In this week's Q&A, I read a couple of questions from people who felt they were in a vicious cycle with their little one's sleep routine.
It's really tricky to know where to begin if your little one is waking at 5am. This early wake often leads to the addition of an extra morning nap due to them getting tired. This then impacts the sleep they'll take at lunch time and therefore they go to bed for the night overtired and wake early....this is the cycle and it's SO hard to break.
Now interestingly enough, the early morning nap and the overtiredness from lack of lunch sleep can be the CAUSE of the early waking. Children over around 15 months old who get a morning nap will learn they get this to catch up and therefore are more than happy to wake early. Children 15 months and under will probably take a morning nap, but do try to cap it if you can to the correct length for their age group so they don't use it as a catch up too.
So how do we break this? Sleep consolidation. This simply means working to get your child into a sleep cycle that is more regular and encourages them to consolidate most of their sleep into nighttime. It is going to take a little while and the horrible truth is, it'll feel like it's getting worse before it gets better so you really do need to hang in there. Short-term sacrifice for long-term reward.
First, choose a settling method, this is the way you will settle your baby at bedtime, night-wakes and early mornings. I have lots of options in my online programmes you can choose to suit your little one and your parenting style. Be really consistent here and ask any caregivers to do the same, they should have a positive impact within around five nights.
Once you've decided on this you are going to pick a day to get going and commit! Give me two weeks of commitment and consistency and you will reap rewards. Choose how you want your day to run to fit your lifestyle 6am-6pm, 7am-7pm, 8am-8pm - Whichever 12 hour window you choose, make sure it works around what you have going on in your life. We do 6.45am-6.45pm for example.
Get your baby up that morning at the time you'd like to start your day, if they wake earlier than this, continue to resettle with your chosen method until it's time to get up. This will be hard, they won't be happy if they're not used to having to wait. You can increase this day by day if they wake at 5am and you don't want them to wake until 7am for example. You can resettle for 30 mins more each day until their body clock adjusts. so Day 1 you get them up at 5.30 and praise them for waiting until then (rewards for older toddlers), then 6am on day 2 and so on and so forth.
They'll likely be tired if they woke early but do everything you can on those first few days to push as close to the nap as possible, check out my Instagram/Facebook post on tired cues to avoid getting them REALLY overtired but they will have to push through a little more each day to get their new routine on the go.
Follow their awake window as close as possible for that first nap and make sure you don't let them nap for too long (see my schedules). It can be hard to wake them but try to open curtains, turn off white noise and let them naturally wake if they will.
Keep going with this, sticking as closely as possible to the awake window for the next nap, you can extend it gradually over a few days.
As their sleep consolidates, you will find it gets worse before it gets better, but keep going and eventually you'll reap the rewards of it all.
My online programmes include suggested schedules month by month for your baby/toddler's age. They also have various settling tips you can try.
If you get started today...your sleep WILL be in a better place by Christmas, I promise. One thing at a time is the best way to tackle sleep issues.
Remember if the programmes are too much information to implement yourself, we can work 1:1 and get your sleep sorted together. This option gives you me on the other end of whatsapp/email/the phone to guide you every step of the way.