Why is my toddler waking early?
Is your toddler waking between 4-6am? Trying to start their day? Getting out of bed, waking the house? Or crying and screaming for you?
Why is your toddler waking so so early!?
Toddlers waking early is one of the most common problems we deal with. No one likes starting their day at 5am, and toddlers usually manage to wake everyone the minute they are awake! Let me see if I can help you resolve this issue.
How much sleep does your toddler actually need?
Around 12 months your toddler needs 10-12 hours over night and 1.5-2.5 hours over the day. If your toddler is exceeding this amount during the day, this could be contributing to your early wake up.
By 18 months, sleep needs have dropped by about 30-60 minutes, so day sleep is now 1.5-2 hours, and nights still 10-12 hours.
Around 2 years your toddler only needs 1-2 hours of day sleep, and 10-12 hours over night.
Around 3-4 years your toddler doesn’t need a nap, and needs 10-12 hours over night.
Most children need the higher end of these amounts, if your child is on the lower end, but is waking early and crying this is a sign they are over tired. If they are waking happy, but still on the low end of this spectrum, they might be a low sleep needs child.
Often parents think their child is just low sleep needs, and hence the early wake up. But if your toddler is grouchy by 5pm, or falls asleep in the car in the afternoon, they probably are not low sleep needs and need more sleep than the early wake up is allowing them to get.
This is one of the most common reasons your toddler is waking super early, especially if they are crying. Try an earlier bed time as your first port of call. 30-60 minutes earlier and give it a good few days before you decide its not working!
Make sure that the sun is not creeping in and waking your toddlers up! Light is one of the 3 key elements which re-sets our circadian rhythm each day, so keep that light out until the time you want to start your toddlers day.
5am is the hardest time to be consistent, I know, I get it.
I’ve been know to drag my toddler into my bed at that time, or just get up, and half sleep on the couch as they play quietly, just to keep the rest of the house asleep!
Inconsistency is confusing for toddlers, it reinforces the wake up each time we get them up at 5am, or feed them at 5am, or even growl them.
It confuses them to no end if we mix this up and try a different strategy each day. If you have been inconsistent, they first thing you need to try before you try a different bed time, or anything else is a consistent approach. As minimal interaction as possible, as boring as possible, and as consistent as possible!
If your day sleeps are inconsistent, this will also likely lead to an inconsistent start to your day. It's hard to flip from a 45 minute nap to a 2 hour nap, but expect a 7am start each day.
Many parents move their toddlers into a big bed too soon. This often results in the early wake up as toddlers under 3 (as a general rule) don’t have a lot of impulse control. They wake up and get out of bed as that seems like a fun idea! No matter how many times we return them, or growl or bed them, they do not have the impulse control to stay in bed. The temptation is too great!
You will have more success removing the temptation, either keep your toddler in a cot if this is a safe option, or try a baby gate across the door.
Emma is the owner and founder of Baby Sleep Consultant, she is a certified infant and child sleep consultant, Happiest Baby on the block educator, has a Bachelor of Science, and Diploma in Education. Emma is a mother to 3 children, and loves writing when she isn't working with tired clients and cheering on her team helping thousands of mums just like you.
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