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Baby Sleep: Early Morning Wakings

Tips on how to deal child's early morning wakings.

Early morning wakings are very common sleep troubles parents encounter and they also can be the most difficult to resolve. An early waking or early rising is anything before 10h from bedtime that considered an early morning waking. It may take a few weeks to see improvement – especially when a baby has just started sleeping through the night and may just sleep the bare minimum 10h, and also what type of an early riser you have.

The Cheerful Early Riser characteristics: This baby wakes up very early but is rested and refreshed. Baby has slept at least 10hrs of overnight sleep and takes decent naps. Although, they wake up too early for your liking, they meet their daily requirement for sleep.

What can you do?

  • Use 100% blackout shades
  • Limit light and noise after dinner
  • Limiting naps may help
  • You can try moving bedtime to see if it could change baby’s wake up time by shifting a daytime schedule by 15-min increments each day until you reach new bedtime. It may take 1-2 weeks to adjust.

Small percentage of babies are “larks” – they wake up early in the morning, cheerful and refreshed and get tired early in the evening. They wake up at he same time every morning, no matter what time they go to bed. Whether your child is a lark is genetically determined and true “larks” are very hard to change.

TYPE 2 of an early riser: The Tired, Cranky Early Riser and here is their characteristics: This baby sleeps less than 10hrs/night or naps poorly, or both! Baby doesn’t wake up refreshed in the morning and is tired for majority of the day. This baby doesn’t meet their daily sleep needs and could benefit from more sleep. Reasons they wake up are: hunger, external factors (light, noise), discomfort, over-tiredness, habitual waking, anticipation/excitement.

The first 3 are self-explanatory. Let me briefly explain the last three.

OVERTIREDNESS. Yes, overtiredness can cause early morning wakings! If baby isn’t getting the proper amount of sleep and are put to bed late it can cause early rising. It is one of most common sleep myths – later to bed, baby will sleep in. The exact opposite is true!

What can you do?

  • Stick to age-appropriate wake windows and daytime schedule. BE CONSISTENT.

HABITUAL WAKING. Sleep is the lightest towards the morning. We cycle more through the light sleep stages in preparation for the morning waking. Also, the sleep pressure is lower in the wee hours. So it is especially hard for the baby to fall asleep in the early morning, especially when they don’t know how to go to sleep on their own. It is very easy for this to become a habit while you are trying to cope with these early morning wakings

What can you do?

  • It is very important to teach a baby it is not time to wake up yet – they will learn eventually. Treat this just as you would treat the in-the-middle-of-the-night waking.
  • If baby is fussing for about 10 minutes, it is ok to go in and give them a gentle reminder using a key phrase like “it’s sleep time”, then leave.
  • If you have done the steps above, it’s been over 25 minutes or it’s around the desired wake time, chances are your baby will not got back to sleep. Pick them up, make a big deal out of the morning (so they do not think you came because they were fussing), and start your morning routine. Your baby may want to go to sleep an hours after they woke up which would be the extension of their night sleep. It is important to wait with that nap for at least 2 hours from the time they woke up or until 9am (depending on their overall daytime schedule).

EXCITED ANTICIPATOR. If baby enjoys whatever it is parent is doing after they wake up, they may start waking up early excited for this. Whether it’s cuddling, going to parents’ bed, rocking or feeding – a parent may be unwittingly creating a situation a baby is waking up for.

What can you do?

  • Make mornings less exciting – it isn’t as mean as it sounds! Instead of doing whatever your baby might have been waking up for, start with something less exciting: diaper change, taking jammies off, getting dressed for the day. You can compare it to days you go to work and days off – when it’s work day you can ignore your alarm clock 10 time. However, on a day off you either wake up early excited or have no problems waking up for what you planned 🙂
  • Same as with the habitual waker, you would go in with a sleep reminder/treat it as a night waking. Do not go in too often – it may too stimulating and turn into a game.

Seeing improvement in the early morning wakings can take a few weeks BUT it can be very successful if parents remain consistent!

Tips on how to deal child's early morning wakings.
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Crib to Toddler Bed Transition – everything you need to know.

crib to toddler bed transition

WHEN TO TRANSITION?

I have noticed that parents frequently wonder whether there is certain age by which their little ones should transition to a toddler bed. Some parents rush in and bring a bed at 18 months, some wait it out until their child is 3.5-4 years old. Which side is right?

Technically, neither.

I mean, no one really wrote a rule on a chalkboard “THIS IS THE AGE…”. What I would recommend is to wait until your child is at least 30 months (2.5yo) because it is then when their cognitive ability to make logical connections develops and so does their self-control.

Otherwise, you may be dealing with lots of escapes. I will share soon tips on how to delay the transition (because maybe your child is an escape artist and is trying to climb out of the crib before that age).

My advice then is: if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it 😉 I.e. if your child is happily sleeping in their crib, and obviously if there are no safety concerns, no reason to transition just yet.

Let’s look at some signs of readiness for the crib-to-toddler bed transition:

I always encourage parents to base their decision regarding transition on their child readiness rather than need to free up the crib because new sibling is arriving. I really think it is better to rent or borrow a crib, pack&play than deal with a child who cannot comprehend the idea of staying in bed nor have self-control to do so.

“What if my child hasn’t reached the age but is trying escaping their crib?” Well, it can also be the case and I urge you to try to some of these things before deciding toddler bed is the next step:

– safety: bring the crib mattress to lowest point to make climbing more difficult. (DO NOT remove the bottom of the crib – it will affect its safety standards),

– if the crib has one short side and one tall, turn the crib around,

– you may use a sleep sack to prevent climbing.

PREPARING FOR CRIB TO TODDLER BED TRANSITION

Let’s look at safety aspects:

So we’ve got all basics covered! Let’s move onto tactics to facilitate crib to toddler bed transition.

1. Setup: put toddler’s bed in the same place as their crib. Let them keep their crib blanket with them (even if it is too small).

2. Help your child pick up the bed and sheets (favorite character, show etc.)

3. If the bed is a hand-me-down, draw a parallel to whom previously had it

4. “Talk up” the bed to family and friends (when they visit or over the phone to create sense of gravity and promotion around it 🙂

5. Use the crib transition as a signal of “status change”, e.g. “Wow, now you have a bed like mommy and daddy!”

6. Go all out and throw a BIG KID BED party.

7. If child is nervous, use a toddler bed instead of twin bed.

8. If a new baby is the reason for transition, have your toddler sleep in the toddler bed at least for two months before the baby gets the crib – you may suggest to your older one giving away the crib as a gift to the baby.

Resistance is normal! Especially when it coincides with new baby, potty training, pre-school. It may take time before your toddler understands that even without the crib railing the “barrier” is still there.

Transition happened too early if a toddler is very upset, they get out of bed many times and suddenly, it takes them longer to fall asleep at night, and subsequent nights. Additionally, if a child gets out of bed and wanders around the room, doesn’t understand the concept of staying in bed, or safety is a concern – the transition happened too early.

STRATEGIES FOR AFTER TRANSITION: staying in bed.

– I suggest lights off, doors closed – not to be cruel but #1. fire safety: closed doors is case of fire can be a difference of life and death, and #2. I minimized a possibility of child getting out of bed.

– If your concern is feeling of abandonment, you may leave the door slightly open with a dim light in the HALLWAY. Small lights in your child’s room they are not used to can create unnecessary shadows and their imagination might take of from there.

– To prevent child from leaving, use a child-proof door know or put up a gate in the door (only for a protesting child and an escape artist).

– If the child is really anxious, you may stay with them for the first few nights (no engaging).

– If you need to return your child to bed, it should be done in a matter-of-fact type of way. Don’t engage, just pick them up, bring back, use the key phrase, kiss, good night and leave. Do it at intervals so it doesn’t turn into a game.

That would be all for now! I think I covered all key points over here 🙂 Look out for my sleep coaching packages should you need support of a professional with sleep troubles – I cannot wait to help your entire family sleep! And please, share this post with other parents who might need it.

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How to create healthy sleep habits for a toddler?

#1. Preparation matters

Talking about what will be happening at bedtime (maybe at dinner time) is very helpful and may give your striving-for-independance toddler sense of predictability. It will also prevent a meltdown down the road.

I mean – if you just put them to bed and walk out the door most kids are not gonna be happy about that!

Giving them small tasks, like picking the book may be helpful as well which also will give them sense of control and inclusivity.

#2. Create a bedtime routine

I say this often but it is super important so I will repeat: KIDS THIRVE ON CONSISTENCY.

Pajamas, toothbrushing, book reading – the bedtime routine’s super important for getting kids ready to sleep. Repeat it every day.

As a matter of fact, the way the whole day goes is important – and if you have a hard time getting your toddler to sleep at night, switching up your daily habits and routines can make a big difference.

#3. Make them feel secure and happy

It’s a good idea to have your little one feeling happy and relaxed before you leave – because if they’re anxious then tears are pretty much guaranteed.

If they’re warm and cosy, and they understand what’s going on (again: consistency) and where you’ll be, bedtime will be a whole lot more successful .

#4. Support them to go to sleep alone

Yes, you’re leaving them alone to go to sleep – but that doesn’t mean you’re not gonna support them. So let your child know where you’ll be – and make it close by. Right outside or the room opposite.

Be ready to give a quick ‘Shush,’ if they start to get upset – often that’s all it takes and it’s way less disturbing than going back into the room. You’re letting them know that you’re there and everything’s okay.

Even go back in after a bit for one more hug.

They have to go to sleep in their room alone but that doesn’t mean you can’t be there for them – just in a different way now because they’re getting bigger.

HERE ARE SOME TIPS FOR PARENTS OF NON-NAPPING TODDLERS:

Again, the key to successful.. anything 😉 is consistency. I know it can be hard to keep up with the routine sometimes, or it may feel easier to just give in. And even if it does (happens to everyone), just start over. You’ve got this!