I have been contacted by a client who would like some advice about early risers! I worked with this family in 2013, as a night nanny, for their twins, who are now 15 months old. This is what their mother has asked me:-
“Sleep on the whole is good – they go to bed and nap really easily but like to wake early in the morning between 5.30am and 6am. We give them milk and hope they will go back to sleep but often that is the start of their day!!! They still have a morning nap 9 – 9.45/10 ish and two hours after lunch. They do not sleep after 3pm and go to bed after a bath and story at 7pm. Any tips to get a slightly later wake up time?”
Early rising is one of the trickier sleep issues to solve, as by the time the twins are waking at 5.30am they have already had 10½ hours sleep. However, I would expect a 15 month old toddler to require approximately 11½ hours sleep at night and between 2 and 2½ hours during the day. By waking at 5.30am every morning the twins are losing up to 7 hours night time sleep per week, which they are potentially “catching up” on during the day.
After 12 months it is natural for the morning nap to begin to be reduced and eventually dropped. Some toddlers do this more readily than others. The twins are still managing to have their total amount of sleep each day, as they still have a morning nap, but it would be worth considering reducing then dropping this nap and hopefully they might then sleep longer in the morning.
The best way to drop a morning nap is to gradually reduce the time the twins sleep for. I would suggest reducing the length of nap by 10 minutes every other day. Here is a plan based on the twins having a one hour morning nap:-
Day 1 and Day 2 Wake after 50 minutes
Day 3 and Day 4 Wake after 40 minutes
Day 5 and Day 6 Wake after 30 minutes
Day 7 and Day 8 Wake after 20 minutes
Once the twins have had a 20 minute nap for two days it would then be possible to completely drop the morning nap. The transition from two naps to one is often tough for toddlers and sometimes it is necessary to bring lunch forward for a few weeks, to 11.45 / 12 noon, so that they are able to eat their lunch before having an afternoon nap. I would allow then a maximum of 2½ hours nap after lunch.
Another reason for their early waking could be that their tummies have been “programmed” to expect milk at this time, and they could be waking up because of hunger. By 15 months the twins do not need a bottle of milk as soon as they wake in the morning. Once they are up and about they could be offered a small cup of milk from a sippy cup to quench their thirst, and then have a further cup of milk with their breakfast. Reducing the volume of milk at 5.30/6am could also have the added benefit of the twins eating a more substantial breakfast, which would in turn help them with dropping their morning sleep and reaching lunchtime.
The best way to drop an early morning feed is to gradually reduce the volume of milk the twins are offered, so that their tummies are “re-educated” to not expect a feed at such an early hour. I would suggest reducing the volume of milk the twins are drinking by 30mls every three days. Here is a plan based on the twins drinking 180mls of milk:-
Day 1, 2 and 3 150mls
Day 4, 5 and 6 120mls
Day 7, 8 and 9 90 mls
Day 10, 11 and 12 60 mls
Once the twins have been offered 60 mls of milk for three consecutive days, I would not offer them a milk feed at this time.
One further point to consider might be to offer the twins a pre-bedtime snack of cereal, depending on how early they eat their tea / supper in the evening, and how much they eat. I sometimes have found that toddlers begin to dramatically reduce the amount of food they consume, as they often only eat enough to take them from “hungry” to “not really hungry”, and then they become distracted by far more urgent things to do – like spoon throwing, cup spilling and thinking about what mischief they can get up to after the meal!!! By offering them a snack just before they go to bed, you are then able to ensure that they are absolutely full and satisfied, even if they have not consumed a great deal of food during the day.
Good luck and keep me posted!!
Best wishes – Sarah
© Sarah Wheeler – The Maternity Nanny 12 January 2015