Despite words like “self-settling” and “sleep training” and “bad sleep habits” being thrown around in the direction of mums, the fact of the matter is that young babies very often need help to settle to sleep. There is NOTHING WRONG with this and up until around 3 months of age the way your baby falls asleep will have little to no impact on their ability to stay asleep (as it does in older babies). Prior to 3 months old you are NOT going to ruin your baby’s sleep for the rest of their lives by helping them to settle.

Young babies get overtired and overstimulated very easily. We always recommend having your baby in a good Sleeping and Feeding Pattern to ensure they have the best chance to sleep at the right biological times, because a baby who isn't ready for sleep or is already overtired will be VERY hard to settle no matter what you do.

Here are some ways to assist your little one to fall asleep in the early days.

(Please bear in mind that at around 4 months babies do need to be able to self-settle in order to sleep well during day naps and through the night).


Using a tight swaddle for babies under 4-5 months old is a crucial element in your baby settling and sleeping well. Swaddling replicates the tight, confined feeling of being in the womb and ensures babies can’t wake themselves up with their startle reflex. It is quite common that people assume their baby doesn’t like being swaddled, but more often than not, this is simply because the swaddle isn’t tight enough, the baby is already overtired or overstimulated, or they are too hot or cold. Persevere with it! In general, babies prefer to be swaddled. 

We recommend the following swaddles:


Movement is a really effective tool, especially if your baby is overtired or unsettled. They are used to a lot of swaying and jostling in the womb, so replicating this movement is a great way to calm them down. This is why many babies find it so easy to sleep in the car or stroller.  Using a rocking bassinet, baby hammock or a baby swing are effective ways to use movement to settle your baby. Likewise a baby carrier or stretchy wrap is another great option.


Instinctively when we are comforting a baby we pat their back or tap their bottoms. This is actually mimicking the heartbeat sensation they would have been exposed to constantly in the womb, and in fact, when baby was in the birth position (head down) mum’s heartbeat would have been able to be felt near baby’s bottom!  

White noise:

This is very important for young babies but it also definitely also helps older babies settle and sleep for longer too. White noise replicates the loud whooshing sounds babies hear in the womb, sounds that are louder than a vacuum cleaner in utero. Hearing loud white noise triggers the calming response in babies, especially if they are overtired, overstimulated or crying. White noise also disguises any noises from the household which might startle or wake a sleeping baby. When babies reach around 4 months and start waking between sleep cycles, their senses fully switch on. Having white noise playing means they are hearing the same comforting sound they heard when they fell asleep and they’ll find it easier to transition between sleep cycles.


Similar to white noise, shushing replicates the loud whooshing sounds your baby heard in utero. For shushing to be effective, we recommend placing your mouth close to baby’s ear and doing loud ssshhhh sounds, rhythmically, in their ear. This can be combined with patting for maximum effect. Or you can use a Baby Shusher.


This includes nursing or feeding your baby and the use of a dummy, which can be a really effective tool to help young babies settle and sleep. The desire to suck is very strong in babies and they find sucking incredibly calming.  If you’re going to use a dummy you do need to decide whether you’re prepared to go the distance with it.  This can mean a few frustrating months of having to replace the dummy each time it falls out once your baby reaches around 3-4 months old, however from 7 or 8 months onward babies can begin to learn to replace it themselves.  Alternatively you can use the dummy for the first few months and as long as you ditch it by around 3.5 months your baby shouldn’t have developed too strong a sleep association with it.  

The winning combination - side-settling method:

The most successful settling strategy for young babies is combining the above methods. This is especially effective for an overtired, overstimulated or crying baby. We recommend this as the best way to settle your baby to sleep (prior to 3 months), as it is helping teach them that their bed is where they fall asleep - something that will be very valuable to their sleep habits in the long term.

 Here is what you’d do:

  1. Swaddle baby tightly
  2. Put her in a completely dark room (babies find the dark SUPER calming and it promotes the production of melatonin - one of the hormones responsible for sleep)
  3. Play loud white noise or use a Shusher
  4. Put baby in her bassinet and roll her onto her side, supporting her tummy with one hand. A Snoozzz Babywrap can help with this.
  5. With the other hand, rhythmically pat (quite forcefully) her bottom in an upwards motion
  6. At the same time, if possible, rock the bassinet in a rhythmic motion
  7. Once asleep, roll your baby onto their back to sleep


Side Settling Video: 


You might need to keep side-settling for a while, depending on how overtired your baby is, however if they are ready for sleep they should fall asleep quite quickly with this method. Once asleep, roll baby onto her back for safe sleeping practices.



Once your baby is asleep, make a beeline for the couch, have a nice cuppa and some TV time mama, you deserve it xx 



There is a lot of talk about how a baby’s sleep dramatically changes around the 4-month mark. You might have had an awesome sleeping newborn and suddenly they’ve started waking a lot more in the night and catnapping in the day. 

Sound familiar?!

This is commonly called the 4-month sleep regression; however, it is better not to think of it as a regression but more of a maturation of your baby’s neurological development. Their brains are developing and their sleep is becoming more like ours as adults.

An adult sleep cycle goes through periods of deep sleep and periods of REM sleep. REM sleep is a lighter sleep where we dream and are more likely to be woken if something is different or bothering us in our environment. Our deep sleep is where we are unlikely to be woken. Adult sleep cycles are about 100 minutes long, then we rouse slightly and fall back asleep again, into the next sleep cycle without even realizing it.

Young babies are a bit different. They have periods of active sleep and periods of quiet sleep. Active sleep is what the baby enters straight after falling asleep, this is like REM sleep in adults and they can be easily woken during this time. They breathe shallower, can grunt, cry out and if anything is bothering them they are easily woken. During this phase your baby is likely to wake if they went to sleep in your arms and you put them down. After active sleep they enter quiet sleep - this is when breathing is more rhythmic and it is like the deep sleep stage in adults. A baby’s sleep cycle is about 45 minutes in total and if tired enough, if nothing is bothering them and have a full tummy, babies under 3 months will rouse between sleep cycles but then enter into another 45-minute cycle of active through quiet sleep until they have had enough restorative sleep and wake up.

After 3 months babies go through a massive development in their sleep cycles and they don't drift from one to another so easily. By four months they actually wake completely at the end of a sleep cycle and need to consciously try to go back to sleep. This wakefulness is the part that is referred to as the “four-month regression”.

In babies 0-12 weeks, the way your baby goes to sleep at the start of their nap will have little impact on their ability to stay asleep longer than one sleep cycle; you're not going to "spoil" your baby or ruin their sleep if you are rocking or settling your baby to sleep in those first few months, despite what some old wives tales say! However, sleep habits are very easily formed in babies older than 3 months. The way we put these babies to sleep will dictate how they learn to go to sleep in this new phase of their development. We refer to this as creating “sleep associations”; cues or behaviours your baby associates so strongly with going to sleep that they can’t sleep without them. The most common sleep associations for babies are feeding, rocking or patting to sleep or the use of a pacifier (which can be a real pain in the butt until they learn to replace it themselves at around 8 months of age!).

 The 4 month regression affects babies in this way:

  • sleep is becoming a conscious activity for babies at this age - I like to think of it as "they won't just fallasleep anymore, they actively need to go to sleep"
  • therefore they need to re-learn how to do it now that their brains are treating sleep a bit differently from when they were younger
  • the way babies are put to sleep or go to sleep at the start of a nap or at bedtime is the only way they learn how to go to sleep
  • if they then wake at the end of a sleep cycle, 45 minutes later, they will need to go back to sleep the same way they fell asleep
  • if that same way of going to sleep isn't there or can't be replicated by them alone, they will not be able to go back to sleep without it
  • this is why, if you fed, used a pacifier, rocked or patted your baby to sleep at the start of the nap or at bedtime, your baby might now be waking every 45 minutes in the day and 1.5- 2 hours in the night and needing your help to go back to sleep
  • if your baby is relying on any parent-controlled sleep associations, they are not going to be able to self-settle, resettle during naps in the day or sleep through the night from around 4 months onwards.

And this "sleep regression" won't go away... Unlike the 8 or 12 month sleep regressions, which are all linked to measurable periods of development, the 4 month regression/progression is the only one your baby won't simply "grow out of" unless they are no longer relying on you to actively put them to sleep.

So, the best way to tackle this stage in your baby's development is to foster good sleep habits from early on, rather than have to try and change any parent-controlled sleep associations like rocking or patting down the track. Giving your baby the chance to learn to self-settle is a crucial element in getting through this stage of disrupted sleep. The Little Ones Sleeping and Feeding Patterns are the best place to start because your baby will be good and ready for sleep when you're trying to put them down, making it a lot easier for them to go to sleep on their own. 

 A few more good sleep habits you can be fostering are:

  • sleeping your baby in a totally dark room to allow the release of the sleep hormone melatonin. Black out blinds are an easy and inexpensive way to darken a room. Use them in the nursery or kids bedroom or take with you when traveling to use in a hotel room or other temporary accommodation.
  • use white noise for the duration of your baby's naps and overnight as a positive sleep association
  • use of a swaddle in babies under 5 months can help them resettle between sleep cycles
  • teach your baby to replace their own pacifier if over 7 months.
  • allow your baby to sleep in their own bed for their daytime naps as they will learn to associate their bed with sleep and this will help them settle and resettle easier during the night in their own bed
  • always give your baby the chance to resettle themselves if they wake between sleep cycles - rushing in and assisting them straight away is not giving them the chance to practice this new skill!



It is true that babies need a lot of sleep, however their sleep needs change very rapidly so it is important you know just how much sleep your littlie should be having. 

In our work with mums and dads whose babies just want to party all night long, very often the only thing “wrong” is either that their baby has had too much day sleep or hasn’t had enough!  Undertiredness and overtiredness are the biggest contributors to poor napping. It’s actually all rather scientific:

Babies need a delicate balance of day sleep vs night sleep – too LITTLE day sleep results in cortisol (a stress hormone) building up in your baby which will make them harder to settle and also lead to night waking or early morning waking. Cortisol triggers the “fight or flight” function in babies and is like adrenaline coursing through their bodies…Impossible to sleep well under those conditions! Equally too MUCH day sleep can also lead to a lot of night waking and your baby being unsettled overnight because they just need some awake time.

To put it simply, we need to look at the whole 24 hour period. Babies have a specific amount of sleep hours they can do in 24 hours, based on their age. If your baby is doing a lot of these sleep hours during the day, of course they will sleep less at night. The goal is to find the right balance.

And the balance is constantly changing as your baby gets older. It is governed by two things: awake times and nap lengths.


This is the chunk of time your baby is awake for between each sleep (including feeds). If a baby’s awake times are a little too short between naps they won’t be tired enough to nap properly at the right times – this can mean they struggle to fall asleep for naps and at bedtime (because they’re not tired enough), and, if they do fall asleep, they’ll only sleep for a short time. Something we see very regularly is parents seeking our assistance because they can’t get their baby to fall asleep, assuming their baby is OVER tired, when actually their baby is UNDER tired.

The opposite of undertiredness is overtiredness; keeping your baby up for too long between naps will mean they are just as hard to settle. Remember the cortisol hormone from earlier? It rears it’s ugly head if a baby is really overtired, which, completely unjustly, means your baby will then sleep worse as a result of their overtiredness. Waking after 45 minutes at bedtime, frequent night waking or early morning waking can be directly linked to a build-up of “sleep debt” during the day due to too much awake time and not enough nap hours. Which brings us to:



Once you’ve got awake times sorted, you need to look at the second part of the equation, nap lengths, and check that your baby is having the right amount of nap hours to lead to a well-rested baby who wants to sleep well at night. Here is a guide to help you (allowing for 12 hours overnight):



Daytime cumulative nap hours

2-3 weeks

5 ½  hours across 3 sleeps

3-5 weeks

5 hours across 3 sleeps

5-7 weeks

4 ½  hours across 3 sleeps

7-9 weeks

4 hours across 3 sleeps

9-12 weeks

3 ½  hours across 3 sleeps

3-4 months

3 ¼ hours across 3 sleeps

4-6 months

3 hours across 3 sleeps

6-9 months

2.5 hours across 2 sleeps

9-12 months

2-2.5 hours across 2 sleeps

12-24 months

2 hours across 1 sleep


As well as meeting the total allocation of nap hours, the way those hours are divvied up is just as important. It is physiologically better for babies and toddlers to get a good chunk of sleep in one consolidated nap around midday when all humans have a natural dip in their energy levels (from 12-2pm). A long nap at this time is most beneficial to your baby's 24-hour sleep log, so if a baby sleeps for too long in their morning nap and then doesn't have a long enough nap at midday, they will be going into the afternoon and then bedtime with a greater build-up of sleep debt/overtiredness.

What we commonly see in babies over 3 or 4 months old is catnapping – sleeping for only one sleep cycle at a time. This is a developmental occurrence at this age (called the 4 month sleep regression) and while some of these babies will still be meeting their cumulative daily nap hours through several 45 minute naps, they don’t have the chance to catch-up on that restorative sleep and will still be in quite a lot of sleep debt come bedtime. If your baby is in this category, helping them learn to self-settle is your best line of defence against catnapping.


So to gel together awake time vs nap time, here comes the sometimes contentious part…waking the baby. While it might seem very counter-instinctive (or downright mean) to wake a sleeping baby, we do advise doing it if your baby is at risk of having had too many daytime sleep hours, or of sleeping for too long in the morning nap which will mean their lunch nap is consequently shorter, or if they're sleeping too late or long in the afternoon which will have a negative impact on their bedtime settling and night time sleep.

For day sleeps, where possible, put your baby in their own bassinet/cot with their appropriate sleep associations/tools - SwaddleBaby Sleeping Bags, White Noise, Comforter and Dummy. It is also good to do some naps in a front pack or carrier or a stroller so it gives you the freedom to get out of the house and your baby will get used to sleeping in a different place. 

For day sleeps, we’d recommend using blackout curtains to achieve a nice dark room. This will not confuse your baby that it is night time, but it will ensure they settle easier and sleep better than being in a bright room.  

Whether or not you are using one of Little Ones Sleep Programs, it is sometimes helpful to wake your baby from their naps if required, to ensure they don’t sleep for too long or miss any feeds. This is especially important for younger babies. This helps ensure your baby won’t have had too much day sleep, which will lead to a better night.

It’s a  balance. And sometimes it is really tricky to get it right. Take the guesswork out with the Little Ones Sleeping and Feeding Patterns.





Reflux is when the contents of the stomach (milk) comes back up the oesophagus (food pipe) instead of being digested, however it’s not just the stomach contents that comes up; it also comes up with stomach acid. This milk and acid mix regurgitates up the oesophagus and sometimes out the mouth.

It is the acid that causes the pain as it burns the oesophagus and throat. In severe cases the lungs and ears are also affected by the acid being breathed into the windpipe and into the lungs, which is very serious and can cause permanent damage. Not to mention a very very very distraught baby (and mother, speaking from experience).

The difference between “normal reflux” (Gastroesophageal reflux) and “silent reflux” (Laryngopharyngeal reflux) is that in cases of silent reflux you don't see the milk actually spill out the mouth. The milk and acid comes up the oesophagus and goes back down. Please note, not all babies that spill have reflux. There is a big difference between reflux and a happy chucker. Happy chuckers are babies that are spilling milk but completely happy about it (and this is totally normal!)

How can you tell if your baby has reflux?
Signs of mild reflux: crying after burping/winding, spilling or spitting up (but this is not always a sign of reflux), taking a long time to settle to sleep, once settled waking after 10 minutes or so, snack feeding or refusing to feed, not swallowing properly, tiny bubbles around baby’s mouth, baby prefers sleeping upright over shoulder, crying in capsule or sometimes also front pack, frequent hiccups, catnapping, not being able to burp properly, random bouts of very painful cries, frequent colds and ear infections.

Signs of severe reflux: bad breath, no weight gain or loss of weight, hoarse voice, apnea (stopping breathing), lying awake in the middle of the night for no obvious reason, not taking a bottle due to pain of swallowing, choking, arching back, only feeding well when sleepy or asleep, crying when lying down or changing nappy.

Now this is where it gets confusing…

Signs of an overtired or overstimulated baby with NO reflux:
Crying, taking a long time to settle, once settled waking after 10 minutes, cluster feeding, prefers sleeping on mother, random crying, catnapping, not being able to burp properly due to being too tired, laying awake in the middle of the night, arching back, feeding to sleep.

Overtiredness and overstimulation in babies is actually often misdiagnosed as reflux. Especially seeing as the preliminary GP diagnosis is based on your observations of your baby rather than any testing. Too often babies end up being put on reflux medication unnecessarily, when all they really needed was for their napping and feeding to be more structured according to their age.

The only way to rule out overtiredness and overstimulation is to have the baby sleeping as well as they possibly can. This is by far the easiest to do on a good Sleeping and Feeding Pattern.

Causes of reflux:
1. An immature stomach valve: the valve at the top of the stomach is meant to keep things down once eaten, however in babies they often have an immature valve which allows the contents of the stomach to come back up. This is the most common reason for reflux in babies. As the baby grows older and becomes more upright and sitting, the muscles at the top of the stomach generally close the valve and the reflux will go. If reflux continues past the sitting stage, once the baby is walking, most children will not have symptoms anymore.

Until the valve matures, most babies will simply spill up some milk after a feed. It can look like a lot of milk that gets brought up, but try this experiment: spill a teaspoon of milk on the counter… You’ll be surprised how much milk it seems is spilt! If the baby does spill an entire feed, this is called possetting.

  1. Underlying allergies or intolerances:A baby that has allergies such as dairy or lactose intolerance will have reflux, but the reflux or vomiting is caused by the body not being able to tolerate the allergen. The baby will regurgitate and vomit the contents back up with acid. This can be why breastfeeding mothers are often advised by well-meaning friends to avoid dairy if their baby has reflux, however please note: most reflux in babies is caused by an immature stomach valve and not a dairy allergy. Please ONLY avoid dairy if you have been advised to do so by a health professional.

  2. Eosinophilic Oesophagitis (rare): this mimics reflux with a lot of the same symptoms, especially pain when feeding, difficulty swallowing and choking. This is however an immune response to certain food groups, which causes the oesophagus to be inflamed and painful which makes it very hard to swallow. Common among babies will allergic parents.

Diagnosis of reflux:
Diagnosis is often done by the doctor on symptoms explained by the parents. If you think your baby has reflux it's a good idea to write down as many of the signs listed above that your baby may have. Babies who have reflux often are very happy when distracted, people including doctors, may not believe that they are in much pain. It is a good idea to take a video of when they are having an episode to take along for your appointment.

There are a few diagnostic tests that can be done: Barium swallow series, PH probe and Upper GI Endoscopy.

How to treat reflux:
The first and most important thing is to have a good Sleeping Pattern in place; this will highlight if your baby has any problems caused by reflux. Often people believe their baby has reflux because they are crying a lot, it can be that they are simply overtired and overstimulated.

Keep the baby as upright as possible when awake. This can be done in a bouncer, baby chair or lying in a feeding pillow. Tilting the head-end of the cot for sleeping is also a good option.

Avoid pressure on the baby’s stomach. Unless you are doing “tummy time” babies with reflux will not like pressure on their stomach as it brings up more acid. This includes tight baby carriers.

Dummies - These can help soothe the baby by aiding them to swallow saliva which may be enough to wash the acid down and help with the pain.

Natural Remedies - These can also help soothe your baby Rhuger Mixture, Dr Browns Bottles, Baby Wedges and Baby Nests.

Prescribed medications - Gaviscon, Losec or Omeprazole are the common medications prescribed with reflux to neutralize the acid in the stomach for babies that don't respond to the above treatments. These medications don't stop the milk coming up and the baby spilling, but they do stop the pain from the acid burning the oesophagus.  

Other investigations: If prescribed medications aren’t stopping the pain from reflux or the reflux is becoming worse, referral to an allergy specialist may be needed, for investigation into diary, other intolerances or eosinophilic oesophagitis.

Definitely contact your GP if your baby is not feeding, is losing weight, is more unsettled than normal or you suspect they have reflux.




Dummies, like everything else baby-related it seems, are a great cause for controversy. The decision to use a dummy is entirely up to you as parents and each baby is different in terms of their settling skills and their preference to use a dummy or not. There is no "best" age to introduce a dummy; some babies have one from newborn, some when they're much older. Some babies have dummies for sleep only, some babies have a dummy to help calm them during the day.  

Dummies can definitely be great in your baby sleep toolbox, but equally they can start to wreak havoc with your little one's sleep a bit later on. Here we'll explore these situations and provide you with a couple of solutions if you want to ditch the dummy.


The fact is, dummies are great settling tools for younger babies as sucking is extremely comforting. Babies younger than 3 months will resettle and move between sleep cycles a lot easier than older babies and won’t need the dummy replaced every time they come out of a sleep cycle. Meaning a dummy can be a great way to settle your baby to sleep at the start of each nap or overnight, without having a negative impact on their ability to stay asleep. For an overtired or overstimulated baby, a dummy can really help them calm and find their sleep - this is especially effective if combined with other settling tools such as a swaddle, white noise and a dark room.

Closer to 7 or 8 months your baby will be able to learn to put the dummy back in for themselves, a skill crucial to them being able to sleep through the night with a dummy. We REALLY recommend a product called a Sleepytot, which is a little comforter that has velcro paws you can attach dummies too, making it a lot easier for your baby to find and replace their own dummy in the night.


Once your baby is closer to 4 months (and beyond) if they are using a dummy to go to sleep they might start needing it every time they wake between sleep cycles (45 minutes in the day and every 2 hours at night). This is a lot of dummy runs! Until your baby can replace their own dummy at around 7-8 months old, they will need YOU to replace it for them because they are relying on the dummy to fall asleep, so much so, that they are not able to go back to sleep without it.

If it becomes a problem, 3-4 months is a good age to ditch the dummy, unless you're happy to ride it out for a few more months until your baby can put it back in themselves.

What can also happen with using the dummy at night is that it can actually mask genuine hunger - the sucking can trick babies' brain into thinking they are being fed. This can, in itself, lead to more night waking because your baby is genuinely hungry, rather than just waking for the dummy.

Use of a dummy can also mean your baby is going to sleep during the day before they're properly ready for a nap. The sucking is such a strong sleep association it can mean your baby settles to sleep earlier than they would, which can cause them to nap poorly due to not being tired enough for a decent sleep. 


Firstly, you need to make sure your baby is in a good Sleeping and Feeding Patterns. This guarantees they are ready for their naps at the perfect times - a baby who is over or under tired will NOT be easy to wean off the dummy no matter what you do!

Next, ensure you’ve got other positive sleep associations in place to replace the dummy, such as a swaddle (or baby sleeping bag), white noise, a super dark room, a cuddly or comforter or even a Lulla doll. Use a Baby Shusher to help with settling.

There are two methods, depending on how quickly you want the dummy gone and the level of protesting you’re comfortable with:

QUICK METHOD: You will ditch the dummy cold turkey, starting with the first nap of the day and working through the other naps and bedtime that same day. You might need to help your baby settle for their naps by patting or shushing if they're upset while they get used to not having a dummy. This is known as protest crying (which any crying here will be - they are protesting the change, there is nothing actually “wrong” with them). 

Each nap you put your baby down for, use the same method (patting or shushing if they're upset) and be consistent with your approach. Every nap they will take less and less time to settle. It will take about 3 days to break the habit (sometimes sooner!) if you’re consistent in your approach.

GENTLE/SLOWER METHOD: Here, you will replace the dummy with another settling tool/sleep association such as patting or side-settling. (See THIS video on how to side-settle a baby younger than 4 months.) You will begin by settling your baby fully to sleep using your chosen method WITH the dummy for 3 days. Do this even if they've previously been able to go to sleep without your help. Then, on day four, you will put your baby down for their naps and at bedtime WITHOUT the dummy and you will still settle them completely to sleep using your chosen settling method. In this way, you've created a new sleep association (you settling them) to replace the dummy. Once they are used to going to sleep without the dummy (but with you settling them), after around 2-3 days, you will then work on removing the settling, by only settling to calm them rather than to put them all the way to sleep. Once calm, you'd let them fall asleep by themselves.

For more detailed information about how to gradually reduce a settling sleep association (or if you have another sleep association like rocking or feeding to sleep you'd like to remove), the Little Ones Better Sleep Guides have several gentle methods to guide you through this process.

Once the dummy has gone, you can still use it as a RESETTLING tool, meaning if you need to resettle during a nap. At this age settling and resettling are totally different things to your baby.

Shop here for Dummies>



“Early waking”is considered to be your baby waking and not being able to be settled back to sleep before 6:30am for a baby under 6 months or before 6:00am for a baby over 6 months. Here are the main reasons babies wake early:


One of the biggest factors in early waking is the way daytime sleep affects night sleep. If a baby has too much day sleep, they have simply already had enough sleep in that 24 hour period and they genuinely don't need to sleep till 7am. The opposite is also true - if your baby hasn’t had enough day sleep and was very overtired at bedtime, this stimulates a hormone called cortisol, which is similar to adrenaline and peaks during the afternoon and evening. Higher cortisol levels means your baby's sleep will be more restless, causing night waking and early morning waking.  The timing of your baby’s naps plays a part too - if a baby’s morning nap is too early or for too long it will actually cause or reinforce early morning waking because babies learn they can catch up on the missed night-time sleep at that nap! Having a late afternoon sleep that is too long can also lead to those early wakes.

The best way to rule out nap-related reasons for early waking is to have your baby is in a good Sleeping and Feeding Pattern so their naps are spot on.  If your day sleep is all in line and your wee one is still waking early, this is not "normal" and here are the next most likely causes:


Babies are quite sensitive to being too hot or cold. A common reason for an early wake is that they are actually cold. Having your baby swaddled and then cotton or wool blankets over the top for babies under 4 months or in a merino sleeping bag for older babies is the best way to go to ensure they are cosy all night long. Using a heater in their room is a good option in cooler climates/seasons, as long as you can control the temperature - use a Heatermate or thermostat to set the room temperature: between 18-20 degrees Celsius is the perfect room temperatures for babies. Babies who are too hot or over-bundled can also wake early too... this is the period of the night when babies come into their lightest sleep (they enter deep sleep again right before it's time to wake up), so anything that makes them uncomfortable at this time of the morning will wake them and keep them awake. Using natural fibres in your baby’s clothing and bedding helps stop overheating - we’d recommend fabrics like cotton, merino or wool. You should never use polyester, fleece or other man-made fabrics in your baby’s bed.


If mornings where you live are starting to get lighter your baby may start to wake around 5:30/6:00am and instead of going back into another sleep cycle, can stay awake if there is too much to look at in their room!  Some babies can be really sensitive to any daylight coming into their room as this resets their body clocks, signalling that it is morning. This can create a physiological habit of early waking which can be hard to break! Having a super dark room can trick them into thinking it is still the middle of the night and keep those sleep hormones coursing through their bodies.

Using white noise will help drown out any household or environmental noises that might stimulate them at this time of the morning. White noise and a dark room are both positive sleep associations that signal to your baby that it is still sleep time. When you get your baby up for the day, open the curtains, turn off the white noise and emphasise that it is morning so they start to learn the difference between day and night.


Genuine hunger in younger babies, babies approaching 6 months or babies who have recently been weaned off night feeds can cause them to wake around 5am. Treating this wake like a night wake and offering them a feed here would be your best bet, then put them back to bed till 7am.


If you can rule out hunger, being too hot/cold and day sleep having been an issue, it might pay to have your baby checked by your doctor. Even if they don't seem sick, ear infections or sore throats are common culprits for early waking (especially if it happens quite suddenly) and don't always show other symptoms such as a fever or runny nose etc. Babies with wind/gas issues or reflux can also be early wakers as their health conditions can flare up in the early morning once they come out of their deep sleep stages. 


In babies older than 6 months a habit may have formed, which could have initially been caused by one of the above reasons. In this case your best option is to leave them to it, as long as they're not upset, because they do need to learn they have to go back to sleep. At this age, even going into your baby's room will be sending them the message that you're coming to get them up for the day and they might really protest any resettling attempts you make. (Younger babies won't form these habits so easily, so look to the above reasons if your baby is younger than 6 months and waking early). Often babies wake early as they're still learning to consolidate their night-time sleep; giving them the chance to go back to sleep here will help that process.


If your toddler or preschooler is waking early, check the things off this list first. Habit, too much/too little day sleep, napping too late in the day or a room that is too light are the main culprits of early waking at this age. Using a tool such as a sleep training clock will help establish the “rules” with your little one around when is the right time to get up and start the day. Blackout blinds and white noise is just as effective for toddlers as it is for babies.