I am the mother of a family of early birds. I'm convinced--but have NO scientific data to back this up--that we breed children like ourselves, even in sleep habits. All the time we're pregnant our kids must be attuned to our daily routine even in utero. For example, Cara is a not a morning person. As her former roommate, I will attest to her getting up in the mornings during college, taking a shower and then falling back asleep in bathrobe and toweled head until just before class. So when she told me her firstborn slept until 10 a.m. (bi#$h!) I was pissed, but not surprised. But I digress here.
Before children, I was a morning person. I was up at 7 a.m. and ready to greet the day. And was ready for bed by 10 p.m. My kids follow the same pattern for early morning wake up. You'll find my kids out in the yard as early as 7:45 sometimes playing hide-and-seek. Really, it hurts me just to write this. Ugh. As I'm no longer a morning person (probably because my kids have worn me down), I long for a sleep-in until 7:30....just one day!
But the point of this post is not to ramble on about sleeping in, because really, no one does it here and no one ever will. I've just come to accept that we have the early shift 'round this house. At one time or another, everyone must endure the early bird. And after a discussion in my mom's group recently, I was reminded of a brief stint (OK, it really was kind long one) when both my kids woke up even earlier than their normal pre-sunrise routine.
When my kids were babies, they were both pretty good sleepers. I was pretty strict about a bedtime routine. My kids had a routine and we stuck to it! But somewhere in the 12 to 13-month range, it all went out the window. Their sleep patterns changed. A lot. More so with my second than the first. She would wake up sometimes at 4:30 a.m. for the day. I remember driving her around at 5 a.m. trying to get her back to sleep. Did you know some Starbucks open that early? I did everything to try to change it. Moved naptime. Put her to bed earlier or later. Gave her another nap. Used black out shades. Used a noise machine. Nothing seemed to work permanently. With both my kids during this timeframe we were either enduring a move or having another child so I attributed this bad bedtime behavior with change, but I think in heart of hearts I knew it had to be more.
Mainly, I wanted to be sure my kids were getting enough sleep to keep them happy. So early risers got earlier naps (or a another one) and definitely a reasonable bedtime. I'm from the belief that "sleep begets sleep."
Since then I have watched the same pattern from friends' babies. Sure enough almost every mom mentions major sleep changes between the ages of 12-18 months. Some struggle for a month and some (like me) endure it for 4-5 months. Then one day....it just ends. The reason?
Well, I like to say it's a little thing called "busy mind." In the early toddler phase (12-18 months), Junior is learning to walk, run, talk, and do about a million other things. Their little brains are absorbing so much. Who has time for sleeping when you're a human sponge for information.
If you're new to this Baby Bunching gig, you'll notice that for many of us, this popular toddler sleep issue falls right around the time you're either A) largely pregnant or B) just gave birth. So chances are you'll chock it up to new baby and forget about it until the comes around again. You'll think to yourself: how can this be, my other child was just such a wonderful sleeper all the time. Maybe. But perhaps you had pregnancy/new mommy brain and just didn't care beyond survival at the time.
I wish I had tips to offer on this. My only tip is to realize it's short-lived. Kids go through so many sleep changes in the 12-24 month range and most really seem to be between 12-18 months. Other fun problems come up later, but kids really seem to start sleeping better by 19 months. That's the Baby Bunching promise. (We have nothing to back that up!) I did manage to teach my son at age two what sleeping until 7 meant, but I think that was a one-off since I can't seem to get him to do it now. I did just notice the ladies over at Parent Hacks had a sleep suggestion today. I'm pretty sure your 16-month old won't get this concept, but it's a good trick to use later on.
(Note: I wish I could say early rising ends. My children were both up at 6:20 a.m. this morning. Good times.)