Mommy SOS : Rooster Babies, Hope or Cope?

Cockadoodle doo!

Cockadoodle doo!

Today’s mommy SOS comes from JBhat’s friend Shannon:

A. has decided that she is getting up at 5.  That means leaving the room, running around trying to find me – which most days I am in bed – or up exercising.  I calmly but sternly tell her it is not time to get up, put her back into her bed and leave the room.  That is not good enough.  She continues to get out.  Or she will climb into S’s bed and wake her up, thinking it is really funny.  Poor S!

Other relevant info:

A. currently shares a room with S. – which will change after we sell our house and buy a new one.  She is not potty trained – that process is starting in March.  I have not tried letting her entertain herself yet…in another room.  I have tried giving her books in bed but that doesn’t seem to work.  I worry about her being alone in the living room while I shower – as she tends to be on the naughty side and I worry she will get into something and hurt herself.

This SOS is actually quite timely coming hot on the heals of our  transition to big kid bed dicussion last week  – it’s just the sort of thing that I fear when we transition Jasper who like clockwork wakes crying at 5:30am every morning. Currently I go in and comfort him and he usually falls back asleep for an hour and a half, but I don’t know how this would all play out should he have the independence to get out and roam about on his own upon waking!

But more than just the issue of a toddler roaming free, is there hope to solve the root of the problem i.e. getting the little one to sleep later in the first place?  Later bedtime, shorter (or no?) nap? Any other ideas? If anyone has had any success, please share your methods!

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Joanna says:

Yes Heather, fabulous advice, thank you! I am going to c&p and send to my husband and mom (who watches my child). Of course I need to follow it myself.

Tracey Hudson says:

I am no expert, just a mum of 19 month old twin boys one of whom WAS an early riser: 4.30 – 5am. At first, to cope, I adjusted my bed time so that I was getting 8 hours, but this left no evening life for me. After several months I became frustrated and I took the hard line and made him stay in bed until at least 6am. He cried hard for 3 mornings (as did I) then got the message and now sleeps 12 hours, 7pm – 7am. I also agree with Heather above, I adjusted his nap during the day to be longer (now 2 hours) and made this our priority for a few weeks – no playdates etc. unless they fitted in around naps. I also changed lunch to be lighter, so they would eat lots at evening meal and not waken up starving hungry.
In summary, it might help to take a step back and look at your whole routine. My toddlers sleep better when they have a full belly, have had a good nap in the day and are rested rather than overtired.
Good luck!!! It’s only for a while.

Maddie says:

I am not an expert but remember reading in a sleep book that putting your child to bed later does not affect their wake up time. Whatever their bodies are ‘programmed’ to do re: waking up time, is when they’ll generally wake up. Or I might have gotten that completely wrong. Haha! What am I doing writing advice?

ariana says:

Heather, fabulous advice as usual, thank you!!

Kristen, the vast majority of my shots I take with my Tamron 28-75. I’m currently debating if I should upgrade this to the L version (24-70) or not.. on the one hand I love my Tamron so much that I’m worried I won’t notice a big enough difference to justify the price. One the other hand, it IS my most useful focal length and my workhorse, so it makes sense to get the best possible quality!

Today’s shot and the last post (the highchair post) were however taken with the 85 1.8, which is a fabulous lens on a full frame camera – sharp sharp sharp. I will say though that I really don’t like using prime lenses as a rule.. I almost always wish I have a zoom instead while shooting.. but sometimes its worth it for the extra sharpness that you can only get with prime lenses!

Samm Ivri says:

I havent found a solution to early waking up. But I’ve noticed that with Mia (17 months), its very inconsistent. Some nights she sleeps from 8-7 (very rare, but it has happened) while other nights she can wake up multiple times and even stay up for hours (also rare. Then there’s everything in between too. But the inconsistency leads me to believe that this is a (long, long) stage. I’ve stopped fighting it and trying to beat it. I know that in time she’ll mature and be able to sleep consistently and understand when she needs to stay quiet. Meanwhile, I continue to be a walking zombie about 1/2 the week. Just a part of having kids.

jbhat says:

Thanks for the comments thus far, friends! Sounds like some of you are in the same boat. I will be sure to send a link to Becoming Mom (I probably should have shared this find ages ago, actually) to my friend today. She will be glad to know that she’s not alone, and to read what you have to say. I think Heather gives good advice–so thorough!

I also have a friend whose kiddo used to bring books, a flashlight, dinosaurs, you name it, into his mom and dad’s room at a ridiculously crazy early hour, and get right up in the mommy’s face and say, “Mom. I want oatmeal.” She did the 7:00 clock trick with him after a few days of that, and it worked.

Heather says:

Alright, I’ll chime in just a bit today. I don’t have a huge amount to say on specifics because this is one of those moments, those huge growing moments, for families where you’ve got to find what works for you.

Where the sleep is concerned though, I do have some experience [and validated views]. Starting from very, very young if your child wakes ‘too early’ then there are generally things you can do.

First, if your child is not getting enough sleep during the day, they will wake more during the night and earlier in the morning. It sounds counterintuitive but it’s true. Once any person becomes overtired those transitions become harder. Everyone wakes/turns over/transitions during the night. We have sleep cycles, for a new one to begin, one has to end. Being able to easily transition from one to the next is a lifelong skill that will serve your child forever. And it is something that can be learned at ANY age.

Do you know when I learned to be a good sleeper?
Somewhere in my mid-twenties! Before that I fully believed, some people just need less sleep. Uh-huh, and some people need truckloads of food, it’s just so healthy!

That said, consistency is the key. If you can consistently offer sleep at regular intervals every single day, eventually the body responds, even if the mind rebels. After awhile it becomes pavlovian. Routine and consistency.

The other important variable is setting that schedule or routine. Once your child reaches an age where they can understand, for some this is three years, others four and others still, five years, you can put a clock in their room and tell them, “We stay in bed until the clock says ‘7:00’.” [I hear you doubters out there, but this comes down to consistency too. When I was a live in nanny, I started work between 7:30-8am, occasionally I’d do overnights when the parents were away. Their three year old came out of his room every morning between 5 and 6 am. Every single day. I’m sorry but if it’s still dark out, it’s still night time. Five am is way too early to start a day. When I would be the one there, I’d remind him before bed, We get up when the clock says 7, right? And you know what? He would stay in bed until seven. Then he’d trod into my room and wake me up [generally I was awake, lying there in disbelief, waiting for him to come in. I’d hear him wake earlier, but every time he waited. It’s been eleven years since he and I established that routine and when his little sister (who is now 11) comes to stay with me for the weekend, she knows, it isn’t morning until 7am. And she amuses herself until then.]
So now you are thinking, what do I do if they don’t listen? How can you be consistent if they won’t cooperate? It’s tough. Every time they come out, send them back, until the set time. No hugs, no yelling, no enforcement of any sort. Just send them back. Obviously this can only start once they can understand the concept of the clock, but it can be as little as that one recognition.

Now, before your child hits that age of understanding/recognition, they need your guidance and consistency. Taking away their naps opens that door of over tired. But evaluating their nap times is another story. If your toddler regularly wakes at 6am and then you put him/her down for a nap at 9am, their bodies are expecting three hours then rest. If one day they wake at 5am and you respond with an 8am nap, you are encouraging them [however indirectly] to wake again the next day at 5am. If on the other hand, they wake at 5am and you keep them up, active and engaged until 9am [like usual] it could take a day or two but eventually they will go back to waking at 6am. I’m not saying three hours is the key, it was just an example. Whatever your child’s stamina is determines the intervals.

If your child is consistently waking at 5am and you are putting them down for a nap consistently at 12pm, then maybe it’s time to make it 12:15 or 12:30. Schedule and routine changes can take up to two weeks – if you are consistent. If you are inconsistent it can take much longer or never actually work. If your child isn’t engaged during that wake time then you are undermining your efforts as well. Watching television, zoning out, sitting for twenty minutes or more in a carseat or stroller, those all count as rest and increase your child’s stamina.

Say you are doing everything I’ve suggested and it’s still not working. Then you might want to peak at your child’s diet and how often they get gross motor play outdoors. If your child is having heavy carbohydrate snacks between sleep periods then that will affect their body’s response to sleep and needing sleep. Caffeine and sugar are givens, but sometimes people overlook the importance of protein. If they are getting too little protein this could affect their ability to sleep for long stretches or get into good, deep sleep. And getting gross motor play outside, not in a mall or playspace, is key. If it is cold [I live in Boston, grew up in Michigan, I know cold!] then keep activity times shorter, but try to get 20-60 minutes outside play between every sleep cycle. If your child is only napping once per day, this is only two trips outside; once in the morning and once in the afternoon.

Everything works together for sleep to be successful. It is a lot of work, but it is so worth it. Children secrete their growth hormones while in deep sleep. Children who sleep too little tend to not only get sick more often, but fall more often and have more injuries.

I’m sure I haven’t made any friends with this comment. I know what I’ve said is a lot of work. And it’s hard work that needs to be done regularly. But I’ve seen it work repeatedly over the last twelve years. Good Luck.

Kristen says:

This response has no relationship to this blog post…

Ariana – I love checking out your blog and looking at all your pics. I was wondering, what lens are you using for these snapshots? Better question – what lens do you keep on your camera for your “everyday” pics?

pam says:

What about those tot clocks? I think they light up when it’s time to get up, and you tell your child not to get up until it lights up, or something.

I don’t know…this is one of the times I’m glad I have triplets. They entertain each other (from their cribs) until I’m ready to go in their room.

Diana says:

You ladies are very lucky :O( Aliana (almost 18 months) wakes up twice every night :O( 12am and then 3 or 4 and hardly ever at 5am :O( wish that was my case. I dont know what to do anymore… last night she went to bed at 830pm and woke up around 1130 put he back to bed but she still wants to be breastfed to go down to bed again… and even at 3 or 4 she wants the same… she is in a toddler bed, she gets down and runs to our room….. i dont know what else to do :O(she doesnt get a good night sleep neither do we. Very interested to see what you ladies have to say :O)

Liz says:

We have tried a later bedtime. I have to say that we have had no luck. Savannah(16 months) still wakes up at 5:30 every morning, unless she wakes up at 4. If she wakes at 4 then I am usually able to get her to go back to sleep until 6:30. I am so at my wits end with her not sleeping well. :-( Mommy is so tired.

Alex says:

My advice would be to try a later bedtime. I’m a night owl and NOT morning person by any means and so I learned early on if I wanted to sleep pass 6 Phoenix need to go down no earlier then 7:30, 8 PM. This means he wakes up between 8-8:30 almost every morning. There are those occasions he gets up between 5 & 6 but he’s not “raring to go” he climbs in bed with us and sleeps until 8.

Phoenix (18 mths) also sleeps in a toddler bed and so if he wakes up earlier then 8 he usually entertains himself with the few toys & books in his room. I’ve come plenty of times to find him laying in bed “reading” books. We keep his door closed so that keeps him in his room and not roaming the halls.

Good luck!