For the past several months (maybe even the past year?) we have been dealing with Julia waking up waaaaaayyy too early. She goes through lovely phases here and there where she doesn’t wake up until between 6 and 6:30 but those are few and far between. Her normal wakeup time is anywhere between 4:30 and 5:30 and nothing that we change seems to make a positive or consistent difference. She goes to sleep at a reasonable 2-year old time of 7/7:30. If she goes to sleep later than that she gets over-tired and fussy, rubs her eyes, and then ends up waking up even earlier. And logistically we can’t really get her to sleep much before then because by the time we get home, feed her dinner, give her a bath, get her in pajamas, brush her teeth and read her stories it’s usually pretty close to 7. What this means is that Ken & I are very very tired. So tired in fact, that it’s starting to affect our moods… we’ve been snapping at each other more and more, our patience levels are lower than normal, and we even lose patience with Julia more easily than we would if we were consistently getting more sleep. And Julia doesn’t know the difference between a Tuesday and a Saturday so we don’t get to sleep in on the weekends to make up for the sleep we don’t get during the week. When she’s up, she’s up and ready to go. We recently moved the TV into our room and we have started putting movies on for her to watch on weekend mornings so that we can at least buy ourselves some time to lay in bed and relax but neither of us can really sleep when she’s in bed with us because she tells us it’s “awake time” if she sees us closing our eyes and she likes to “climb up on Mommy” or “climb up on Daddy” if she thinks we’re not being entertaining enough.
I’ve asked many other parents what they recommend and the answers I’ve gotten are varied, but the most common one seems to be:
– Treat any wakeup before 6 AM like a middle-of-the-night wakeup: either do your usual “sleep training” routine or go in, tell her it’s time to go back to sleep, and then leave her room.
The problem with this is two-fold. 1) 50% of the time Julia wakes up with a dirty diaper. To me, leaving a kid to sit in their dirty diaper is a form of child abuse. I cannot do that to her. And if we go in to change her diaper and then put her back in the crib, she gets mad. Real mad. 2) The few times we’ve tried telling her it’s still night time and we’ve put her back in her crib to “go back to sleep,” she has screamed at the top of her lungs from the moment we put her back in her crib until the moment we go back into her room. This will not work for strong-willed children like Julia.
The last time we tried that, she climbed out of her crib about 20 seconds after Ken left her room. So what we end up doing is going in to get her as soon as she wakes up, changing her diaper and then bringing her back into our room where she nurses for 20 minutes and then is wide awake and wants attention. We’ve tried turning the light on in her room and telling her to go play in her room but she won’t have that: she wants attention from us. We’ve also tried just putting lots of books and toys in her crib so that when she wakes up in the morning there’s something for her to do. That hasn’t worked. She still screams the minute she wakes up.
We are down to two more solutions: Ken thinks that a nightlight might help, so I’m going to get one this week and we’ll see if that makes a difference. And the only other solution we can think of is to no longer allow her to nurse in the mornings. A few people have suggested that she’s waking up early because she knows she gets to nurse first thing in the morning and that maybe if she doesn’t get to nurse she won’t want to wake up so early but personally I think she’s just an early riser and there’s not all that much we can do about it. The only other solutions are for us to go to bed early (but with Ken needing to study in the evenings that’s hard to do) or for us to alternate getting up with her but the problem is that really means we each get one day (either Saturday or Sunday) to sleep in and that’s not enough. We need some sort of longer term solution. We have thought about possibly getting one of the “okay-to-wake” clocks that changes colors when you decide it’s time for them to get up… so it would be red until 6 and then at 6 AM it would change to green. I think our next step, after the nightlight, will be to get one of those clocks and to set the time for 6 AM, and to accompany the clock with a sticker chart. If she stays happily in her crib until the clock changes colors, she gets a sticker. We’re hoping these will work but who knows… it might just be that we have to wait it out and that is one of those “this too, shall pass” situations. All I know is that we need more time like this:
Luckily Julia’s so cute and sweet that it’s hard to be upset with her but a little more sleep would certainly make her good moments more fun and her tantrums easier to handle with love and patience.