I have two kids. One has always been an early riser, waking before the birds – Every. Damn. Day. The other sleeps in until 7 am. They both go to bed at the same time and also sleep in the same room, which has dark curtains. Because of this, I know that my eldest’s early rising habit has nothing to do with him being woken up by the light of day, or going to bed too early or too late. Rather, it has everything to do with his natural body clock.
For this reason, this post isn’t about how to train your early riser to wake up at a reasonable hour. I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t (and yes I’ve tried all the fancy clocks and ‘helpful’ suggestions out there), instead it’s about how to survive those bleary-eyed mornings so you don’t feel like the walking dead for the rest of the day.
I hope these little tips from another mum in the trenches help you out.
1. If you can’t change it, accept it
The first thing I had to do when learning to cope with my son waking before dawn for five years in a row now (yawn), was to accept that this is just him. I had driven myself around the twist trying to train him to stay in his bed and to sleep longer. But by 5.15 am, he’s honestly gotten his quota of sleep and is ready to start his day. The sooner you accept this, the better.
2. Enjoy bed snuggles
When your little one cries out for you at some ungodly hour or snuggles in next to you to wake you up because, “Mummy, it’s morning,” you have a chance at cuddling him back to sleep in bed with you. If this doesn’t work and you know early morning snuggles are just a prelude to TV, then enjoy them while you can. He won’t do this forever and you will miss his warm little body next to yours one day.
Read more about sleep:
- New study shows “bedtime fading” helps fix toddler sleep issues
- How to create the very best bedtime routine for sleep-resistant toddlers
- 7 things that will happen when your toddler starts climbing out of his cot
3. Teach him to turn on the TV
If your early riser is old enough, have the TV set to ABC Kids and teach him to push the ‘on’ button on the remote. Don’t fuss with streaming because you don’t want to have to get up out of bed to put on Paw Patrol for him again because it cut out. The rule is in our house it’s ‘normal TV’ until the sun rises.
4. Make up a TV bed
If your early riser is too little for you to just flick on the telly and go back to bed yourself, then you’ll need to make up a couch bed next to him. Even if you just doze in and out to a background soundtrack of Bananas in Pyjamas and Postman Pat, a few minutes of shut-eye will help you to cope with the day.
5. Go to bed early
The biggest and the best thing you can do to cope with an early riser is getting more sleep yourself. This means you’ll need to adapt your sleep to his routine and go to bed not long after he does at night. But don’t worry, you won’t be doing this when he’s 14, staying up until midnight and then sleeping in until midday. This is all just a stage.
6. Give him a bowl of Cheerios and go back to bed (if you can)
So that you are not harassed by the ‘I’m hungry’ whines not long after turning on the telly, give your little one a bowl of dry Cheerios to munch on and a cup of milk to drink. Cheerios are the best cereal for this because they are just the right size for little fingers to grip. If you keep this sans-milk, handing him a sippy cup of milk instead, it also won’t be messy.
7. Turn on all the lights
My little guy is scared of the dark and I’ve learnt if I turn on the bathroom light, and all the lights leading to it, that he will go to the toilet on his own without waking me or calling out for me to escort him there.
8. Enjoy the sunrise
If going back to bed just isn’t going to happen for you, take a moment to enjoy the sunrise. Being up at the crack of dawn every day is a cold and lonely time, but it is also the time when the sun puts on its best show. Enjoy all the beautiful sunrises and know you aren’t really the only person awake. Somewhere in another house not too far away, another tired parent is boiling the kettle for an early morning coffee, too.
9. See the positives
Having an early riser is tough but there can be some positives. Maybe it’s that you don’t have the going to bed tantrums that other families face because your little one easily falls asleep by 6.30pm every night. Or maybe his early rising means you get to spend some special one-on-one time with him before the rest of the household wakes. Whatever it is, try to focus on that, rather than on your jolting start to the day.