Sleep Advice for Toddlers
Sleep Advice for Toddlers
So, just when you think you have cracked your baby’s sleep routine, they reach toddlerhood. Even if you have had a great sleep experience with your baby, it does not guarantee that you’ll be free of some difficult nights as your little one goes through the toddler years.
With that in mind, we want to share the experience of one parent (Danielle) we have spoken to regarding her child’s sleep and advice you might find helpful. You might be having a similar experience yourself. For instance, Danielle said:
“I consider myself very lucky, as, from birth, my little boy seemed to settle into a sleep routine allowing us to benefit from many a great night’s sleep. But, unfortunately, it was up until he was around 18 months old when we hit a bump in the road.
“He began waking, sometimes frequently, in the night. There didn’t seem to be a specific reason for this. He wasn’t too hot or too cold or poorly, and his nap times seemed to be in line with those expected for his age. He was even happy to go straight to sleep when we put him to bed at 7.00 pm. However, from around 1.00 am onward, he would wake anywhere between 1-5 times until the morning.”
Does that sound familiar to your experience?
Before you read on
If you have a young baby and need some advice, you might find our other blog useful: Sleep Advice for Young Babies
Don’t Pull the Plug on Naps Too Soon
Most of the advice you might read suggests that children need a daytime nap up until the age of 3 years.
“My little boy had always had a pretty structure nap schedule. However, when he turned two years old, I reduced his nap to 1 hour (something some sleep consultants advise against).
“One sleep consultant I spoke to suggested that at just two years of age, your child can still have a 2-3 hour nap during the day without it affecting their nighttime sleep.
“I was apprehensive and, as with most advice, you should take your child’s individual needs into account. Nevertheless, I went with the advice and gave my son 2 hours of nap time each day. Sometimes he would wake early, but he would usually sleep for at least 1.5 hours.”
Danielle said that she saw a vast improvement in her son’s overnight sleep and was surprised that giving him more sleep in the day benefitted him.
Daytime naps are a crucial foundation for a good night’s sleep. Many parents stop their children from napping, hoping that it will help them sleep through the night. However, if naps are stopped when children are too young, this can lead to overtiredness, which harms a child’s ability to remain asleep throughout the night.
When your child reaches around 2.5 years of age, though, you may notice signs that they are ready to reduce their naps. Some signs include taking longer to fall asleep, which suggests they may not need it. You’ll know when the right time is for your child, but don’t be afraid to try reducing the length of their nap or switching to naps every other day. Eventually, as they approach three years of age, they might be ready to stop napping altogether.
A Consistent Bedtime Routine is Critical
Bedtime routines should remain consistent wherever possible. Consistency is critical to your child’s understanding of bedtime.
Tip: Don’t make your bedtime routine too long as this can have an adverse effect, and your child may become agitated and overtired.
We asked Danielle about her child’s bedtime routine, she said:
“Our bedtime routine starts at 6.15 pm, and we begin with a bath. His bath helps him to relax, and it’s a lovely way to start the bedtime routine.
“Something I have learned over time is that anything can set him off. So, where possible, I give him some choices about his routine to help him feel involved. For instance, I allow him to choose which pyjamas he wants to wear or which story he would like to read.
“Bedtime stories provide some special 1-to-1 time free from any other distractions. After storytime, the lights go out, and we talk a little about what’s happened during the day. I find this is a lovely way to round off the day and the final piece of the bedtime routine. I then say ‘goodnight’ and leave the bedroom.”
It’s so important to be consistent and set out your expectations with your child. “Another kiss” or “another story” might be words that ring in your ears. Our toddlers are very clever, and if you aren’t disciplined with yourself, you could find yourself continuously being called back into the bedroom several times after saying “goodnight”.
Moving from a Cot to a Bed
One of the most challenging parts of children’s sleep routines and arrangements is the point at which you decide to move your child from their cot to a bed.
Most of the advice you might read suggests that you should try to keep your child in a cot for as long as possible. However, at some point, your toddler might begin climbing out of the cot during the night, which means you might need to make the transition sooner to ensure their safety.
You might find the switch very easy at first and wonder what all the fuss is about. However, your child will eventually realise that they can move in and out of their ned bed with ease and no longer feel reliant on you.
Danielle told us that when her child noticed he could get out of bed easily, she experienced some difficult nights.
“On the third night of his new bed, my little boy kept getting out, and I would continuously have to place him back into his bed. It kept happening night after night, and I honestly wondered if it would ever end. I even sought out a sleep consultant to help me. I was given a method to try, but the most significant piece of advice I received was to be patient and consistent, which sounds simple enough, but it was exhausting at times.
“On the first occasion that I put my son back into his bed, I explained that he needed to stay in his bed until the morning. On all the other subsequent times he got out of bed, I kept going into his room and putting him back. I didn’t interact with him as it would stimulate him and sends a message that it is awake time rather than sleep time. Eventually, he understood what bedtime meant, and he has been perfectly fine most nights since then.”
It can be challenging and tiring if you are experiencing problems at the moment. We understand that sticking to a routine is far easier than it sounds, and many parents will find it hard to resist the temptation of letting your child sleep in your bed or similar. But consistency and patience almost always work, so do try to stick to it.
Items to Help You Along
There are several items that parents use to help support their child’s sleep routines. We have compiled a list of the things that seem to be the most effective for you below:
You will need to ensure that your child understands the idea of this clock; however, once they know that when the clock is blue, it means sleep and when it is yellow, it means awake. Therefore, it can be an effective tool in managing sleep.
You can set the time at which the owl goes to sleep and wakes up. It’s important, though, that you are realistic in your expectations. For example, many of us would love our toddlers to wake up at 9.00 am on a Sunday (!), but this is unlikely. So, set the wake-up time to something achievable for your child.
When moving your child from a cot to a bed, you may consider investing in a bed guard whilst they get used to being in a ‘normal’ bed. Unlike some of the traditional bed guards, which are unpleasant to look at, this particular bed guard sits underneath your child’s bedsheet and provide the guard to the edges of the bed that you need.
You may want to consider a night light for your child. Many parents say that their child starts getting nightmares during the toddler years. As children become more aware of their surroundings, a night light can offer reassurance. This particular night light is a warm white, so it shouldn’t interfere with your child’s sleep. It is also automatic and will come on as the room gets dark and go off when the room begins to get light again.
You might already have a blackout blind; however, many of them still allow light to come in around the sides of the blind. A blackout blind with suction cups means that the blind should fit perfectly to the window and not allow any light to come in from the sides, helping you achieve complete darkness. The fact that they are portable also means you can take them on family holidays with you or staying with relatives.