30 might start a routine itself – but he is terribly upset (not just moaning).

Once I have changed him – he is full of beans although I know that he is tired as we never get to 9.00am for his morning sleep it is more like 8am.

I am due to go back to work in Jan (I am setting up my own business) and I am desperate to change this routine as it is really making it difficult for me to get through the day.

My son drinks 16ozs milk a day, taking 8oz in the morning and evening. For breakfast he will eat 1 weetabix with half a banana and full fat milk, lunch is chicken or beef with vegetables and mashed potato, all home made. He takes a little yoghurt for dessert. Mid afternoon he has a beaker of undiluted juice and a rusk. Tea; if protein has been given at lunch then he is given vegetable puree and mash, then a dessert. If he had a vegetarian lunch he will have beef, fish or chicken at tea.

The daytime sleep needs of a baby coming up to his first birthday do begin to change. Although he needs slightly less sleep, his increased mobility can result in exhaustion. If a baby falls straight to sleep when put into his cot at night he is likely to begin to wake earlier in the morning. As your son already goes to bed between 6.30/6.45pm, and possibly falling straight to sleep, it would be a good idea to let him sleep until at least 2.30pm in the afternoon. If he still goes down at 6.30pm he should be less tired and so spend 15-20 minutes chatting to himself before dropping off to sleep. The effect in the early morning may not be seen for at least a week or two. It takes time for sleep cycles to be reset, so the early mornings may still continue for a week or more but, gradually, he should sleep until a bit later. Don’t be tempted to stop letting him sleep later at lunchtime if you feel nothing is really changing. Keep with it for at least two weeks. Once he is sleeping later in the morning move his morning nap to a short one between 9.30am and 10am. This may mean he will go down later at lunchtime, nearer to 1pm, and then sleep to 3pm. This will all help him get through the afternoon and possibly be able to stay up until nearer 7pm. Many babies of this age do still need an earlier bedtime as they are so active but, by gradually moving things, you will find he will become better at sleeping from 7pm to 7am. See page 117 of Gina’s Complete Sleep Guide.

The problem of the nappy in the early morning may be helped if you serve a carbohydrate-rich tea. Offer jacket potatoes with grated cheese, pasta bakes with cheese or vegetable-based sauces, pizza pieces or thick soups with mini sandwiches. Offer him a rice cake instead of fruit or yoghurt if he is still hungry after his main course. If the main part of this meal is carbohydrate, rather than protein or vegetable, he may be less likely to wake with a dirty nappy. Make sure he has 2ozs of protein at lunchtime so you can be more relaxed about what he eats at teatime. Teething can sometimes mean slightly runnier nappies as a baby is producing a lot more saliva. But this usually only lasts for a short while, until the tooth is through,

Although your son would like to start the day at 5.30am, and it is understandable that you must go into him if you know he will be uncomfortable, treat this visit as you would in the night. Change him in the least possible light and, if necessary, offer him some of his morning milk then cuddle him back to sleep. Continue to do this until the effect of the longer daytime sleep and going down awake at 6.30pm is beginning to have some effect in the mornings and your son is waking later.