Baby Waking Early? Consider the 4 H’s!


Your baby cries out in the middle of the night or in the middle of a nap and instantly your mind fills with questions:  Why is she awake?  Is something wrong?  What should I do?  In moments like these, I like to find the solution by considering the 4 H’s.

  • Hunger – The first thing you always want to consider is, “Is my baby hungry?” Did your last feeding go poorly?  Did she fall asleep and not get a full feeding?  Did she spit up everything she ate?  Is she going through a growth spurt?  Is she walking now and burning more calories?  When in doubt, feed your baby.  If she takes more than a light snack, then the chances are that your baby was hungry and that is why she woke early.  Now you know to increase the amount you are feeding her and/or supplement her feedings.
  • Hurt – If baby wakes from a sound sleep with a piercing cry, she may be hurt. Is her leg caught in a slat in the crib?  Has she wiggled her way into a corner or is her head pressing up against the crib?  Does she have a hair wrapped around her fingers or toes?  Does she have a new tooth coming in? Check baby over thoroughly to make sure she isn’t waking early because she is in pain.  We could also add an additional “H” here – Heat.  Baby may wake early either because she is too warm or too cold.  Check the room temperature and adjust baby’s clothing layers to make sure she is comfortable.
  • Health – Baby may wake early because of a health-related issue. Ear infections can make it painful for baby to lie down flat.  A cold may cause congestion making it difficult for baby to breathe and will cause her to wake early.  A fever can be the cause of early waking as well.  If baby suddenly starts waking early, consider that there may be an illness present.  Take her to the doctor to make sure she is healthy.
  • Habit – If you ruled out hunger, hurt, and health issues, baby’s early waking may be caused by poor sleep habits. Check your routine – are you keeping your newborn awake for too long or is she overstimulated?  Are you still following the feed, wake, sleep cycle order or has baby been falling asleep during feedings so that her wake time is out of order?  Have you been rocking baby to sleep or developing another sleep prop so that baby can’t settle down to sleep or stay asleep without your intervention?  Have you consistently gotten her up from her naps after only 45 minutes so she’s never learned to sleep longer than that?

When baby wakes early from her sleep, don’t panic.  Just work through the 4 H’s to find the solution.  If you want more information on this topic or other parenting questions, click on the Contact Us tab and we’ll put you in touch with a seasoned mom who can help you.


Luona Nightingale is an experienced Contact Mom for Christian Family Heritage. She loves to help other moms by answering their questions and helping them implement the principles from Babywise and other Growing Families curricula.  She and her husband Luke reside in upstate New York and are celebrating their silver anniversary this year.  They are the parents of four adult daughters.
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  1. Carla Link
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    Love the 4″H”‘s Luona!

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