Frustrated because your toddler wakes up too early all of a sudden? Discover how to help your child wake up later in the morning.
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,” especially when my 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 morning hours disrupted because my son woke up even earlier than me was a big deal.
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.
Rest assured, this doesn’t last forever, even if it can sometimes feel like it. Below, I’ll share the tips that worked anytime 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:
Table of Contents
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 an early hour when you allow him to.
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 might have an early morning to deal with his wake-up (you might even go to bed earlier than usual).
Then, be firm about his requests to get out of the crib, 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 can 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 the hands of a clock or even the numbers of a digital one, toddler alarm clocks send cues that kids can understand. From changing colors to making sounds, your toddler knows 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 they hardly sleep in, even if they were up plenty of hours the night before.
Instead, try the opposite: put her 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, starting the bedtime routine earlier might 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.
Hang blackout curtains over her windows to block out light that might come in during the early evening. The sun might still be out as late as 8pm—a dark sleep environment can help her fall asleep no matter the time.
4. Don’t check in so often
Part of the problem with early wake-ups is that that kids have learned that every protest is worth your attention.
This is when we need to discern when their calls for us are genuine, and when they’ve become a game or a habit. Yes, calming their fears or dealing with a soiled diaper will need attention—needing another cup of water does not.
Another alternative is to check in at set times—say, every 15 minutes.
Let’s say your toddler is waking up at 4am. After you’ve checked in on her, close the door and set your timer for 15 minutes, only going in at that point. And when you do, keep it brief, if only to remind her that it’s still sleep time. With consistency, she learns that it’s not time to get up the second she wakes.
And yet another way to check in on her without going into her room is to use a baby monitor. She 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? As great as a long nap may be, it could be contributing to her early wake-ups.
Kids’ sleep is based on the total hours they slept within a 24-hour period, not just during the night. If she’s taking a four-hour nap during the day, she may not need as many hours of sleep at night. And if she goes to sleep at a decent hour, she’s bound to wake up early the next day.
Another factor is when she takes a nap. An early nap time might feel necessary because she woke up early in the morning. If she’s napping at 10:30am or 11am, try keeping her awake until around 12pm.
Experiment with naps, whether their length or timing, to see if that can encourage her to wake up at a later hour in the morning.
Having kids usually means we can’t sleep in most mornings, but early wake ups 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 wake ups. 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 is okay to get out of bed.
These tips can hopefully get him to wake up at a decent hour again—or at least later than 5:30am.
Get more tips:
- How to Stop Your Toddler Waking Up at 5am
- 8 Mistakes to Avoid When Your 2 Year Old Refuses to Sleep
- Is Your 2 Year Old Waking Up at Night for Hours? Here’s What to Do
- 20 Examples of a 2 Year Old Sleep Schedule
- What to Do When Your Toddler Wakes Up Too Early Crying
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