Is your toddler waking up too early all of a sudden? Discover how to help your child wake up later in the morning.
I never used to be a morning person. Before having kids, the earliest I’d wake up was at 8am, to get to work by 9am.
Now that I have kids, waking up around 5:30am is my new normal, admittedly not always one of the perks of motherhood. But there was a point when even 5:30am seemed “late,” when my then-toddler would wake up even earlier.
You see, I treasure my time alone, whether it’s the hours between my kids’ bedtime and mine, or those early hours when I wake up before everyone else.
So, to have those precious hours disrupted, or worse, to have one of my kids wake up even earlier than me, was a big deal.
How to finally stop your toddler waking up too early
I wasn’t alone with these early wake-ups, and perhaps you’re finding yourself in a similar situation. One where your toddler goes to bed fine, but wakes up early only to come into your room for the rest of the morning.
Your consistent nighttime routine hasn’t stopped him from waking up earlier than he usually does. No amount of telling him to go back to sleep actually helps him do so. And this is only made worse when he’s tired and horribly cranky all morning from the lack of sleep.
In fact, he’s moody and miserable right when everyone’s getting ready for the day. How can you get him to understand when it’s okay to get up and finally put a stop to these early mornings?
Rest assured, this doesn’t last forever, even if it can sometimes feel like it. Below, I’ll share the tips that worked anytime any of my kids started waking up earlier than I wanted them to. Give them a try, and I hope they can work for you as well:
1. Make no (or few) exceptions
Dealing with tantrums at four in the morning isn’t exactly any sleep-deprived parent’s ideal way to start the day. No wonder so many of us relent and bring our kids to our bed, start the day early, or otherwise cave in to their demands.
The problem? These “quick fix solutions” reinforce the very habits you’re trying to break. Your toddler now thinks it’s fine to wake up at a crazy early hour when you allow him to.
Instead, think about a few non-negotiable rules you enforce, from sitting in a car seat to not hitting his new baby sister. Just as you would never allow him to sit without a car seat or continue to bonk the baby on the head, so too should you be as firm on early wake-ups.
One way to help you better enforce these new habits is to brace yourself the previous night. Tell yourself you’ll likely have an early morning to deal with his wake-up (you might even go to bed earlier than usual).
Then, be firm about not getting out of bed, despite his bedtime tantrums. Supply him with books and toys to keep him occupied, then close the door behind you. Repeat these behaviors morning after morning and he’ll learn to put himself back to sleep or entertain himself until wake-up time.
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2. Use a toddler alarm clock
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Telling toddlers “It’s not time to wake up yet” isn’t exactly fair when most of them can’t, well… tell time. When is it one hour? What’s seven o’clock supposed to look like? And what cues can they rely on to safely say it’s okay to get out of bed?
The trick? Use a toddler alarm clock.
Rather than relying on hands of a typical clock or even the numbers of a digital one, toddler alarm clocks send cues young kids can understand. From changing colors to making sounds, your toddler will know that it’s time to stay in bed until he sees the cues.
Take a look at these popular ones:
3. Have an earlier bedtime
You’d think that having slept fewer hours would mean your toddler would at least sleep in. After three kids, I can tell you that kids hardly sleep in, even if they were up plenty of hours the night before.
Instead, try the opposite: put him down for an earlier bedtime.
For many, this isn’t an easy choice. Work and family schedules don’t always make it easy to put kids down at early hours, sometimes as early as 7pm or even 6:30pm. But if you’re willing to try just about anything, an earlier bedtime may be the trick.
Many parents have found that putting their kids down earlier actually encouraged them to sleep later in the morning. As they say, sleep begets sleep—being well-rested can improve the quality of your toddler’s sleep.
4. Don’t check in so often
Part of the problem with your toddler waking up too early can be that he’s learned every protest is worth your attention.
This is when you need to discern when his calls for you are genuine, and when they’ve become a game or a habit to him. Yes, calming his fears or dealing with a soiled diaper will need your attention—needing another cup of water does not.
Another alternative is to check in at set times—say, every 15 minutes. After you’ve checked in on him, close the door and set your timer for 15 minutes, only going in then. And when you do, keep it brief, if only to remind him that it’s still sleep time.
And yet another way to check in on him without going into his room is to use a baby monitor. He may be past the baby stage, but you can still use the monitor to check in without opening the door.
5. Adjust your toddler’s nap
Do you have an amazing napper? His lengthy naps during the day could be contributing to the early wake-ups as well.
Kids’ sleep is based on the total hours they slept within 24 hours, not just at night. So, if he’s taking a four-hour nap during the day, he may not need as many hours of sleep at night. And if he goes to sleep at a decent hour, he’s bound to wake up early the next day.
Another factor is when he takes a nap. An early nap could be made possible because he woke up early in the morning. If he’s napping at 10:30am or 11am, try keeping him awake until around 12pm.
Experiment with his naps, whether their length or timing, to see if that can encourage him to wake up at a later hour in the morning.
Having kids usually means we can’t sleep in most mornings, but handling a toddler waking up too early can make it even more brutal.
Thankfully, you can do plenty to turn things around. Start by making little to no exceptions with when your toddler can wake up—your response sets the expectation. This includes not going to his room for every cry, especially for simple reasons.
Adjust his sleep, from having an earlier bedtime to experimenting with the length and timing of his naps. And finally, get a toddler alarm that can cue him on when it actually is okay to get out of bed.
These tips can hopefully get him waking up at a decent hour once again—all the better if you’re not exactly a morning person.
Get more tips:
- Toddler Waking Up at 5am? What to Do with Early Risers
- What to Do When Your 2 Year Old Wakes Up at Night for Hours
- 8 Mistakes You’re Making When Your 2 Year Old Refuses to Sleep
- 20 Examples of a 2 Year Old Sleep Schedule to Try
- What to Do When Your Toddler Wakes Up Too Early Crying
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