I know a lot of you have been interested in how we are trying to get our 2-year-old to sleep past 5 am. Our toddler has been waking up at 5 am (and earlier) for almost a year now, and this summer, it was getting out of control. Our toddler was waking up too early– waking up at 4:30, 4, 3:30 am – not going back to sleep, and becoming an emotional nightmare by 6 am.
We had to do something – Enter Toddler Sleep Boot Camp.
When I say “boot camp” I’m really referring to just being consistent and disciplined (on our part) to try to set things back on track. Also? “Boot camp” because it kinda sucks.
So, here is what we did to get our 2-year-old to stop waking up at 5 am (or earlier).
Before we started, we decided what we laid a few ground rules.
- No official “wake-up” until 6 am
- Back to Bed (B2B) without speaking or engaging our toddler
- Three times out of bed, and we lock our door so she cannot get in
The last one might be unique to us. Our upstairs has a landing, and we felt like if we locked all the doors to the landing (except for hers) she would have nowhere to go when she woke up thus, making her room the only option.
So here is the deal. She wakes up at 5:45? B2B. She gets up 5 times before 5:30? B2B each time. She wails and cries outside of our door at 5:55? Let her.
But at 6 am? The door opens. The songs are sung, ” Good Morning!!” We shower her with kisses and hugs. We make a huge deal of it (the Sleep Lady calls this a “Dramatic Wake Up”) and we take her to the window and say “Look! The sun is up! It’s time to wake up! It’s light out!”
And she is the happiest girl in the world.
It sounds harsh – leaving her to cry it out until 6 am, but it’s not called Toddler Sleep Boot Camp for nothing.
Set A Clear Bed Time
So much of what we were reading about toddler sleep issues said we needed to set her bedtime earlier. Some even suggested bedtime as early as 5:30 pm. The theory was that an overtired toddler has interrupted sleep patterns. If you get them to sleep before they get overtired, it is a more restful sleep.
Before Toddler Sleep Boot Camp, we tried earlier bedtime (as early as 6 am) and we tried later bedtime (as late as 9 pm) but she always got up at 5 am or before. We were convinced that what time she went to bed really had nothing to do with what time she woke up.
It wasn’t until a trip to Grandmom’s, where she went to sleep at 8:30 and slept until 6:30 (almost every night we were there), that a light went on – maybe we should try a bedtime around 8-8:30 pm.
So we chose that bedtime.
Whatever bedtime you choose, make sure it works for you, and be consistent. Sure, you can deviate from time to time for special occasions, but in the first few weeks of Sleep Boot Camp, stick by that bedtime as best as you can – even if it means turning down party invitations and the such.
A Wet Diaper May Be the Cause of Early Waking
In all my Internet searches, not one result suggested a very wet diaper might be waking my daughter up early. Yes, we use night-time diapers, but we also were “tanking her up” with milk before bed.
It wasn’t until my MIL and Mom suggested a wet diaper may be the case.
Then, one morning, she woke up at 7 – with a dry diaper. I was convinced it was a wet diaper waking her up.
She’s not quite potty trained, and we are a long way off from sleeping without a diaper, but I did move up a size in night-time diapers (more absorbance) and we stopped putting her to sleep with a full glass of milk or water.
The problem we were having with her waking too early, or in the middle of the night, was that we were not being consistent. Sometimes we would bring her into bed with us (that never worked), sometimes we would lay in bed with her. Sometimes we would bring her downstairs, and sometimes we would march her back to her bed.
We needed to stick to the rules. And, to be fair, she needed to know what to expect.
So, this is what we are doing for our Toddler Sleep Boot Camp. Next week, I’ll let you all know how it’s going.