Q&there-is-no-A: Stopping early waking

This post is for Fahmi and Kellanne and Nikki, and for everyone who's written to me over the years or not even bothered to write,and for the thousands of other parents who have gone through this and just suffered in silence or just cried.

Some kids go through a phase (during toddlerhood or late toddlerhood) in which they wake up really early, like between 4 am and 6 am. And they're up for the day. And there isn't anything you can do to get them back down to sleep.

I do not have a solution. I have a bunch of suggestions for things that you can try, and one or more of these things have worked for some people. But there are many, many, many other parents who have tried all of the things on the list I'm about to put up and others I haven't even thought about, to no avail.

Here's the list of things to try:

  • Blackout shades (Either ones you buy or ones you make with cardboard or aluminum foil)
  • Changing the child's diet to exclude gluten, dairy, soy, and/or other common allergens
  • White noise machines
  • Making the room warmer
  • Making the room colder
  • Putting more or fewer clothes on your child
  • Earlier bedtime
  • Later bedtime
  • Cutting down (or out) naps
  • Increasing naps
  • Listening carefully to figure out if there are any ambient noises (like a neighbor starting a car) that might be waking the child up
  • Moving a child out of a sibling's bedroom
  • Moving a child into a sibling's bedroom
  • Praying to a higher power
  • Giving up belief in a higher power
  • Making charts about appropriate wakeup times (although this often works for kids closer to the age of three, so don't disregard it entirely)
  • Buying fancy clocks

Again, some of these things have worked for people, so try them. But know that many parents, good parents, smart parents, parents who have solved all kinds of weird parenting issues, have never been able to get past this one.

This is my white whale. Every other question I've gotten has either been solvable (Drop in milk supply during your period? Check. Kid starts screaming exactly an hour after he goes to sleep for the night? Check.) or bearable (The 4-month sleep regression will be over in a few weeks. Check. Your hair's falling out in clumps at a month post-partum? Check.) or so unusual that it only affects a few people (In-laws selling pot during Christmas dinner. Check. Your neighbors tell you that they hear you having sex through your baby monitor and their cordless phone? Check.). But this early waking thing affects SO MANY OF US and yet we haven't been able to figure out how to stop it.

The only good news about it is that it eventually goes away. Unfortunately, it takes months. But it does go away.

I promise you that there will come a Saturday morning in which your child will wake you up at 7:30 am and you will be annoyed because 7:30 is too early for a Saturday morning. And if it doesn't happen, you can borrow one of my children and he will wake you up at 7:30 on a Saturday morning. Guaranteed.

Thoughts? Who out there could never solve the early waking thing? Did you go the despair route, the rage route, or the demoralized acceptance route?