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.


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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.

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