How to Help your Early Bird Toddler Sleep In
by Heidi Holvoet, PhD,
sleep parenting expert at Baby-Sleep-Advice.com
Saturday morning, no alarm clock to urge you to work, no packed lunch
to be made for nursery school … aahh sleeping in is so wonderful and
rewarding … But that was before your typical toddler
Because if there’s one thing many toddlers have in common, it’s waking
up early. Even the very good sleepers – going down at 7pm and nicely
sleeping through – have a good chance of waking anywhere between 5am
And unless you are an early bird yourself this probably won’t be your
favorite time of the day.
Luckily there are a few good techniques to help your toddler sleep a
First of all, let’s have a look at what can cause him or her to wake up
at that time.
5-6am is still night for most people and everything is but it
is also the time when some things start to change. And that’s the kind
of change that can easily wake your child up. Even more so because this
is a moment when sleep is typically light.
Things to look out for and avoid to keep your toddler from waking up:
- Is his bedroom getting lighter towards morning? Try to keep a
constant light throughout the night. Darkening blinds and blackout
shades combined with a dim night light are ideal. If you don’t have
those blinds and want to do a quick test: stick aluminum foil to the
windows for great darkening.
- Any noises starting to sound? This can be one family member getting
up early, or simply going to the bathroom. Or maybe the neighbors are
waking up and starting their day? Or the street may be coming to life
… Often these are sounds we don’t really notice as an adult anymore,
but they can be enough to keep waking your child up.
- Diaper wet?
A very wet diaper quickly becomes uncomfortable and an easy wake up
cause. Try a different size or brand to keep your toddler dry for
longer. Cloth diapers can be a good solution too.
- Too hot or too cold? During the night, many bedrooms tend to get a
bit cooler. Others warm up. Or your child may have twisted and turned
and uncovered himself. A constant temperature in the room and constant
covers are ideal to avoid waking up early. The perfect pajamas and a
toddler sleeping bag are ideal for this and have helped many a baby
sleep through and sleep in.
Night feedings are probably a thing of the past but hunger can make a
toddler wake up early. To avoid this, start with not offering breakfast
at 5-6am when he wakes. Top up his food intake if you suspect
a growth spurt or just a hungry phase … Do this by adding a little
bit to his meals and snacks spread during the day (not right before
There is a difference between waking up and getting up. Toddler hood is all about setting boundaries to help
your child understand the world around him. And to teach him what is OK and what isn’t. Demanding sleep doesn’t work. But it is reasonable to agree with your toddler that want him to stay in bed and be quiet until say 7 or 8 am.
- Talk to your child: discuss the morning wake-ups and explain to him
that mommy and daddy, and grandma and grandpa, … all sleep until 7am.
Explain that he/she is a big boy/girl now and can also do that. Just by
staying in bed quietly until it is OK to get up.
- Use a toddler alarm clock: a toddler
alarm clock makes it child’s play to know what time it is:
time to keep sleeping or time to get up. The really nice ones have a
simple picture that switches at your chosen time. Countless toddlers
happily learn to sleep in with one of these.
- Work with a sticker reward chart: a colorful sticker on mornings when
he/she stayed in bed nicely. Be flexible: getting up even just 15
minutes later on the first days is definitely worth an encouragement
Helping your early bird toddler sleep for longer may take a bit of
patience and time. Take a relaxed attitude, stick to
being confident and consistent with the above ideas and you’re
all set to see your weekend mornings much improved …