If your baby can’t seem to sleep or wakes up super early… this is for you.
If there is one Nugget of Truth I could give to first time moms when they are pregnant… it would be this.
You can (more or less) decide what time your baby will wake up for years to come.
No, I’m not kidding.
No, I’m not full of it.
Yes, I am serious.
Yes, I’ve done it 4 times.
It’s not because I’m a mythical supermom or because I have it all together. It’s because I was told this one piece of advice that is just Golden and it works. It works wonders. It has worked with 4 babies that have 4 separate personalities and I want to make your life a little easier today and share it with you.
Here it is…
You’re dying, right?
JUST TELL ME, you are saying.
Okay fine, I’m 38 weeks and 6 days pregnant and can’t handle this suspense making.
The way you get your baby to wake up at a consistent time each morning is to feed them at that exact time every morning.
I’m going to dig into how this works with babies of various ages below, but suffice it to say… it’s that simple. It is so simple one might even call it a Hack. Now, word of caution, if you have a 13 month old this will require a lot of consistency since their metabolism is likely set to a much earlier time.
I start this with my newborns and that makes it easier. But still, there is hope!
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Now, this will change as toddlers grow up, drop naps, and change eating habits. And, of course, we know babies aren’t robots who confirm to our every whim. That said, done consistently, this will help your children sleep later and it will help them be content if they wake early.
Feed your baby or toddler every morning at the same time
It’s that simple. Choose a reasonable time each morning and feed your baby or give your toddler breakfast at this time. The End. Now, you may have to gradually move breakfast back until your desired time since they are not used to this new time, but it’s worth the effort.
If your baby is screaming the house down, of course, I’m not saying starve the baby. However I’ve found babies wake early often and are content to play or be played with. Do this for 15 minute increments or until you’re able to move breakfast back without having a seriously fussy toddler on hand.
The reason this works? Their metabolism gets used to eating at that time and, at that time, they will wake up. It’s why you get hungry at noon if that’s your lunch break. It’s why your stomach growls for a snack when you’re used to eating crackers at 3:30 pm. Same for adults, same for kids.
If you are nursing throughout the night, time your early morning feeding accordingly
So, for babies who are still nursing at night, this can seem a bit tricky, but it doesn’t have to be. If your baby normally feeds at 5:00 am and is tempted to stay awake… wake yourself up at 4:30 and feed them. Follow these tips with swaddling and basic night feeding good practices and then try to wait until your desired wake time to feed them again. This may be 6:30 am or even 7.
If they generally feed every 2 or 3 hours at night and you want them to wake around 6:30 then feed them sometime between 3:30 and 4:30, even if they don’t wake. You wake them up and feed them then put them immediately back to sleep.
If they wake early, try to delay breakfast until your desired time
With a toddler, if they wake very early do not give them breakfast yet. You can let them play quietly with books or soft toys in their bed or room and simply start having breakfast at the time you desire each morning.
With my babies, they’d often wake up a tad bit early depending on teething, the sun, and time changes. However, unless they were going through a growth spurt and were truly starving at that early time (in which case I fed them) they were usually content to remain in the crib for a time playing, talking, or cooing. This is a good sign! It means with consistency they can learn to sleep later.
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Allow play in the crib or bed until time to eat
This may seem like a stretch to you, but allowing my babies to play happily in their cribs until our normal wake time has been a lifesaver. If you’re a tired mom, you need to grab hold of this. Its okay for your baby to play in their crib for 20 minute before you feed them. Our normal wake time is 7:30 am. Does this mean every child wakes at 7:30 am each day? No.
Some kids wake around 6:45 and play on their bed until I come. Sometimes they all sleep until 8:00 a.m. Regardless, unless there’s a growth spurt or we’re leaving the house early, no one eats until 7:30 a.m. And, before you send me hate mail, they are okay with this. In fact, we often push breakfast back until 8:00 because everyone is milling about in their rooms or playing.
Give big bedtime snacks if necessary
This is the name of the game. As soon as your baby is eating solids, be sure to give them a hearty bedtime snack before (or after) nursing at bedtime. This will often help them sleep another hour later each morning. I did this regularly with my first three kids, but when I had my 4th I was so busy with the Bedtime Routine that the snack slipped my mind.
When he didn’t get a snack, he’d wake up as much as one hour early! So if you know your kids are waking up starved, give them a hearty and filling bedtime snack that can help carry them over later in the morning.
Be consistent (but not legalistic)
This is pretty much applicable in all of parenting. We want to be consistent. Communicate our values. Keep our boundaries firm so the kids feel secure. Not be willy nilly changing our minds, changing the rules, and surprising our kids with “Don’t Do That!” when yesterday we allowed it.
And yet, sometimes we have to go with the flow. Growth spurts mean feeding when they are hungry. Time changes mean sleep disruptions. Being in survival mode means doing what it takes to survive. That is okay, that is fine. That is right. Keep consistent with your goals, but be willing to read your children and meet their needs in a flexible way.
As they say…
“Blessed are the flexible. They don’t break when bent.”
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I’ve created a free email series just for you! There are truly only a few reasons why babies and toddlers have struggles sleeping… really, I mean it. I am going to teach you the main 3 reasons and how to start making small changes to help your baby go from:
- fighting sleep to embracing it
- night wakings to sleeping through
- needing you to jump through hoops to going to sleep on their own
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