Get Your Toddler to Sleep Past 5 am

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).

Set Rules

Before we started, we decided what we laid a few ground rules.

  1. No official “wake-up” until 6 am
  2. Back to Bed (B2B) without speaking or engaging our toddler
  3. 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.

Be Consistent

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.

Continue Reading

Toddler Sleep Boot Camp

Since last October, right around the time change in the fall, our toddler has been waking up at 5 am.

Every. Day.

It doesn’t matter the time she goes to bed that night, what kind of nap she had the day before, or what she ate for dinner, every day at 5 am we get a wake up call. At first, I thought it was the change of seasons. But then in the Spring, when we moved the clocks again, her clock stayed the same.

We tried bringing her in our bed, where she would kick and fidget – but never go back to sleep. We tried to sleep in her bed with her, where she would kick and fidget – but never go back to sleep. We gave in to television, and would doze as she watched Nick Jr. on our bed while torturing the dog when he, too, obviously wanted to sleep.

And then it got worse.

This summer, she started waking up at 4:30 am… then 4 am… then 3 am… then midnight. Each time she would stay awake for 2 or more hours- or not go back to sleep at all. We were inconsistent in how we treated the wakings. All the sleeping-advice books told us to put her to bed earlier. She was overtired, they said, and that was leading to earlier wakings. Our doctor’s office suggested melatonin before bed.

For a while, we thought it was the fact her diaper was so wet in the mornings, so we limited her drink at night. It seemed to work – for a day or two.

I admit it, I was beginning to get angry with her, which was totally unfair. I wanted to sleep. I wanted her to sleep. When she gets up early she’s cranky and tired by 8 am. I missed my sweet little well-rested girl.

But now? I have had enough. No more pussyfooting around. I mean business: Sleep Boot Camp – Toddler Style. She wakes before 6 am? Back to bed. No eye contact. No words. No kisses or cuddles. She wakes at 5:45 am? Back to bed. Midnight? Back to bed.

I am not messing around anymore. We’re locking our bedroom door. We’re letting her cry it out.

Bad parenting? Quite the contrary. We’re trying to instill good sleep habits. Good sleep means better development, less stress on the household, and better temperament.

We’re giving her the best gift possible. But let’s be honest…Sleep Boot Camp is going to suck – for everyone.

 

Continue Reading

Desperation at 4 am

We are at our wits end. No, not because we have a newborn who doesn’t sleep more than 2-3 hours at a time… Believe me, I can handle that.

What I can’t handle is this: Our 2-year-old gets up at 5 am. Every. Day. And lately? The Girl has been getting up at 4 am.

The other day, she woke up at 3:45 ready to start the day.

5 am wake up calls are beginning to look good.

It all began last fall around Daylight Savings Time. Her usual get-up time of 7 am began creeping backward. Television would usually entertain her until we were ready to join her amongst the awake.

7 am became 6 am, and 6 am soon became 5 am. We were confused. What could be waking her up? Was it the change in time? Was it a neighbor’s car? Were we putting her to sleep too early?

Yes, that must be it. We started putting her to bed later, and still, nothing changed. At 5 am she was awake. No snuggling in our bed for more sleep, or playing quietly in her room. She was awake. Up. Wanting attention.

I thought it would change back when we Sprang Forward in the Spring. It didn’t. We began to take more action.

We put in two sets of room-darkening shades and a white noise machine. Still up at 5 am.

You might be thinking, “Well, E, maybe that is all the sleep she needs.” And I would agree with you if not for the fact she has a meltdown by 7 am and falls asleep in the car to daycare by 8 am.

The girl is tired.

And so are we.

And we feel so alone, like no one else we know has this problem.

So, I am asking for advice.

How can we get our toddler to sleep past 5 am?

We’ve begun putting her to bed by 7pm. We’ve tried melatonin (not working). We’ve tried the, “You can’t get out of bed until the sun is out” routine (doesn’t work). And we try (without success) every morning to crawl in bed with her until she falls back asleep.

Please don’t tell me to put her to bed later. Please don’t tell me to try the “Sleep Lady Shuffle.” We’ve tried all of these before. And frankly? Nothing seems to work.

Please don’t tell me it’s “just the way she is” because her falling asleep at 8 am is not normal.

Please tell me you’ve been there before with your kids. Please tell me she will outgrow this. Please tell me what worked for you.

Continue Reading

Can Formula Rightfully Campaign Against Childhood Obesity?

I’ve never claimed to be a lactation consultant, but I did breastfeed both of my children for as long as I could. Bombarded with coupons from formula companies like Similac and Enfamil while pregnant, I always knew I would breastfeed. These big formula companies’ attempts to lure me with coupons while promoting “breast is best” always felt, to me, like they were saying:

Sure, you say you want to breastfeed, but when you give up, give us a try instead.

It’s almost like they were waiting for breastfeeding mothers to fail so they could swoop in and pick up the pieces.

We all know the benefits of breastfeeding, both for mom and baby, and I am not here to argue scientific research, but when I saw this article about Nestle baby formula partnering with the city of Newark NJ to fight childhood obesity, my casual breastfeeding activism kicked in.

Huh?

Nevermind the American Academy of Pediatrics advocates breastfeeding for at least 12 months.

Or that the World Health Organization actively promotes breastfeeding.

Or that research has shown breastfeeding to help prevent obesity.

So where does formula fit in?

I don’t find any coincidence that a formula company is spending time and money investing in a campaign in one of the most poverty-stricken cities in New Jersey, which has a very high childhood obesity rate.

Is this good PR for Nestle? Or just bad for New Jersey?

Continue Reading

Not A Good Listener

Here at the Fabulous household, we’ve entered the rationalizing phase of toddlerhood. It is awesome, really. I can do things like offer choices when The Girl demands one thing or starts acting out:

The Girl: I want a LOLLIPOP for breakfast!

The Mom: Okay, you can either have milk, or nothing. What do you want?

The Girl: I want MILK!

And she’s also starting to get the whole “time out” thing, which was not really working for us before. And, by “getting it” I mean, we try to give her time out and she jumps out of her seat the second we are out of sight.

But I think I’ve found the one thing that really concerns her – not being a good listener.

It seems that at daycare, if you are labeled as “not a good listener” it is like being ostracized from the class community. Much like being a leper, I suppose.

And if my toddler is acting out, well, then she is not being a good listener.

I learned this one day when we were talking about school.

The Mom: How was your day today?

The Girl: Ryan is not a GOOD LISTENER, Mommy!

The Mom: What? Really? Ryan? Not a good listener!??

The Girl: I a GOOD LISTENER, Mommy. I am!

Learning that not being a good listener was probably the epitome of a slander statement at school has really empowered me as a Mom. Because now when she’s acting out, or is, well, not listening to me, all I have to say is this sentence:

You’re not being a good listener right now.

And immediately she snaps out of her tantrum or drama-queen moves and starts to listen.

For about 5 minutes.

Continue Reading