Does your toddler sleep through the night? Most do, but if your answer is a very firm ‘no’ then rest assured you’re not alone! Every child is different and they all reach certain milestones at different stages; your toddler might just need a little more persuasion than others about the joy of staying in bed at night time! That said, broken nights that drag on longer than two years can be incredibly draining and no doubt there have been days where you’ve felt you just cannot make it through to bedtime… We feel your pain. Here are some gentle sleep tips for toddlers that will hopefully help you and your toddler to get a better night’s sleep sooner rather than later.
Why the gentle approach?
Toddlers can be fickle little things at the best of times, and by the age of around 18 months or so any habit that they’ve formed will no doubt be very well formed indeed! Translated as- you might not find it easy to persuade them to break their habit of waking. By taking a gentle approach, you can make small progressions towards that full night’s sleep without disturbing or upsetting your toddler, or yourself. Gentle sleep training relies on working with your child’s needs and emotions in at the forefront of your mind. You allow your toddler to lead the way and you gently teach them independent sleep habits to replace their old habits.
Understanding sleep issues
Hopefully your toddler is able to talk to you and tell you why they’re waking at night times. Take some time to talk to them and ask them why, and explain why it’s a good idea for them to stay in bed to sleep at night times. It might be that your toddler reveals something that can be easily rectified- perhaps they’re missing a comforter or teddy bear, or perhaps it’s a fear of the dark preventing them from falling back to sleep when they wake.
Make sure your bedtime routine is calm
A calm and peaceful bedtime routine will work wonders for your toddler’s night sleep. And consistency is key here. Try to do your routine at the same time each night, with everything in the same order so that your toddler knows what to expect and when.
What to do if your toddler struggles to fall asleep
Sometimes it’s going to bed that poses the problem for toddlers. If you spend longer than you like putting your toddler to bed, and longer still traipsing up and down the stairs before they finally settle, then maybe these tips will help you:
- Agree to a bedtime that suits the whole family (and not just your toddler!) and stick to it. Let your toddler have a say if they’re old enough, so that they feel an element of control.
- Agree on a bedtime routine with your toddler, and stick to it so that there is no confusion as to when they’re expected to get into bed.
- Make sure your toddler’s bedroom is dim, and at the right temperature for sleep.
- If your toddler wants you to stay after the lights go out, this is fine for the first few nights. And if they call you after you’ve left the room, always make sure you go back into comfort them.
- If your toddler needs to you to stay while they fall asleep, then make sure you stay until they are definitely asleep- they will check!
- After a few nights, gradually reduce the length of time that you spend in the room, until your toddler is confident enough to fall asleep independently.
The aim here is to eventually put your toddler to bed, turn out the lights and go downstairs to put your feet up!
What to do if your toddler wakes in the night
If your toddler wakes through the night, the first thing you need to do is try and determine why. Is the room too hot, or too cold? Are they thirsty? Try to eliminate as many reasons as possible. Then repeat your gentle sleep training techniques as already described, until your toddler falls asleep again. It’s worth noting here that if your toddler wakes and asks to come into your bed with you, that’s fine to do- as long as you’re happy to bed share and you are able to do it safely. Read these guidelines to make sure you’re safe.
Remember that it’s important to stay positive with your toddler, and to celebrate every small achievement in this journey. They will develop better sleeping habits eventually, and while these days seem long we promise they will be relatively short-lived in the grand scheme of things. Good luck!