Physical development – Toddler sleep problems

Getting a good night’s sleep with a toddler

There is nothing more beautiful than the image of a sleeping child. However, sometimes there are challenges at bedtime, so here are a few tips and ideas as to how you can help your toddler sleep! 

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Battles at Bedtime and Night-time Waking

It is time for our little ones to go to bed, and we are exhausted. But when we put on their pajamas, the performance begins! Some scream, cry or struggle, and we are tired and at a loss as to what to do next! 

And then when we finally get our toddlers off to sleep, we wander off to bed exhausted. But what can we do when not long afterwards they start calling out or crying? Of course, in the initial stages, we need to check that our toddler is healthy and comfortable (e.g. check their nappy, is it colic, is it too cold/hot, did they lose their dummy). If our little treasure is well and these events are happening nearly every night, then you should try to make some changes. It may be behavioural (your child wants some attention or has developed a habit), emotional (your child is worried, anxious, stressed), or psychological (they do not know how to self-soothe or are afraid of the dark). 

Regardless of the reason, here are some basic common sense strategies you can use to reduce the issues and hopefully help your toddler sleep: 

  • Make sure that you stick to a routine at bedtime. One way that works for many families is having a final milk feed, a warm bath, cleaning teeth, then hopping in to their own bed with mom or dad reading a book to them and then tucking them in.
  • Reassure your child that you will always be available even when you are not in the room. If you stick to a routine, your toddler will learn what is required and will know that the next day will come soon enough.
  • If your children wake and do not want to go straight back to sleep, you can leave a safe toy, blanket or even a book for comfort until they settle themselves. This should never be done with very young children though, as it may pose a choking or suffocation risk.
  • Ask yourself these questions – does my toddler still need an afternoon nap? Are the sleep / wake times reasonable for my child? Do they eat too close to bedtime?
  • Do not lift and play with your toddler during the night (unless of course there is a problem) because then they learn that if they call out or cry, a parent will come and play.
  • Do not rock them back to sleep (unless you are happy to do this every night).
  • Do settle them back down under their own bedding snuggly and securely with a comforting kiss.
  • Try not to turn on the light and only whisper if necessary. Keep all of your reactions to a minimum. 

Early Risers

After putting our toddler to bed, finishing the dishes, washing, drying and folding clothes, changing and feeding the baby and tidying up, we can finally go to sleep. Suddenly, it is the crack of dawn and our toddler’s sleep is over, they’re energetically out of bed after having rested for many hours and they are ready for the excitement of the new day. Five o’clock has barely passed on the bedside alarm clock and you struggle with having to tend to your toddler. So what can you do? 

  • Teach them to read numbers! Get a watch or clock with “arms” so you could show your child where the “little hand” should be pointing, before they should get out of bed (except if they are scared or not feeling well).
  • Instruct your child not to leave their room until this time (or unless someone else is up).
  • Make sure that the room is a safe environment filled with books (and toys) to entertain them while they are waiting for a parent to waken. 

Some children are early risers no matter what we do. Putting them to bed later can sometimes just mean we have a grumpy child at 6 am. The key is to encourage their independence in entertaining themselves until a more reasonable hour!

 
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