When you’ve finally managed to get your baby or toddler sleep through the night, you’ll be over joyed. To start with, even if they insist on starting the day at 5am, you’ll be over the moon if you get 6 hours hours of unbroken sleep. However, after a while, you’ll begin to wonder weather you’ll ever get a lie in again. Or at least not start the day when the first number on your alarm clock is a 5. Here some tips for dealing with early morning waking in babies and toddlers.
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Put them to bed earlier
Seems counter intuitive I know, but being over tired can lead to early morning waking. Have a look at the recommended amount of sleep for your baby or toddlers age. If they are getting less than that or even only just that, try an earlier bedtime. What ever you do, don’t try a later bedtime. All experienced parents know that even if you put your baby to bed at midnight, it will have no impact on the time they wake up. If they are getting too much sleep for their age, look at reducing the length of naps instead.
Make changes to nap times
Even if your baby or toddler is getting the right amount of sleep, you might need to make some adjustments to nap time. A common cause of early morning waking in babies is starting the morning nap too early. Try extending the period of time between waking and the start of the morning nap to see if they has any impact on wake up time.
Make it dark
The clocks changing can be an absolute nightmare for parents who are trying to get a baby or toddler into a sleep routine. I recommend getting some black out blinds. You can us the suction cup type (which do still let some light in) or go all out with the kind where you stick Velcro to your window frame and then attach the blind to that. This means that your baby or toddler is less likely to think it’s morning just because the sun is shining so when they come into a light sleep phase there is more chance of them dropping off again.
Try wake to sleep
This is another counter intuitive method that really can work but you do have to be brave! Between 15 and 40 minutes before your child would normally wake up, you go into their room and gently rouse them. The idea is not to completely wake them, just to disturb them enough that they start a new sleep cycle. By getting them to start a new sleep cycle shortly before they would normally wake, they should then stay asleep all the way through he next sleep cycle. How long that will be depends on the age of your child. In young babies, sleep cycles are often only 40 minutes but in toddlers and preschoolers can be up to 90 minutes. This means that in young babies, you’ll want to go in and rouse them about 15 minutes before they’d normally wake and in toddlers more like 30 minutes before.
Buy a Gro Clock
This one is only really for the toddlers but can be very effective once they are old enough. Gro clocks essentially display a star at night and a sun when it’s morning and children learn that they don’t get up until the sun comes up. The clock comes with a story book to help explain the concept to your child and it is surprisingly effective. Two is the generally recommended age but we introduced a Gro clock at 18 months and it was immediately successful so I’d highly recommend giving it a go.
With older children you can use a regular clock and just put a picture next to it of what the clock will look like when it’s time to get up. We did this with our oldest so that we could pass the Gro Clock on to the youngest rather than buy a new one.
Things to avoid
It is super tempting to hand over a phone or tablet or sit them in front of the TV. While I certainly won’t be judging if you choose to, the risk is that as soon as your child hits a light sleep phase, their first thought is “oooh, screen time” which, if your kids are anything like mine, will have them leaping out of bed.
I would also suggest not feeding toddlers or older babies as soon as they wake up. If they get in the habit of eating at 5am their bodies will keep waking them up hungry at 5am.
The approach we took until we were able to get them regularly waking later was to go in when they woke up and and pop a few toys in the cot before sneaking back to bed for half an hour!
If you’ve got an early riser, it can leave you exhausted, particularly if you struggle to sleep yourself but hang in there and it will get better.
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