How to Get Your Baby to Sleep Later
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Do you wish you knew how to get your baby to sleep later?
Your definition of an early morning changes when you become a parent.
What once was the break of dawn is now considered normal waking hours. Or at least that’s what it is like for me.
Starting the day at 5am isn’t a choice that everyone wants to make but sometimes babies and toddlers wake at that time and you’re not sure how to get them to sleep longer.
In this post, I want to walk you through the steps that make a big difference to how long your child will sleep.
Get these right and you’ll find that 5am wake ups are a thing of the past.
I have 3 children and I’ve used these tips with all of them. They’re currently 4, 2 & 7 months and all three of them sleep at least 11-12 hours at night.
If you want to achieve the same result…keep reading.
Oh, and there’s a handy checklist that you can print off at the end of the post.
By the way, if you’re looking for a really good tool to help your toddler sleep in longer then check THIS OUT.
The Importance of Sleep
Sleep is highly underrated in today’s society of “do all the things!”.
Seriously. We suffer from a case of FOMO and we’re projecting that onto our children.
In a time where ‘self-care’ is so heavily preached to us, why aren’t we addressing some of the most basic needs?
Self-care isn’t about pampering, it is literally about taking care of ourselves…starting with the basics.
If we want our children to make good habits in this area, it is important that we focus on addressing their sleep needs from a very early age.
Sleep impacts everything from physical development to your child’s immunity (Source: Parents).
And unfortunately, we’re seeing the ramifications of sleep deprivation in children more and more.
Wanting your child to sleep later than 5am doesn’t make you a selfish parent.
Sure, the extra sleep is nice but more importantly, the extra sleep is highly beneficial for your child.
How Much Sleep Does a Child Need?
Have you ever mentioned your child’s early waking only to be met with the response that obviously your child doesn’t need any more sleep if that’s when they’re waking up?
Well, on the very odd occasion, that might be true. However, something wise to do is to refer to the sleep recommendations by the American Association of Pediatrics.
The list the amount of sleep recommended in a 24-hour period on their site:
- Babies 4 Months-12 Months: 12-16 hours
- Toddlers 1-2 Years: 11-14 hours
- Children 3-5 Years: 10-13 hours
- Children 6-12 Years: 9-12 hours
- Teenagers 13-18 Years: 8-10 hours
Now these recommendations aren’t just from the mom down the street but from actual scientific studies.
You can stand by them and trust these numbers.
The Science of Sleep
Speaking of science, it is important to take into consideration what is age appropriate for your child.
Newborns aren’t born knowing night from day. It takes time for them to adjust.
And then there is a lot of benefit in understanding what sleep actually looks like and the different stages and cycles.
Here is a great and easy-to-understand article that touches on all of that: What Sleep is & Why All Kids Need it
As is the case with adults, children also develop an internal clock or ‘circadian rhythm’.
If you have a toddler that is waking early on a regular basis, then it may be because their internal clocks is off.
Think about daylight savings and how that can mess with your sleep. However, after some time you adjust.
The same can be done for children with a little help.
How to Teach Kids to Sleep Later
Now that we have a good understanding of what sleep is and why it is so important to the health and development of your child, let’s get into the practical steps of improving it.
How to Move Your Child’s Wake Time Up
Did you know that you can decide your child’s wake up time? Seriously, you can.
I have and I know of thousands of other moms that have done the same.
While there are different methods that achieve the same goal, I’m going to share some of the very basic and most effective principles.
How to Get Baby to Sleep Until 7am (or later!)
In our home any time before 6am is considered “the middle of the night”.
In other words, if you are one of my children and you wake before then and aren’t sick or teething, then you need to stay in your bed and go back to sleep.
It sounds harsh, but in reality, my children don’t wake before 6am unless they are sick or teething.
How did I achieve this?
Here are some of my best tips that you can also apply.
#1 Feed at the Same Time Every Morning
From the time your baby is a newborn it is really important to do your best to feed them at the same time every morning.
I used principles from the Babywise method when teaching my children healthy sleep habits and something that they highly recommend is having a consistent start to the day.
- It regulates their metabolism
- It sets their circadian rhythm
If you can work to feed your baby at the same time every day it will go a long way towards helping them sleep in because their body is used to being woken and fed at a specific hour.
For us it was usually 6:30 or 7am and I allowed 15 minutes on either side of that for some flexibility.
Obviously newborns wake to feed in the night, so sometimes you’ll have to get a little creative when it comes to lining up their first feed.
This post has some great tips for dealing with this: 5-6am Night Wakings
#2 Napping Routine
Along with establishing a consistent wake time for your baby you also want a nap routine or a just a routine in general.
Waking early in the morning upset and crying is very often a sign of overtiredness.
It is a common misconception that by keeping your baby awake longer during the day they’ll sleep better at night.
In fact, the opposite is true. Good day sleep = better night sleep.
There is a balance to be had for sure because sometimes babies sleep too much during the day and therefore don’t need so much at night.
Understand what is age appropriate and what your individual baby needs.
Getting them the right amount of sleep during the day at consistent intervals will help to combat any signs of over tiredness and help eradicate early morning wake ups.
#3 Bedtime Routine
The final tip for teaching your baby to sleep later is to have a consistent bedtime routine.
It doesn’t have to be elaborate but there is a lot to be said for having a routine that helps your baby to wind down and understand that sleep time is coming.
In the first year or so of your baby’s life, you want to aim for a bedtime of approximately 11-12 hours before your desired wake up time.
So if you want your child to wake at 7am then a bedtime of 7-8pm is appropriate.
Keeping your baby up too late can both upset their circadian rhythm as well as cause over tiredness.
According to studies, the optimal bedtime for children is between the hours of 7-8pm.
That doesn’t mean that there aren’t healthy, thriving children that go to bed at different times to that, but it is something to keep in mind if your baby is waking early and they’re going to bed later than what is typical.
How to Get Your Toddler to Sleep Later
Getting a baby to sleep later and getting toddler to sleep later are two entirely different things, although some of the same principles do apply.
You still want a consistent routine and a set wake up time, however, here are some other points to keep in mind.
#1 Give Bedtime Snacks
Once you reach the toddler years it is very common for them to be entirely weaned from breastfeeding/bottles.
Personally, I’ve never had to give my toddlers a bedtime snack in order for them to sleep right through, however I do know of some kids that genuinely need it.
Each child has a unique metabolism so if you find that your toddler is waking in the morning absolutely starving, try giving them a bedtime snack.
However, be sure to always brush their teeth before they go to bed.
#2 Don’t Give Breakfast if they Wake Early
If you’re sure that your toddler isn’t waking early because they’re hungry, then don’t give them breakfast straightaway.
In fact, I strongly recommend that you don’t get them up at all.
If you begin to give them breakfast early, then their metabolism will get used to that and their little body will start to expect breakfast at that time of day.
#4 Allow them to Play in the Crib
My two older children (4&2) aren’t allowed up for the day until 7AM. However, they often wake a little before then.
Sometimes as early as 6:30AM.
And that’s okay because they know to play quietly in their room (they share).
It is totally okay to leave your child to entertain themselves for a while in the morning.
Not only will it teach them to be content in their own company, but it also gives them the chance to fall back asleep.
Don’t jump up as soon as you hear them. You might be surprised that they go back to sleep after all!
#5 Use a Toddler Clock
Another really important tip that I recommend to all moms that are having issues with toddler sleep is to invest in a toddler clock.
We bought ours second hand back when my eldest was 18-months old.
It is still going strong 2.5 years later and has been such a help.
The basic principle is that you set a specific “alarm” time on the clock and it changes color when it is time for your child to get up.
We have the Gro Clock and I like it because you have the option of using it as a night light or having no light until it “wakes up” in the morning.
It also has the actual time on it, so when our kids get a bit older they can learn to use that and not just the color.
Here are several that work really well:
How to Get Your Baby to Sleep Through the Night
While it is great to be working towards getting your baby to sleep longer, it may also be helpful to get them sleeping longer stretches to begin with.
While some night waking is inevitable and also age-appropriate, you can still be encouraging certain habits so that your baby learns how to sleep through the night a little earlier than average.
Establish Healthy Sleep Habits
The best way (in my opinion) to get your baby to sleep through the night is to work on healthy sleep habits from day one.
However, sometimes that isn’t something parents are aware of and need to start a little later in the game.
I’ve used both in some form or another with all three of my children and I should note that all 3 of my children have very different sleep needs and personalities.
Despite that, they also all sleep very well and slept through the night around 3-4 months of age.
If you can work on establishing healthy sleep habits and independent sleep skills, you may just find that the early morning wakings disappear entirely.
The video below goes into baby sleep cues. This is a huge help when it comes to getting your baby to go to sleep on their own because it is much easier than when they’re overtired.
There is another reason that I’m fairly strict about teaching my children when they can get up and that comes down to safety.
Children are remarkably capable of getting themselves into dangerous situations.
I mean, some days I just feel as though my job is to keep them from hurting or killing themselves.
The thought of my child wondering around the house in the morning with the possibility of me not waking and hearing them makes me nervous.
It is safer for them to be in their room until I’m awake for the day and able to supervise them.
Teaching your child to sleep longer and stay in their room until wake up time is both beneficial for their development and their physical safety.
With all of that information I know it can feel a little overwhelming with not knowing where to start.
I’ve put together a couple of simple checklists, one for babies and one for toddlers, that you can download and print.
Just sign up below and it’ll be in your inbox in no time.