Toddler waking early for an odd reason

Bayley writes:

"My son will turn 2 in two weeks. He’s recently (since we
weaned at 21 months) started sleeping all night in his crib, which is,
obviously, fantastic. However, over the past month he’s woken up early nearly
every single day with a big problem: he has to poop. Between 5:00 and 5:30 AM,
he wakes up in his crib and yells for me to get him. I take him to the bathroom
and he poops, and then he’s awake for the day. The problem—besides the obvious
I’m-being-awakened-at-the-asscrack-of-dawn-for-poop—is that he needs more sleep
than he’s getting. He goes to bed at 8PM. He naps about 2 hours in the
afternoon. That doesn’t add up to enough sleep for him. I know this because,
before this pooping problem started, he would sleep from 8PM to 6:30 or 7AM.

How can I shift his poop schedule? I have tried moving
dinner-time later with no success. I also cut out fruit after midday, again
with no success. We need some suggestions. I’m pregnant again, and waking up in
the dark day after day is starting to wear on me."

Gah! Things no one ever tells you could happen, for real.

You've already done the first couple of things I'd have suggested. I'm wondering if you could give him either prune juice or a warm beverage (like fruit "tea" like Red Zinger) later in the morning to see if that could get his bowels on a later schedule.

I do think this is eventually going to shift to a later schedule anyway even if you do nothing, but in the meantime you're too tired and he's too tired, too.

Has anyone been through ill-timed pooping with a toddler? Did you do anything that shifted the schedule?


18 thoughts on “Toddler waking early for an odd reason”

  1. Is it an option to put him to bed earlier for a week or so? Both of mine went through rest pooping around two. Every time they went in their room for any sort of rest they would poop eventually. I honestly think it was less the actual need to poop and more the drive to wake up or rather not rest. I would personally try just to catch him back up on sleep and the pooping will take care of itself.

  2. My son, since birth, has been a morning pooper….like start fussing with gas and discomfort from as early as 4am until the big event. Nothing I did to try and shift his schedule has worked so I think I would aim for an earlier bedtime. That was our only solution (bedtime is 6ish, he just turned two).On the bright side, I’ve seen a lot of sunrises.

  3. This happened to us for months from November-February. It sucks. Not knowing whether she was awake that early because she pooped or because she was just up made it hard because we didn’t want her sitting in poop since she has a history of diaper rash. How do you ever potty train a kid (21 months now) who wants to poop at the crack of dawn?I don’t know if she just needed to be relaxed to poop or what. For us, it just sort of stopped on it’s own. Now we are dealing with the opposite issue.

  4. Oh my god, this happened to us, too, and I really thought we were the only ones! When it happened, we took a ‘this, too, shall pass’ attitude and were sleepy as hell but I was 7 and 8 months pregnant so pretty tired anyway. It turned out that, yes, she’s a morning pooper but also she was getting another tooth which was keeping her from sleeping heavily enough to ignore the ‘i have to poop’ feeling. Once the tooth emerged, all was fine again.

  5. This happened for us when our child was a toddler, and again at least a few times during his early childhood years (meaning, we blessedly get to sleep through it when it happens now, but it still means *he* doesn’t get enough sleep and is less happy & pleasant for it!). It always just passes on its own–we haven’t tried to change it–so I have no useful advice. But it IS very frustrating and sometimes exhausting for everybody! And it does take care of itself, eventually.For what it’s worth, our child more generally often realizes he needs to poop at times of rest (going to bed, half-awake in the morning, afternoon quiet time, just plain ol’ lulls in family activity), which makes sense to me: it’s like he has a moment to pay attention to his body’s signals instead of other, far more interesting, things.

  6. Our first child started pooping during naptime shortly after she gave up napping (or maybe they happened at the same time, which may explain why she gave up napping). She was right around 2 then. I tried everything people suggested to try to shift her pooping schedule because she liked to play in her diaper and wouldn’t call me when she pooped. *sigh*Guess what? At 4 years old, she still poops at the same time of day. Thankfully, now she’s potty trained and takes care of it herself, but she still needs that quiet time (we still do a quiet play time) before she can go poop. If she doesn’t get her quiet time for a day or two, she doesn’t poop.
    So, yeah, I don’t offer a lot of hope. I suggest trying everything to shift his schedule since waking up for the day at 5:30am totally sucks. Hopefully something will work. If nothing does, then shift his bedtime earlier (and yours!).

  7. I really wish I had an answer, but right now I’m kind of just relieved I’m not the only one with an ill-timed pooper! My daughter turned 2 a few months ago and her sleep has almost always been screwed up because of an ill-timed poop, but for us it’s the nap that’s most affected.Poop #1: in her diaper as soon as she wakes up (or maybe that’s what wakes her up?)
    Poop #2: in the potty after lunch
    Poop #3: in the crib at naptime, either before she falls asleep or right after, resulting in no nap 75% of the time
    Poop #4 (sometimes): in potty after dinner
    None of these are small poops, and they’re all “normal” (decent size, not diarrhea). She’s a big (and very healthy) eater, so I’m not sure what to change there.
    I’d like to get her to bed earlier to help make up for all the sleep she’s missing (she gets 10 hours max), but she’ll insist she needs to sit on the potty and drag that out until she finally does poop again. Usually she eventually DOES poop when she says she needs to, so I feel like I can’t skip/rush that time. I took her off the potty after 20 minutes with no poop the other night, and she pooped at 3am. WHY IS THERE SO MUCH POOP??
    Anyway, I’ll be watching this thread for any tips.

  8. I’m not sure if I’m scientifically correct on this one but our son gets 10-11 hours a day total of sleep and has for awhile now, and it seems like enough. We are in the WIO camp, son is almost 2.5, and there have been days recently (not consecutive) where he hasn’t had a nap but slept more at night (still always averaging 11 hours per 24 hour period). We haven’t done any potty training per se yet as he hasn’t seemed interested. There have definitely been times for the past year when he hasn’t been able to sleep (whether for nap or bedtime) and low-and-behold if we let him run around for a bit, big ole poop fest. Then fast asleep fairly soon after.Anyhoo, though this might be a PITA, maybe you could go to bed earlier too?

  9. The OP’s son is by my calculation getting 11 hours sleep. At 2 the average is 11.5 hours, but anything between 11 and 12 hours is the range. As per the sleep expert I saw after my daughter gave up her nap at 18 months. However broken, and she woke three times a night she got over 10 hours and was fine as per the trained observation.You know, could concentrate on things. I couldn’t. Being screamed awake three times a night made me a zombie.
    It’s normal to poo when you wake, as the need to is suppressed when you sleep. And it sounds to me that’s when he wakes, 5.30.
    An earlier bedtime and shifting the day forward for the adults too might help? So not an expert…..

  10. Instead of re-scheduling the poop, I’d try and look big picture on this, especially with an incoming newborn on the way, and try and get him used to the idea of going back to bed a bit. Yes, the disturbed sleep still sucks but you may, after getting him snuggled back in, get a quick nap for yourself that way before truly starting the day. My youngest is more amenable to this idea than my eldest has ever been but at three, she will now get up, go to the bathroom, and go back to bed until we get her up later (this didn’t happen till she was out of the crib of course…but we did lay the ground work that we stay In Bed till it is time to get up and 5:00 is not time to get up).Good luck!

  11. Honestly my 2nd and 3rd kids started this kind of early waking in toddlerhood without any poop-related impetus. They would just be UP UP between 4:45 and 5:30 without any rhyme or reason. And would not go back to bed for anything. I’m not sure if it’s starting to change or if it’s just masked by the DST change making it seem better but it’s been 2ish looooooooong early years over here. And none of the tricks I tried worked. They were just up. For the day. The book Sleepless in America had some decent ideas and some general “this isn’t abnormal or harmful, they may just be wired this way and you might have to just wait it out until they can get up early by themselves.” So try that book if you’re looking for advice/commiseration as well.

  12. I would suggest one of those clocks that glows red for when they are supposed to be in bed and green when they can wake up. If he gets up to poop, fine, but he has to go back to bed until the light turns green. You start out having it turn green a few minutes after you put him back to bed, then gradually lengthen the amount of time until he’s getting up when you want him to. We did this with our son when he was waking early to pee and he eventually went back to sleeping till 7. Even now if he wakes to pee (this morning at 6 for example) he asks to go back to bed and sleeps until his regular time.

  13. Thanks, everyone, for your suggestions. It is a vexing problem, to be sure. We’ve actually improved the situation a bit around here, through no action of my own. More than half the days now, he’s sleeping till 6 or 6:30, then pooping after breakfast. He still has his early poop days, but they seem to be lessening. I suppose, as with so, so many things in parenting, I just have to wait it out. I look forward to hearing more stories of this, though, as it’s not often talked about.

  14. We’ve gone through periods of this, though thankfully short lived. DS tends to poop at the same time of day for weeks or months on end, and then all of a sudden, whoops! it changes to a new time. Honestly I haven’t figured out any correlation to why it changes when it does. The worst was when his time to poop happened to be during our 30 minute am commute. Not fun…The only other thing I can think of trying is to try and get him to exercise/move a fair bit after dinner (or even in the late afternoon), which encourages a bowel movement. Exercise is recommended if you’re constipated, and I can tell you that exercise works like clockwork to get the dog to poop. 🙂
    And there is also an outside chance that he’s just started waking early for another reason, and if he’s awake, why not go pooh? Hopefully the 6/6:30 trend will continue and even extend back to 7am.
    Nothing but commiseration…

  15. Yes, we’ve gone through periods of this too, but like @the milliner and others, it’s always been short lived. I don’t why they go through phases where they get into a weird poop schedule that either keeps them up or wakes them up early. I definitely recommend patience and an earlier bedtime. (But my toddler needs/gets more like 13 hours total, 2 hr naps – varies – and 11 hours sleep at night.) I’ve found with my kids that 9 hours of sleep at night isn’t enough to keep them emotionally glued together, even if they get a nice long nap.

  16. Could it also be that he needs less sleep than he used to? Regardless, personally I wouldn’t go to any huge effort to fix this. To me, it’s one of those short term things that will work itself out.

  17. I agree I think it is just a short term thing because my mother told me she experienced the same thing with me when I was younger. It doesn’t affect me anymore but my toddler has the same problem so maybe it could be genetic I wonder. Anyway I’m fine as an adult so I’m sure your little one will be fine.

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