Living With the Early Bird: 4 Tips For Parents of Early Risers

You know the saying, “The early bird gets the worm.”  Well, my kids must have heard that phrase somehow while they were still cooking, because they have taken it to heart from the moment they came roaring into the world. As babies, they thought that the 5 a.m. hour was prime play time. They did not seem to be able to understand why Mom and Dad would ever want to miss that magical hour.  As toddlers they were ready to move mountains by 5:30.  My oldest (now age 5) is finally starting to stretch his sleep occasionally to 7 a.m., but 6 or 6:30 is much more typical.

Luckily I have always been basically a morning person, but man, 5:00 a.m. on a regular basis comes awfully early. It is especially hard after waking two or three times overnight with an infant needing a nurse and a snuggle to return to sweet slumber.  I think I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve slept past 7:30 in the past year. 

Believe me, we’ve tried all the things to help our kids sleep later in the morning: room darkening shades, white noise machines, clocks that turn green at a specified time, keeping them up later, putting them to bed earlier.  No matter what we’ve tried, most mornings see at least one of our kids up and ready to go before 6 a.m. 

In the past five years I’ve learned a few things to help make the early mornings a little more tolerable.  Here are my top four tips for dealing with loving your early riser:

1. Accept the inevitable

My early risers have very clear signs as to when they are up for the day. After about 5:00 a.m., I can generally tell within about 30 seconds whether or not the baby will be able to be rocked back into slumber or whether he is up and ready to play.  In the beginning of my parenting journey I would spend precious energy trying to convince my early riser to fall back asleep. This was a losing battle that left both of us frustrated and irritated.  Now, when my kiddo gives me his best 5:15 grin, I simply shrug, sigh, grab my glasses, and start the coffee pot.

2. Resist the urge to stay up late

This can be tough, and I don’t always follow this advice as well as I should. The fleeting hours between when the kids go to bed and when I go to bed are precious. This is sometimes the only chance I get to snuggle with my husband, watch TV, read a book, or generally be quiet without any demands being placed on me.  However, when I do stay up late, I have to weigh the cost. Good old Murphy’s Law tells me that the later I stay up, the earlier I will hear cries on the monitor or the patter of feet in my bedroom.

3. Take turns when you can

In our house, I’m usually the one who gets up overnight with the baby.  This isn’t because my husband is unwilling, but rather because I find that it is easier and quicker for me to nurse him back to sleep the couple of times he wakes.  Mornings, however, we tend to split up pretty evenly, especially on the weekends.  Usually, if one of us gets up early on Saturday, the other will get to sleep in (or at least sleep until 7) on Sunday.  Small victories folks.

4. My secret weapon: “Sleepervision”

This works best for older kids or when baby is old enough to be able to sit and play somewhat independently. Before his younger brother was born, I had very much been known to hand my then three-year-old the iPad, turn on Daniel Tiger, and snuggle up on the couch.  He happily watched his shows while I dosed for an hour or so.  If he tried to get off the couch he would have to crawl over me. I’m such a light sleeper that he’d never be able to get past without waking me. 

When my youngest now decides that 5:23 is prime play time, I have found that I can set him up with some toys and cars in a corner of our living room and lie down on the floor, blocking his way out to the rest of the room.  Again, he would have to crawl over me to get out which would wake me up before he could get into too much mischief. “Sleepervision” doesn’t provide the most restful snooze, but it can help a tired mama (or daddy) squeak out an extra hour or so of rest early in the morning.

early risers sleep

Are there any other parents of early risers out there?  How do you make the most of those early morning hours?  Share your wisdom in the comments, and I’ll read them as I fire up the coffee pot and snuggle down with Daniel Tiger.



Sarah Bengtson
Sarah is a proud Iowa native who currently lives in North Liberty with her husband and 2 sons. She grew up in rural Benton county and moved to the Iowa City area in 2005 to attend graduate school at the University of Iowa in Physical Therapy. Now she balances raising two growing boys with a work as a pediatric physical therapist. Outside of work and family, Sarah loves music, playing her cello, running, baking, crochet, church activities, and cheering for the Hawkeyes and the Minnesota Vikings.


  1. As a mom of a kiddo that has yet to sleep in past 7, #1 was crucial to the rest of the day going well. I had to realize that he can’t comprehend why I would wake up tired and grumpy. He was just excited about spending another day with me. I’ve never been much of a napper, but I’ve embraced the art of napping with my son!

  2. All the way. Going to bed early seems to be key for us. And we split weekends and week depending on who has what going on. Have also tried everything under the sun to get her to sleep later to no avail. Ah sigh.


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