Sunday, April 19, 2009

Help! How to get a kid to sleep in longer??

Easter Sunday-23
Donovan's "usual" wake-up time has been between 6-6:15am for a while now. It's early, but ok. I can deal with 6am. Sometimes he sleeps in till 6:30, and once in a blue moon he stays asleep till 7am. But most days he's up by 6:15.

A few weeks ago he started waking up earlier, and ended up spending a good week waking up between 4:30 and 5am. Eventually that stopped, but then last week he started waking up a little early again-- 5:50, then 5:40-- and I could see the pattern possibly starting up again. We moved his bedtime back from 7pm to 7:30, and that seemed to do the trick... for a week. (he didn't sleep in any longer, just went back to his usual wake-up of 6-6:15, though his afternoon nap has gotten longer since we changed his bedtime)

Yesterday and today he's again woken up at 5:45am. I know it's not that much earlier than normal, but for some reason 6am seems like a line in my mind, where waking up after 6 seems ok but anytime before then seems like cruel and unusual punishment. And I really don't know what to do. Keeping him up till 7:30 has already been hard enough, so I'm loathe to move it back again (I also am not too keen on putting him down before 7pm, as that seems really early of a bedtime and wouldn't allow Zach much time to play with him at night). But I don't know what else to do to try to keep him from waking up so friggin early. BTW he already has light-blocking shades in his room.

I've read advice to just let the kid stay in his room until it's "time to wake up" but D usually wakes up crying in the morning which would mean sitting and listening to him cry for a fully 15 mins (or more) which I've not wanted to do. However I'm starting to not see that as such a terrible option. This morning I brought him back into bed with us, which I suppose is better than having to get up with him, but it's not like any of us get any more sleep that way.

Ugh. Am I being unreasonable? Is this too much to ask of a 14 month old? It's only been a couple of months since he started truly sleeping through the night, so maybe I should be counting my lucky stars that he's sleeping a solid 10-11 hours at night and make my ass go to bed earlier.

Any ideas or advice?


  1. It sounds like you might be better off if his whole schedule was shifted forward an hour or so. That way, he'd be going to bed at around 8:30pm and waking up at 7am.

    I find that Mira sleeps better at night when she's really worn out. We give her a bath right before bed every night. She loves her bath and kicks around and flails her arms to splash. The longer we let her do this, the easier she goes to sleep that night. So maybe it would work to find some very physical activity that he loves to do and let him stay up late doing that for as long as he wants. Doing this a few nights in a row might help to shift his schedule.

    The other thing you could try is giving him a snack immediately before bed. Something substantial that will stick in his tummy for a while. It's harder for kids to stay asleep if they're getting hungry in the night. If you're breastfeeding him immediately before bed, you might try supplementing that with maybe some egg or avacado or something else high protein because breastmilk is digested quickly and efficiently while high-protein solid foods tend to stay in the tummy longer.

    Also, make sure that his bed is comfortable for him and that he's not getting too hot or too cold at night. Sometimes kids will wake up from discomfort and be unable to get back to sleep. Along these same lines, his bed should be a place that he enjoys being. To that end, you might try and incorporate some daytime fun activities that include his bed: cuddly time or story time or music time in or near his bed. Having a mobile or another favorite toy in his bed will help, too. Does he have a "lovey"? If not, you could try to introduce one. Ideally, you want a firm stuffed animal with no buttons or removable clothing. Loveys can help him to feel safe and comfortable when you are not immediately next to him. The idea is to make his bed into a place where he likes to be. Hopefully, that feeling of peace will help him stay asleep longer. If nothing else, it might help him to be in a better mood when he does wake up.

  2. Thanks, Laura.

    We try to tire him out lots during the day, especially now that the weather's great and he loves being outdoors so much as it is. He always goes to bed very easily at night-- that's one of my hesitations with moving his bedtime back, that he seems pretty ready for bed by 7/7:30.

    He seems to like his bed well enough, he hardly ever has trouble when we out him down for naps or bedtime (a HUGE blessing). He hasn't taken to a lovey yet, I've tried introducing different things and he's got a blanket and a couple stuffed animals that stay in his crib with him, but he doesn't seem particularly attached to any of them.

    Right now our nightly routine is to get D down for bed (he gets dinner, a bath, book, bed) and then Zach and I eat dinner, and maybe we should try to switch that around so we keep D up later and all have dinner together (maybe that'll get him eating better at dinner, too) and then put him down...

  3. I agree that it might be a good idea to let him stay up "late" to eat dinner with his Mommie and Daddy. Family dinner time is a good habit to form anyway. Even though Mira doesn't eat solid foods yet, we still have her sit at the table with us when we eat dinner. She really enjoys watching us eat and we talk to her during the meal. Anyway, I'm a strong advocate of family dinners. Plus that way, you'd know your little man was going to bed with a full tummy. And if that keeps him up a little later, then perhaps his schedule will shift. Another thing you could do to help his schedule shift is to try to get him to take his nap an hour later than normal. (I know... good luck with that. It seems like some days when they are ready for their nap you could hang them upside down and they'd still fall asleep.)

    Keep in mind, that changes in his routine may seem to have a detrimental effect at first. He may feel all out of sorts for a few days while you transition him to whatever new schedule you decide on. The books I've read recommend that you keep with a new routine for at least a week before trying something different.

  4. Hi Marcy,

    I have been reading your blog for about a month and thought it was about time I introduced myself. I think I found you through one of the other Montessori blogs I read.

    As I read through your archives (I have only read bits and pieces, you are so prolific!) I am constantly struck by little parallels in our lives. I am a first time stay at home Mum of an adorable little boy who is just a couple of days younger than Donovan. I am a keen photographer and artist who struggle to find time to photograph anything other than our precious little guy these days! I am keen to follow many Montessori principles raising Eli, but am not being too strict about it. I have noticed other similarities as well, but they escape me right now.

    I have a suggestion about the longer sleep in. I haven’t tried this theory myself, but may give it a go in the next couple of days. Eli goes to bed between 6:30 and 7:30 and wakes between 5:00 and 5:30, quite often at 5:22! I am very grateful for the sleeping through the night it has only happened here in the last couple of months. Before our recent visit to the sleep centre he was a really bad sleeper still waking about every 2 hours at one year old – sometimes every 45 minutes, with huge dramas to get him to sleep for every nap and at night time. I was going crazy. At the sleep centre they said any waking after 5 was the start of the day, but before 5 to attempt to resettle. The theory I am going to suggest isn’t from the sleep centre; I think I read it on Ask Moxie.

    First determine what the most common waking time, then set and alarm in the baby’s room for about 5 minutes before that wake up time. Let them get used to waking up to the alarm for about a week then start moving the alarm time later and later by about 5 minutes at a time.

    I have been thinking about doing this for about a month, I haven’t yet as I am struggling with the thought of losing those few precious moments of morning sleep and trying to determine if I think it is just a little bit cruel to wake such a little guy with an alarm.

    Sorry for the really long reply, let me know what you think and how it goes if you give it a go.

    Thanks for your blog, I really enjoy it.


  5. Oh man...I have no idea but I'm right there with you and hope to learn lots from your experience! : )

  6. Hi there, I don't know if this will help at all, but some sleep books recommend putting the kid to sleep EARLIER in order to get them to sleep later. Totally counter-intuitive, I know, but it actually seems to work with Finn. He started waking around 5:30 about a month ago, and so we shifted the bedtime back to 6:30 and now he's sleeping through until 6 or 6:30 again. I know 6:30 is super early for bedtime, and we hope we can gradually move it later again. And of course, the longer sleep in the am might not last anyway! We also know some families that tried this and all they got for their trouble were hugely difficult bedtimes, so clearly it doesn't work for every kid. Just something to think about ... On a completely different topic, I just got the Tim Seldin book in the mail and I"m so excited! Lots of great ideas to try ... thanks for the recc. --

  7. Not sure if it would work for you, but when Alli wakes up before 6:30 a.m., I stopped getting her. She cries, but she always falls back asleep. It was really hard the first few times, but she grew to accept it and now it's not a big deal. She and I both wake up an hour later feeling much more rested.

  8. jessica5:58 AM

    i have no idea. me no have baby yet. does he sleep in all of those clothes? i liked that you cussed in this post. :0 lol

  9. Thanks everyone for the advice!

    Last night we put him down at 7pm (after LOTS of fun time outdoors) and he slept in till 6:20am. I'm realizing at least part of the problem might've been his clothes. He usually sleeps in a few layers b/c it gets cold here at night (even with a heater on our house has such poor insulation that it'll get really cold at night). But over the weekend it really warmed up. Unfortunately I never know what the rest of the night will be like -- will it be warm at bedtime but freezing at 2am, as often happens?-- so I've kept him in his usual pjs, but last night we ut him in a short-sleeved pair with just his sleep sack over them and he slept better. I'm also thinking part of the problem the other times might've been the opposite-- too cold to sleep well. I guess I need to start checking the weather report before putting him down at night...

    Kylie- How funny! Glad you introduced yourself. =) That's a neat idea about the alarm (I have often wondered how kids are supposed to know when it's "too early" or "time to wake up"). Unfortunately I think there's something in me that is so averse to purposefully waking up a sleeping kid... not to mention how much I dislike waking to an alarm and not wanting to impose that on him yet! lol

  10. Um... it seems to me the only logical solution to your problem is that if the kid wakes up before 6:00, then it's Daddy's turn to get him. This is how Daddy makes up for the quality time he misses when he's off doing that "working" thing.

  11. My previous questionw were all answered here, nevermind! Sounds like you've got it all under control now and my kid's sleep is still hit or miss but leaning more and more towards hit. In any case I'm a big believer in "sleep begets sleep" so totally agree with the mom who suggested going to bed earlier. Also with his improved nap schedule I'm sure you've seen improved night sleep. That's been the case with us. I found you through Mamasource and I'm loving your blog. Very well written and so in line with all that we're going through too!

  12. Oh yeah, and the No Cry Sleep Solution gave us lots of great ideas including "carbing her up" before sleep...a big help! We did finally get her to take a lovey by picking out something she seemed to like a little and then lavishing TONS of love onto it in front of her. "Goodnight piggy, mommy loves you piggy, sleep well piggy, see you in the morning piggy..." In less than a week she was head over heels for her little piggy.

  13. I'm a friend of Becky and Laura's (Becky sent me here), so hello! I agree with what foodsmith said - earlier bedtime is key! It sounds totally wacko, but it's true. When our pediatrician told us to try that, we were like, wha??? but it did work. Kiarda goes to bed around 7, and on the weekends when we don't have to get her up so we can get out the door to work, she'll wake up around 7:30, nurse, and go back to sleep until any time between 8:30 and 9:45. (9.5 months old now)

    Becky talks about you often, as we compare stories of crazy reflux and super fussy kidlets - and by fussy, I mean screaming bloody murder all. day. and. all. night. long. for the first four months of life and then simmering down to a on-off switch of happy to screeching. If you're interested in following our blog, shoot me an email to anjea 214 at gmail and I'll send you an invite. :) Look forward to reading your blog some more!



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