I often see this question asked, so I wanted to take a moment to share my experience with dealing with early wake-ups from naps for my daughter, Caroline. As she grew older and became more capable of handling different situations, my approach to this issue changed.
Table of Contents
What to Do by Age When Baby Wakes Up Early From a Nap
Newborn (First Month)
During the first month, if Caroline woke up early from a nap, I would simply go and get her. While we aimed to have a consistent schedule every day, the reality was that it was only a goal. She was still a brand new baby, trying to make sense of the world around her. She would sometimes wake up and be upset, so I would always pick her up. At this stage, she would sleep in various places like the swing, the day dreamer, the bassinet, the couch, in my arms, and others. Naps would happen wherever she could sleep successfully. To maintain some semblance of an eat, wake, sleep cycle, I would feed her and adjust our schedule accordingly. The focus was on establishing a routine and ensuring she had enough feedings throughout the day. Additionally, I would wake her from naps if they lasted too long, unless it helped us get back on schedule. This was to make sure she had enough feeding times during the day.
The Second Month
In her second month, the approach remained mostly the same. The only difference was that I allowed her to “fuss” a bit more. While I never left her to cry, I let her fuss for a while to see if she would go back to sleep.
The Third Month
During the third month, I made a slight adjustment. I still allowed her to fuss but not cry. If she didn’t go back to sleep, I would try putting her back to sleep. If that didn’t work, we would have wake time until her scheduled feeding time. By this point, she had a good enough feeding schedule, and I didn’t want to disrupt it. Instead of following the eat, wake, sleep cycle, we would occasionally do eat, wake, sleep, wake cycles. I ensured that the last wake time was calm and restful.
The Fourth & Fifth Months
By the fourth and fifth months, we had started sleep training, and Caroline’s schedule was working perfectly. If she occasionally woke up early from her nap, I would let her cry for 5 minutes. Most of the time, she would put herself back to sleep within those 5 minutes, even if she cried throughout. It was an incredible learning experience for both of us. If the 5 minutes of crying didn’t work, I would go in and have some quiet wake time as described above, and then feed her on schedule.
Six Months and Up
Thanks to the sleep training we had done, Caroline rarely woke up early from naps after six months. If she did wake up early, I could usually pinpoint the reason, which was often related to her learning new skills. At this stage, she would wake up happy and well-rested. When she woke up, I would leave her in her crib for the full nap time. She would only cry if she was still tired, and in that case, she would usually put herself back to sleep. If she was awake, she would be content, looking around, and practicing her newfound skills.
How to Help Your Baby Not Wake Up Early From Naps
Based on my experience, here are a few things that have tremendously helped us:
- Ensure your baby gets full feedings, especially during the earlier months.
- Make sure that wake time is not overly stimulating.
- Adjust your schedule if needed to ensure that wake time is an appropriate length.
- Allow your baby to practice new skills before their nap.
- Consider implementing some form of nap training or sleep training to help your baby transition between sleep cycles.
A General Rule of Thumb
If your baby wakes up around the 20-30 minute mark, they may be overstimulated or overtired. If they wake up around the 45-minute mark, it could be due to various reasons, such as insufficient wake times, difficulty transitioning sleep cycles, excitement to practice new skills, or discomfort. The so-called “45-minute intruder” can be a challenging mystery to solve.
For more advice on dealing with a baby waking up early in the morning, check out this great post from 5 WS.
Other Posts of Interest:
- Nap training – 3 Easy Steps to Follow
- Dropping the Last Catnap
- Schedules Page (All schedules are listed by age and have a description of how many naps, lengths, nap times, etc.)
- How to Avoid Short Naps
- Knowing When and How to Switch to One Nap per Day
- 6 Reasons Why I Wake My Sleeping Baby
- Nap Regressions – Find all links here
- Frequently Asked Babywise Q&A