Q: My baby wakes up EXTREMELY early every morning and refuses to resettle herself. I've tried keeping her room dark, not going to her…and well, everything! Is there any good reason she's waking so early and is there any way to prevent this? I'm exhausted!

-Restless Rebecca, Australia

Hi Rebecca,

As a general rule, sleep induces sleep and overtiredness merely creates more overtirednessDarkening a room can often help babies to resettle themselves in the wee hours of the morning, but unfortunately is not an across the board solution for every early riser. Contrary to popular belief, babies don't sleep longer when they're more tired. Babies that are overtired actually fight sleep more and are more difficult to console while babies that are more rested settle easily and sleep longer. As a general rule, sleep induces sleep and overtiredness merely creates more overtiredness.

Possible causes of your baby's overtiredness can be a combination of various factors. Take note of her schedule, when she's taking naps, for how long, when her bedtime is, how often she wakes up, and everything else related to her sleep. Then ask yourself some questions to help gauge what the cause of her early rising is. Is she going to bed too late? Is she taking enough naps and sleeping long enough?

If you don't see any problems in the actual time she is asleep, it is also possible that the time lapsing in between her naps is causing her to be overtired. You may be waiting too long to put her to sleep which can cause her to be overtired and sleep less at night. If she stays up, for example, too long between her main nap and bedtime, it may cause her tokonk out for the night earlier on but wake up too early in the morning. Additionally, if you wait too long to put her to sleep (past the time where she's awake but still drowsy), she won't be able to settle herself back to sleep when she's more alert…including 4:30 am!

Q: HELP! My baby is seven months old and waking up every hour at night to nurse. I then can't get him to resettle himself and it can often take me another hour at least to get him back to sleep. He cries all day, naps randomly and never seems rested. It feels like my days and nights are turning into one big ringing in my ears of my baby's crying! Don't get me wrong, I love him and everything, but I'm finding it so difficult to stay sane when I don't get any sleep during the night and spend every waking hour during the day trying to get him to take naps.

-A Desperate Mother, Michigan

Dear Desperate Mother,

In my experience working with mothers, sleep deprivation is by far the biggest cause of tension and frustration. Yes, these little bundles of joy are cute and delicious, but can be equally as frustrating when it's 3:00 AM and you're trying to get him back to sleep for the fiftieth time!

First realize that this is a normal occurrence and you'd be surprised how many mothers think that they're the only ones losing sleep. Our job as mothers is to guide our baby's sleep habits...not only for our own sake, but for theirs as well! Babies need sufficient amounts of sleep for development and it plays a crucial role in their overall well-being.

Our job as mothers is to guide our baby's sleep habits...not only for our own sake, but for theirs as well!With my clients I always first evaluate what the baby's current sleep habits are. When the baby naps, how long it is for, etc. After that we can then assess the nights and understand why a baby is frequently waking and find the actual causes. All sleep is a twenty-four-hour cycle and is related. Therefore, if a baby is overtired and not obtaining the proper amounts of sleep during the day, they usually don't sleep well at night either (and vice-versa).

There are also many factors that affect a baby's sleep pattern; such as liquid intake, general health and most importantly how they fall asleep. Sleep needs do vary based on age and general temperament as well so there is no set amount of sleep across the board that will work for each baby. It is also crucial to rule out any medical complications when assessing your baby's sleep, because a baby that is sick or in pain needs to always have those issues addressed first.

If you're trying to get your baby into a healthy, natural sleep pattern I would first suggest that you evaluate what your baby's current habits are. Once you've done that you can proceed by creating a routine based on the baby's natural rhythm. Secondly, I would suggest that you make sure you are consistent when putting your baby to sleep. By creating a predictable bedtime/nap time ritual your baby will learn to calm himself and learn the familiar cues to wind down for sleep.