If your toddler is up at 6 a.m. cheerful and happy, it may be a strain on you but it’s actually fine for her; that’s a common wake-up time for little kids. To shift her body clock, you can try to get her to sleep between 7:00 and 8:00, and make sure that she’s getting enough naptime. But if she’s waking up before then, you may want to teach her to sleep later — for everyone’s sake.
When she gets up too early, respond immediately. Your goal is to get her back to sleep quickly, not to let her scream herself awake. Give her a lovey (but not a bottle) and try to soothe her to sleep without picking her up — try rubbing her back. No matter how much she protests (and she may protest a great deal), don’t turn on the lights or take her out of the crib. Letting her out, especially if it’s dark, sends a confusing message.
How can a 1-year-old understand why she can get up in the dark at 5:45 a.m. but not at 2:15 a.m.?
Some parents find if they stay in the room, it just stimulates their baby into being more awake. If you decide to stay after you’ve soothed her, keep the interaction to a minimum. Try sitting in a chair by her crib with your eyes closed. That will help you keep from engaging her, and it sends the message that it’s still night-night time.
If she’s still awake when the clock finally strikes 6:00, leave the room for a minute or two. If you’re already out of the room, come back and put on a good-morning show: Open the blinds, turn on the lights, sing a cheery song. You want to make it very clear to her: “I’m getting you out of the crib because it’s time to wake up — not because you were carrying on.”
Kim West is the author of Good Night, Sleep Tight, CDS books, copyright 2005 by Kim West and Joanne Kenen.