When a mum dialled into the Kinderling Helpline keen to solve her family’s early bird problem, resident mothercraft nurse Chris Minogue offered brilliant advice.
“He loves waking up at 5 o’clock in the morning”
Erin says her three-year-old has “been sleeping well through the night and not waking up he doesn’t have day sleep anymore. But he’s decided that he loves waking up at 5 o’clock in the morning.”
“He has a clock in his room that when it turns yellow, that’s when he’s allowed to get up. [But] he’s waking up at 5 and he’s yelling through the house and waking everybody up resulting in a very grumpy household for the entire day.”
Erin says her son goes to sleep anywhere between 7-730pm each evening.
“Some days he’ll fall asleep as soon as put him in bed, and some days I put him in bed give him his cuddle then I can hear him sort of talking to his bunny and reading a book to bunny while I’m sort of you know cleaning up the dishes or something like it varies from night to night really.”
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Chris explained that this little boy is caught in a bit of a cycle, but his early starts are more a preference than a necessity.
“He’s probably more towards the 7.30 [sleep] window, but he’s waking at five which makes for a longer day so you keep getting caught in the trap where one day he is tired, and one day he’s not tired. So if you’re timing is roughly between seven and seven thirty depending on his day, I think you’re doing really well.”
“I think [the early waking] is more of a learned behaviour and because of that five o’clock wake up, you don’t get the consistent 7.30pm bedtime because you have to keep judging if he’s tired or not.”
Chris advises tackling the problem from the early start and notes that the bedtimes should then correct themselves.
“I think we have to start at the 5 o’clock end of the day … and we have to just keep giving him the message that he’s [got to go] back to bed.”
Listen to mothercraft Nurse Chris Minogue:
Chris suggests a mindset of treating this early waking as if it’s the middle of the night (because gosh it feels like that) – and teaching your child that it’s totally unacceptable.
“I would treat this as if he had woken up at 3am in the morning because at the moment it’s still dark in terms of him waking up at 5 o’clock. If he calls out or gets out and comes to you, I would literally just walk him back to bed and tell him it’s time for sleep. If he calls out, I’d go to the door and point my little finger. Don’t yell at him, but use your mummy tone and say, ‘It’s time for sleep.'”
Both parents should adopt this approach, rather than mums always being the disciplinarian, Chris explains.
If he does get out of bed, Chris says, “I’d just march him straight back again and I think it’ll take you about five or six days. But I think he’ll get the message.”
Erin wondered if removing the toys from her son’s room would help, as he’s quite keen to get up and play with his cars.
“There is a cheeky way of fixing this,” Chris said. “If you get your portacot and stick it in the middle of the room, and then tell him if he gets off his bed you’re going to put him in the baby cot. When he gets off his bed you literally pick him up put him in the baby cot and he’ll be sitting in the baby cot and he’ll look very big in it.
“It’s sort of like a little bit of time out for that behaviour and that sometimes just flicks children over because they look at the portacot and they say to themselves, ‘I’m not going in there that’s where the babies go’ and they sort of learn to stay on their bed.”
If all else fails, Chris says removing toys may also discourage this early bird behaviour.