How to Stop Early Morning Wakings with Toddlers - Online Sleep Coaching for Babies

How to Stop Early Morning Wakings with Toddlers

All Ages

Feb 9, 2021

When it comes to sleep training for your child, I KNOW the number one issue your family is going to struggle with for sleep training. As a pediatric sleep consultant, I have worked with families all over the world and they all struggle with this number one sleep issue: early morning waking.

Every family struggles with early morning wakings, and sometimes this issue can be your child’s ONLY sleep issue. You could have a baby who takes great naps. You could have a toddler who falls asleep easily at bedtime, sleeps blissfully all night long, and then thinks 4:00 AM is a great time to get up for the day! Let’s address that…

Why does your child wake early?

When we share about early morning wakings, I often get pushback from mom or dad like this: “I don’t want to be greedy. If my child only needs 10 hours of sleep, do I really need an extra hour?”

My answer is YES, your child needs that sleep! When I work with children between ages zero and five years old, we are looking for 11 to 12 hours all night long (*not for newborns—they still need night feedings).

Your baby needs a full blissful night of sleep to grow and be healthy and strong. You are not greedy for wanting one more hour of sleep in the morning! Nobody needs to start the day at 5:00 AM unless you have to.

What to do about early morning wakings

Early morning wakes for toddlers is probably the biggest issue when it comes to sleep. Unlike babies, there are many checkpoints that we need to be aware of. Recently, I worked with a family who was 7 days into the Preschool Sleep E-Coaching Program. Things were going so much better! After 7 nights, the child was falling asleep in under 15 minutes. However, the night wakings were becoming more frequent, and the nightly totals were falling from 10 hours to 9 hours overnight. 

When I took a look at the sleep log, it was so hard to figure out what was going wrong.

Toddler Sleep Log

CHILD WOKE UP: 5:30 AM

CHILD OUT OF THE ROOM: 6 AM

BEDTIME ROUTINE: 7:30 PM

CHILD IN CRIB: 8:15 PM

CHILD ASLEEP: 8:30 PM

NIGHTWAKINGS: 4-6 times, 5 minutes apiece

For a 3-year-old, this is not enough sleep overnight! But…what about nap?! As I talked with mom, I asked her when the naps were dropped. She replied, “7 days ago when we started the program!”

Naps are usually dropped between 2.5-3.5 years old, so it was perfectly acceptable that they made this decision. And I even recommend it inside the Preschool Program!

But…dropping the nap 7 days ago!! I knew exactly what we needed to do!

Since this child had only recently dropped the nap, the number one solution to solve early morning wakings was to move bedtime MUCH earlier. 

It’s nearly impossible to ask a child to all of the sudden be awake for 12-13 hours (or 14 in this case!) after having a midday nap to break it all up. 

Overtiredness for this child was the exact reason for early morning wakings.

So, I asked the mom to get her daughter to bed by 5:30 PM at the earliest or 6 PM at the latest. I understand that sounds crazy early, but for a 3-year-old who has been getting 9-10 hours of broken sleep each night, she needed an early bedtime to catch up on her sleep deficit! 

Just yesterday, 5 days after our conversation, the mom told me that she has been sleeping 12 hours all night long with ZERO night waking. Success!

How to create a sleep schedule that works

Now if you’re sitting here thinking, that’s great, Becca, but I don’t know my child’s schedule. I know your child’s schedule and I can give it to you right now!

At Little Z Sleep, we have a free tool called our schedule generator. All you have to do is answer a few questions and a schedule will automatically pop up on your phone for your child.

So I want you to tailor the awake times to create the schedule for your child! Just like this toddler’s issue, she wasn’t getting enough nighttime sleep. You will see when you get the schedule, “Is my child not having enough wake time? Or, they are getting TOO much sleep!” This is something you can change right now!

Now, deep breath. Maybe you already have your child’s schedule. Maybe you’ve already got those Blackout EZ Covers installed (cause you know I love them!) but you’re still struggling with early morning weeks and you’re feeling hopeless. What’s next?

A lot. There’s a lot that we are cover and on early waking on your blog and YouTube channel! Check out this playlist to help you extend your child’s sleep to get the sleep they really, truly need. You’re not greedy for wanting a little bit more and there is hope.

Sweet Dreams, see ya next time!
Becca Campbell
Your Pediatric Sleep Consultant

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how to fix early morning wakings with toddlers | Little Z Sleep

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