Toddlers. And sleep. Two things that don’t seem—in many parents’ minds and experiences—to go together.
Any of this sound familiar to you?
- My toddler wakes up at 1am.
- My toddler wakes up—and expects me to too—at 5am.
- My toddler refuses to go to sleep.
- My toddler takes forever with their bedtime routine.
- My toddler escapes from their bed after being put to sleep.
And with these experiences, many of us have created certain ‘myths’ or beliefs in our heads, like:
Toddlers just don’t sleep well.
Toddler bedtime is called “the witching hour” for a reason.
Sleep regression is a part of “toddlerhood.”
My toddler is moving from a crib to a bed, so they won’t sleep well during this period.
My toddler is going through a developmental spurt, so they won’t sleep well.
My toddler is teething. They are going to have trouble sleeping.
My toddler is potty training, and I can’t help that after I put them to bed, they always seem to have “to go” again.
My toddler has older siblings, so of course they won’t go to bed before them.
Toddlers experience separation anxiety, so they’re uncomfortable being left alone at night.
You’re not supposed to sleep well when you have small children. That’s part of parenthood.
Now, toddlers are going through a lot—developmentally, behaviorally. They’re newly independent, able to walk and talk and (for some) go to the bathroom on their own. And with this independence, sleep issues can arise. As a result, many of these myths have some truth to them. Toddlers do experience sleeping issues frequently, including sleep regressions. Toddlers can have trouble switching from a crib to a bed. Toddlers are experiencing physical discomforts like teething.
You get the idea.
But as pediatric sleeping experts tell us, this ^^ doesn’t have to be your reality—or your permanent reality.
And so today, we bring you some tips from those experts to help your toddler sleep well.
Here are a few more tips to get your toddler on a good sleeping routine:
- Make sure your child is totally comfortable in bed—and then leave and don’t return. Returning will only wake them up more and what you want to do instead is to teach them to self-soothe. So, as you get them ready for bed, check to make sure they don’t have to go to the bathroom, that their room is the right temperature, that the lighting is correct, that they have everything they need, that they aren’t sick or teething (if so, address this), etc. Then there’s no need to return if—15 minutes later—they call for you to come back.
- Or if this is too hard, when your toddler is crying at night or calling out for you to return to their bedroom, set a schedule—or limit—of visits to their room rather than responding to every request.
- Do you have an escapee? If your toddler gets out of bed after you put them to bed, calmly but firmly escort them back to their room/bed. They’ll learn it’s not playtime.
- Offer your little one brief assurances and leave the room while they’re drowsy, letting them fall asleep alone.
- Limit screen time before bed (and ideally throughout the day).
- If your toddler is still taking naps, make sure they’re in the early afternoon instead of later in the day. You don’t want other sleep to encroach on “nighttime bedtime.”
- Have a neutral response or consistent saying—like “Mommy loves you. It’s time for bed.” And use it. Be non-negotiable.
- Let them take a (safe) toy with them to bed—their favorite stuffed animal, for instance. This can comfort them and help them fall asleep and stay asleep.
- Avoid scary books, stories, etc. before bedtime to reduce the likelihood of night terrors and nightmares. Make their bedtime routine as happy and lighthearted as possible.
- If your toddler keeps waking up early in the morning (like, WAY too early), explain to them that it’s not time to get up yet and that they can play quietly on their own in their room/bed if they can’t sleep. But to avoid this: make sure their room is dark and quiet through the early morning hours. Avoid giving them food right after they wake so they don't associate getting up with eating. Also consider if they’re getting enough sleep (maybe they’re waking early because they went to bed too early and they’re just ready to wake up). If so, move their bedtime a little later.
- Rule out any medical issues that might be making your toddler struggle to sleep well—conditions like asthma, sleep apnea, and acid reflux.
- Lastly, be patient. It can take weeks (or sometimes months) to modify your toddler’s sleep time behavior. But remember that consistency is key.
We at Amara care about topics like toddlers and sleep because we care about babies’ health. That’s why we’re in the business of nutrient-dense baby and toddler food. Amara’s baby blends and toddler snacks have no additives, are 100% non-GMO and organic, and are made from only a few—very real, very transparent—ingredients. Only the best for our babies.
Any sleep tips to share?