We have so many readers at their wits end write in with various issues when it comes to their toddlers and sleep. It can be one of the most trickiest issues you’ll face as a new parent. The Parent and Baby Coach Heidi Skudder is on hand with five easy steps to help fix common sleep problems – this is a MUST read!
After all those months of sleepless nights and feeding, your precious bundle is now a little person and an active one at that! As your little one turns from a baby to a toddler, they experience huge developmental changes and important milestones are met – talking, walking, running, understanding and communicating. Your child needs their sleep at this point more than ever… So what happens when your toddler is not sleeping? Endless nights of crying or shouting, tired parents and a child who is so overtired that it starts to show in their behaviour – all stories we have heard from friends and colleagues with children who don’t sleep. Sleep regression in the second year is common and can happen, the most important thing you can do for your child is be consistent and go back to basics. Starting with step one….
- Step One… Are they having enough rest during the day?
Most children still have their lunch time nap right up until the age of 2.5 to 3 years, so napping remains an important part of their day (not to mention a good break for Mummy). If your toddler is starting to have broken night time sleep, have a think about what is happening in the day and you might soon realise why.
A child of 18 months for example should still be having a nap of 1.5-2 hours during the day time, any less than this and they are likely to go to bed over tired. If your child is overtired at bedtime, their level of cortisol (the stress hormone) is higher, which in turn means they are more likely to wake during the night and in particular during the early morning. Of course you can also have a child who sleeps too much in the day and won’t go to bed, if this is the problem then you need to be thinking about cutting down that middle of the day nap.
- Step Two….How does your child fall asleep?
Do you allow your toddler to fall asleep on their own after your bedtime routine, or does your toddler fall asleep in your arms/whilst drinking its bottle or even with a dummy? These are all common sleep problems I see in young children and can affect their night time sleep. If your child is used to having something to help them fall asleep, when they fall into light sleep during the night they are more likely to wake. So encourage your child to fall asleep naturally on his own and watch the night waking improve.
- Step Three… Bedtime routines…
Giving your toddler a consistent bedtime will mean that they are more likely to settle well, behave better and be less over tired. Be strong at bedtime and remain in charge, have rules on the number of stories allowed, the rules on falling asleep and allow your child to know what is expected of them. If you are always giving in to demands to stay up later, have one more song, or stay in their room – they are slowly learning that they are in charge of the sleeping set up and therefore will try it on more at night time. Have a bedtime routine and set bed time which allows everyone to know what is happening and reduces the likelihood of bedtime battles.
- Step Four… Make it obvious…
Setting boundaries and rules for your toddler will help them understand what is expected of them. Children between the age of 1-3 find it difficult to retain information but visual stimulus can help. There are many sleep clocks on the market which allow your child to know when it is day and night time. Buy a sleep clock and set it up for your toddler, explaining that the sunshine means day time and the moon means night time. If he wakes during the moon time, explain that he must not get out of bed. Offer rewards for staying in bed all night in the form of sticker charts or sweetie jars, this way your little one has something to work towards.
- Step Five… If all else fails, Sleep Training it is….
If you have everything else in place but your child is still waking and demanding your attention during the night, it is likely that you will need to carry out some form of sleep training. The method you use will depend on your views on crying and your parenting style, but generally speaking most children over the age of one will respond the best to a reassurance method. From when they first shout out or cry, leaving them for five minutes to see if they will settle – if they do great and this can happen! But if they don’t, going in to see them at intervals to remind them that it is time to go to sleep. I use intervals of 5, 10, 15, 20 minutes and so on with my clients and most toddlers will soon understand what you are asking them to do. Make your trips into their room short and sweet and tuck them back in, say goodnight again and leave. It is important to be consistent so that your toddler learns what is expected of them.
Heidi works as The Parent and Baby Coach and is available for consultations via Phone and Home visits to discuss your toddlers sleep habits. Visit www.theparentandbabycoach.com or call 0330 6600 204. The Parent and Baby Coach also runs a Toddler Sleep Training Workshop every 8 weeks in the SW London area.