Toddlers can be challenging in so many ways - between potty training, tantrums, picky eating, becoming verbal, becoming more physical and the dreaded sleep issues.
Especially now during quarantine, I have found myself battling with my kids who want to stay up late and a somehow loose routine that doesn't lead to great sleep patterns.
That's why I reached out to the amazing Heidi Lovens, Certified Baby & Toddler Sleep Coach for tips.
Heidi can be found at Everyday Lovens, where you can book one of her sleep training packages and find great information to help you establish healthy sleep habits in your little ones.
Heidi, take it away!
TODDLER SLEEP can feel overwhelming. Parents often come to me panicked, not knowing where to begin with their toddlers sleep, or lack of it. I work with families everyday who are worried it’s too late for a sleep plan. I can tell you now, it’s never too late to start implementing healthy sleep tools for you children and entire family.
Establishing an age appropriate bedtime routine is so important with toddlers. Most children THRIVE when they have a routine in place. I like to have a consistent, short and sweet routine for my toddler, fully understanding that a 15 minute routine quickly doubles when you have an active 2 year old you’re chasing down the hall to wrangle his pajamas on.
Most nights, I offer a bath because it’s relaxing for my son. He brushes teeth, goes potty then pj’s and 3 books followed by snuggles in the chair. We turn off his lights together and turn on the sound machine and he's in his crib.
Short and sweet and most importantly CONSISTENT for my son. The consistency and routine helps signal and cue his body and brain that it’s time for sleep.
AVOID AN OVERTIRED CHILD
Children that are overtired can have a harder time calming, falling asleep and staying asleep. This is also the #1 cause of early morning wakeups. Toddlers most often start dropping naps between 3-4 years old. It can be a huge adjustment to go from napping to being awake the entire day. Make sure to continue to offer quiet time even after your toddler stops napping. You can also offer a slightly earlier bedtime to help avoid an overstimulated and exhausted child.
LIMIT LAST MINUTE REQUESTS
Being a toddler parent you know that “just one more” really means, one gazillion more times to a toddler. It can be a slippery slope when you start reading one more book, then one more snuggle and one more glass of water.
Try to offer all of these things leading up to bedtime or as part of the nightly routine so that you know they can’t possibly NEED anything else.
I also like to offer a “hall pass” for anything else your toddler might ask for. If you are a crafty DIY type, you can turn this into a fun arts & craft with your toddler or you can google and print something easy to use.
I like a simple piece of paper that stays in your child’s room. If they want to trade in their pass for one more hug, kiss or glass of water they can. You could also take it one step further and explain to your toddler that if they save their pass until morning, they can trade it in for a reward.
Keep rewards simple like pancake breakfast, morning show or a quick toddler/parent board game. Find rewards that encourage your child to want to stay in bed and save their pass until morning.
TEACH THEM HOW TO FALL ASLEEP INDEPENDENTLY
The way your child falls asleep at night is likely how they need help to fall back to sleep in the middle of the night when they wake.If you are laying in bed with them until they fall asleep and they wake up at midnight and you're not there, it can be startling. They may call for you or even come to your room looking for you.
When you teach them to fall asleep independently at bedtime, you are teaching them the skills they need to fall back to sleep on their own during the night. It can take some time and commitment but my favorite method to teach independent sleep to a toddler is to sit in a chair next to their bed as they fall asleep and each night move yourself and the chair further from the bed and out of the room.
WALK THEM BACK TO BED, EVERY SINGLE TIME
This can be especially hard at 4am when your toddler tries to climb into your bed and you just want to get back to sleep as quickly as possible. But walking your child back to their room each time they wake is so helpful when trying to break this habit. For many parents, they don’t mind and really enjoy the early morning snuggles. For me, I don't feel like I get enough restful sleep and it just never worked for us.
If you are using a chair method like I described above, you would walk your child back to their room and sit in the chair, in the same position you were in at bedtime. If you've since graduated from walking out their door at bedtime and they are still waking up in the middle of the night you may just need to calmly and quietly walk them back to bed and leave the room. Keep in mind you may be repeating this over and over the first few nights before your toddler understands. A little hard work goes a long way.
I said it before but one word my sleep clients probably hear the most from me is CONSISTENCY! Following through with your words and showing your toddler you are consistent is so important when it comes to sleep. The more consistent you are, the faster your toddler will understand and learn the new skill you are teaching them.
Founder of Everyday Lovens
Certified Baby & Toddler Sleep Coach
doTerra Wellness Advocate
Heidi Lovens a business owner, toddler mama to my 2 year old son, Lennon and wife, to my busy and often sleep deprived FireFighter husband. Sleep is so important in our household! I created Everyday Lovens in 2015 to help educate parents and caregivers on the fundamentals and importance of sleep. I specialize in gentile and holistic techniques to create healthy lifelong habits. Each plan and approach is customized to a family’s unique needs.