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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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Bad kids or Bad parents?

I have recently come across an online debate where people were weighing in on whether it’s kids that are just bad or parents. I didn’t participate in that discussion because I would have written an essay but I thought this is definitely something I can discuss here 🙂

Before I begin, I would like to point out I will be referring to kids between age of 2 up to 9 maybe. Teenagers are a lot more complex topic for discussion as there are a lot outside factors which influence them whereas the little ones’ environment is pretty narrow.

Do I think there are no bad children? Yes.

What are bad children anyways? Those who do not blindly obey or those who throw tantrums in the middle of Target shopping floor? What is BAD? I don’t know, honestly. Because if having emotional breakdowns, lack of impulse control (which is a part of development!) or not being able to express how one feels is bad, then, wow, adults are such hypocrites because sometimes they cannot do any of these 3 things but require a 4 year old to do so. That’s bad 😉

Do I think there are only bad parents? Absolutely not.

I strongly believe there are parents who are wonderful people but simply lack parenting skills. Many, if not most adults become parents without any knowledge of what it takes to be a parent. And no wonder – they have never done this! Children are unique little humans with their own needs, emotions and feelings. While it is absolutely transforming & life-changing, to become a parent and have kids, there is no manual on how to raise your kids to become great humans and survive at the same time. 

Unconditional love, support and a t t e n t i o n  are necessary ingredients to raise a happy child in my opinion. (Also, consistency but it is a secondary type of ingredient). I always say the best thing you can give your child is your TIME. This special connection is a way to understand your child. I say this because,sadly, there are parents who pass responsibility of raising their child onto a caregiver and assuming there is not much left to do, they lower their guard. Children that are nurtured don’t act out – they have no need to. Their needs are met, their world is safe and predictable. Boundaries, rules and discipline (the one that teaches, not humiliates) are healthy things. What is more, education has nothing to do with raising kids right. Values or principles cannot be taught anywhere except from your parents.

My advice would be: it will get really hard sometimes which is why is so important to establish rules, follow through and why being a united front is imperative. You are not the only parent who experiences parenting challenges. E V E R Y single parent does and every single parents is doing their very best.

You’ve got this!

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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!