Q&A: Does letting your child cry it out work in the morning?
I have a question concerning early morning waking with my toddler. My younger son Darrion is 22 months old and wakes up every morning at around 5 AM to request milk and mommy. I have been giving in and letting him sleep snuggling with me. Then last week he began a pattern of seeming unsatisfied with that arrangement. No matter what I did I couldn’t make him happy. So now I am thinking of letting him cry it out. I’m just not sure how that would work early in the morning. He might just cry until it’s time to get up, and then I’d have to “reward” the crying by picking him up. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks.
If the current arrangement—being woken up at 5 by a toddler that remains unsatisfied–isn’t working for you, then retraining him to sleep later or to expect to have some quiet time alone is the way to go.
The first thing to consider is whether his bedtime is early enough so that he is ready to be awake at 5. Most toddlers need a solid nine to 10 hours os sleep each night, but some need less, especially if he takes big or late daytime naps. Perhaps moving his bedtime an hour later would shift him to a later awakening. If not, and this is merely a pattern of behavior he has become accustomed to, then letting him ‘cry it out’ is a way to change his expectations. The two ways are to gradually increase the amount of time that goes by before you reassure him (though he remains in his crib) of by going ‘cold turkey’. With either method it usually takes less than a week for toddlers to accept the new pattern, if you are consistent and don’t back down. It’s also unusual for the crying to last for more than two hours, which would bring you to 7 AM. But your point about not rewarding him when crying by picking him up is right. It would only show him crying is the way to get what he wants. If you are on a schedule and need to get him up for daycare by a certain time, you may want to wait until you have five to seven days off before trying to retrain him.