When my firstborn, Amaryllis, entered the world, she was not a great sleeper. I would put her down in her crib, and she would sleep a grand total of 45 minutes before she started wailing. We tried many strategies to make her sleep better. We carried and rocked her to sleep. We bought many sleep products on the market (and probably wasted too much money on these!). We made sure she was well-fed before putting her down. We rubbed her back over and over again. We sang lullabies. You name it, we tried it. It was not until we started sleep training our toddler that we finally started taking back our nights (slowly but surely).
As a parent, I know that bedtime can be a nightly challenge for many. It’s not easy, but there are some things that we can do for them to make bedtime a little easier and allow us to stay sane with better sleep. With better sleep, kids are generally happier and better learners during the day. With uninterrupted sleep, we can be better parents to our kids as we are more able to control our emotions, and stay calm even when our kids are having a meltdown.
So, how can you get your toddler to get to bed on time without too much of a struggle? How to sleep train a toddler? Here are some sleep tips for parents and ways to make a child’s bedtime easier:
Set up a quiet routine before bedtime.
I cannot stress this enough – this is very important in helping our toddlers understand that it’s bed time. We usually give our kids a bath, then we read a book or two before bedtime. If your kids try to engage in more play time, be firm and say no as active play may make your child even more excited.
Be consistent with the routine every day.
No matter what we did during the day, or where we are, we stick to the same routine every day. Even when we are traveling and staying in a hotel, we do the same thing every night. This helps as our kids know what to expect and establish good sleep pattern.
Work as a team with your partner or spouse.
Discuss the sleep strategy that you want to implement and carry it out consistently. You can’t have one rocking your toddler to sleep and the other adopting a firmer approach by allowing her to fall asleep on her own. Your child cannot learn if the approaches are not consistent.
Make sure your child’s room is sleep friendly.
It should be dark, cool (between 68 to 72 degrees) and quiet. Create a conducive environment to help your toddler sleep better. We usually run the white-noise machine in the background all night so even if the other kids wakes up the middle of the night wailing, our other kid in the other room will not be affected.
What if your toddler cries every time you leave the room?
Do not return to your child’s room every time all hell breaks loose. With my firstborn, she would wail, clutch onto the bars of her crib and start throwing things from the crib to the floor. We usually wait a few seconds to see if she would calm down, and after each time, we would make our response time longer. If we really needed to go back into the room, we would sleep on her floor to make our presence known to her, but allow her to fall back asleep on her own. We never engaged with our kid. After a few days of doing this, we were able to started shifting to sitting on the chair near the door, and finally we were able to remove ourselves completely.
Then there is also the uncomfortable kid who complains
about their shirt being itchy or that there is a boo-boo on their knee which is causing pain all of a sudden. Or the room is just too hot, or that she needs to drink some water for her itchy throat. While you don’t want to be too dismissive, you should also try not to comply with every request. For me, knowing that these problems would be brought up once the lights are off, I would ask my toddler if anything is bothering her before we say good night. Be firm and when lights are off, my toddler knows that there is no more snacking, no more drinking water, and that if her tummy hurts, that’s because her tummy is tired.
Allow your child to get enough physical activity during the day.
Watching too much TV during the day, or lack of movement can prevent a good night’s sleep. Over the years, I have found that if my kids get enough physical activities during the day, they fall asleep more quickly, sleep better and sleep longer. It is the dream! No more nighttime visits to our bed, and we get more productive sleep too!
Seek help if your toddler’s sleep issues are becoming too hard for you to handle.
Sometimes, it is just beyond your control. For example, your toddler wakes up too early, or if your toddler would not sleep in her own bed and likes to co-sleep with you. Some children have sleep disorders too. I am thankful that I never had to go through these issues because I started sleep training early and was disciplined about it. However, I know many parents are not as lucky. You may want to talk to a specialist, but just keep in mind that these consultations are not cheap. I would suggest starting with your pediatrician first. They might be able to offer you some valuable insights and advice. If you really need to consult a specialist, check with your insurance to see if they offer benefits for child sleep consultant.
Finally, give it time!
Just know that sleep training your toddler takes time, and hang in there. This ordeal will be over soon, and you’ll be on your way to sleeping better. Breathe and tell yourself that millions of other parents go through the same thing as well and have survived. You will survive too!