5-6 AM “Night” Wakings

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Do you want your baby to sleep longer through the night? This post outlines ways to get your baby to sleep through the night. How to help your baby sleep through the night and stop waking up in the 5-6 am hour.

baby sleeping

A really difficult time to navigate is the time when your baby starts to wake in the night around 5-6 AM. Most babies will land here for some period of time as they extend their night sleep. What was once a clear night waking around 2-3 AM extends to the 5-6 AM hour, leaving many parents wondering what to do. Do you count that as a night feeding? The first morning feeding? What do I do? How long will this last?

How long will this night waking last?

Of course it is impossible to say! Of my four children, all of them did this for some length of time. The time has ranged from mere days to weeks. I don’t have a way to predict it for you. No matter how long it is, you will want a strategy of what to do when it happens.

Important Note

Please note, it is very important that you start your day at a consistent time. Babywise heavily stresses starting your day consistently–it states to not underestimate the importance of this for reaching your sleeping through the night goals.

You can always change what your desired waketime is (if you are able–people who work or have children in school are more confined to a range). So your first goal may have been 7 AM, but you move it back to 8 AM (I have done this). That is okay.

Whatever time it is, be consistent. What you don’t want to do is feed at 6 AM and then let baby sleep until whenever. Let’s talk strategies to stop these night wakings.

Strategies to Stop Night Wakings

Below are five different strategies to stop the night wakings and get baby sleeping through the night.

Strategy 1: Treat like a night feeding.

The first thing I do when this starts is treat it like a night feeding. I feed at that 5-6 AM time, then put baby straight back down. When I feed baby at that time, I act just as I do in the night (minimal socializing–I don’t want to establish night feedings as a social call). I keep the baby swaddled up and put her right back down when she is done.

Then what? Then I get baby up as close to our desired waketime as possible. So if our goal is 7:30 AM, I will stick to the “30 minute window” rule and get baby up at 8 AM and do an official first feed with morning waketime and all of the socializing we want.

Then we adjust our schedule throughout the day to get back on our exact desired feeding times. I like to adjust it over the course of the day so that bedtime stays consistent. Sometimes I keep things 30 minutes off until the early evening because baby often will eat sooner at that time of day more eagerly than around lunch.

Do you want your baby to sleep longer through the night? This post outlines ways to get your baby to sleep through the night. How to help your baby sleep through the night and stop waking up in the 5-6 am hour.

You will know this is the best strategy for your baby if your baby still eats that first feeding of the day. Brayden was like this. He would eat at that 5-6 AM hour and then still eat for his first feeding as though he hadn’t eaten all night. Because of that, I was confident his body needed to eat at both times. We just stuck with this method until he suddenly started sleeping past that feeding and making it to his 7 AM start time.

If baby refuses to eat for that first feeding, or doesn’t eat well, it is time for a different strategy. See ideas below. There is no one right way of the ideas below. They all have merit, pros, and cons. Choose what you think sounds like the best idea for you and your family–or make up your own
method!

For help on starting the day, see:

For information on bedtime, see:

Strategy 2: Slowly wean from the 5-6 AM feeding

I am a big proponent of weaning from things. I find it works well for my personality and is a gentle and easy method for the baby. This is the method I used with Kaitlyn. This works well if you are in a situation where you don’t want a crying baby to wake up a sibling or your spouse (or neighbor).

Since I breastfeed, this is how I did it once she stopped eating well for her first feeding of the day. When she woke in the 5-6 AM hour, I breastfed her as normal. Her average eating time was 10 minutes per side at the time. As time went on, I cut back to 7 minutes on one side, then five, then I did the same for the other side. Then I cut out one side completely. She then started sleeping through. A big bonus for the breastfeeding mom is that your body slowly adjusts your milk so you don’t wake up totally engorged. I believe the entire process took about two weeks.

If you bottlefeed, you could reduce the number of total ounces over time.

5-6 AM night waking post

Strategy 3: Slowly delay feeding time at the 5-6 AM feeding

Another idea you can try is to slowly delay what time this feeding happens. If you do this, you will be treating the 5-6 AM feeding like a first feeding of the day. Say your baby is waking around 6 AM and your desired waketime is 7 AM. In this case, you wouldn’t really want to feed, then feed 1.5 hours later. 1.5 hours would not be long enough for baby to be hungry. You could decide you would rather an 8 AM waketime and go for that, but you might also really prefer 7 AM for some reason.

In this instance, delaying the feeding can be effective. You can do this in many ways:

  • You can distract baby for a short time before feeding. You can give the baby a pacifier, hold baby, change baby’s diaper, etc. The idea here is to wait about 10 minutes and then feed baby. Your hope is to get baby used to eating a bit later and then therefore sleep a bit later after a few days. This doesn’t always work, so I would give it 3-7 days before trying something new if this is your preference.
  • You can try to get baby to go back to sleep. You can do this with a pacifier, by rocking, by patting baby, by putting baby in a swing, etc. If baby won’t fall asleep, feed baby. If baby does fall asleep, she will likely only sleep for 30-60 minutes before waking again. Sometimes that is all you need to get baby closer to your desired waketime. Just like the delay method listed above, this hope of doing this is that baby will get used to eating later and the metabolism will adjust so that baby will sleep later on her own.

Strategy 4: Treat it like your first feeding of the day

When it is close to your starting time, you might just treat it like your first feeding. So say you want to start at 7:30, but your baby is awake at 6:30. You just feed her, then play, then put her down for a nap.

From here, you can let her go longer between this feed and the next to get back on track. So say she usually feeds again at 10:30 and then 1:30. You could get her up at 10:00 AM, then 1:30. Then you are back on track. I have even gone from the 6:30 to the 10:30 before if the baby is still asleep.

If you do this strategy, you will most likely be dropping a feeding in your 24 hour period, so be sure your baby is old enough for dropping down a feeding. If you are unsure about how many feedings your baby should have, see:

If your baby is not old enough to drop a feeding and yet you like this strategy best, go ahead and feed more often in the day so you get an extra feeding in the day. For example, you might be down to a 2.5 hour schedule instead of a 3 hour schedule.

A concern with this strategy is that baby will get used to waking at 6:30 instead of 7:30 like you prefer. I think this is a valid concern and this is why it is lower on my list of strategies. Sometimes it is the only thing that makes sense, though. I have used it at times on various children and it hasn’t ever sent us into chronic early wakings. If you do find yourself in this position, implement my time
change strategies:

Strategy 5: Cry it out or other method to break 5-6 AM waking

I list this last because it is the last method I would try, and I actually haven’t ever gotten to this point. My other strategies have fixed it fast enough for me. I want to be positive the baby doesn’t need to eat at that time in the night before trying to force it to be dropped.

If you are sure the baby is not hungry at the time she is waking, you might want to try cry it out (CIO). Only do so if you have through it through and are sure it is the right move. There is no benefit to CIO if you are going to do it then stop, then do it then stop. There is no benefit if you won’t be consistent about it. There is no benefit if the baby is waking from hunger.

If the baby is not waking from hunger, there are many people who have used this with success. It is typically a faster solution–taking a few days only in most cases.

If you do decide to do CIO, start, and suspect it was actually not the right strategy, it is absolutely okay to stop and try a different strategy. Be as sure as you can before starting, but you are a human and as such are capable of making mistakes. You have no way of predicting the future. Sometimes as parents we make the wrong call–that’s normal.

For more on this topic, see my post on How to Get Your Child to Sleep In Later in the Morning.

RELATED NIGHT SLEEP POSTS:

How to stop night wakings | baby sleep | sleep through the night

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