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Are you battling with your toddler every time they hear the word ‘bedtime’? Well, we are here to tell you that this is so common!
Toddlers love to push boundaries to see what they can and can’t get away with. As parents, we want our children to feel confident enough to try new things but the time to start asserting their independence is not when it’s ‘lights out’.
Sleep consultant Kristy Griffiths from The Sleep Teacher shares the most common toddler sleep issues parents face and her expert tips to help ease bedtime battles.
Sleep bags, like the The Original Grobag from Tommee Tippee, can help babies and toddlers to sleep soundly.
TIP 1: Keep the cot
Unless this is a safety issue and they are beginning to climb out of the cot, (and you have tried some little tricks to keep them in!) don’t assume that your 18-month or two-year-old toddler who is refusing to nap or go to bed is ready to move to a big bed.
This will almost always lead to even more issues surrounding bedtime and day sleep, particularly for toddlers under two and half years old. I suggest leaving your toddler in their cot until close to three years of age and when they are sleeping well overnight.
TIP 2: Treat all early rising as an overnight wake
Anything before 5:30am is considered an early waking. Consistency will be your best friend at this time. Food, social interaction and light are the three contributing factors that will encourage the early waking to stick around.
Choose a settling method that you are comfortable with and stick with it for at least three weeks. A sleeping bag, like The Original Grobag, can help your child to sleep better. Baby sleep bags help little ones regulate their temperature while sleeping by ensuring there are no loose blankets for them to kick off.
Having a video monitor handy, like the Cubo Ai, is great for this age group as you can check and ensure they are ok. If they are ok, just give them some space and chances are they go back to sleep! (PRAISE BE!)
This age group is easily stimulated, so you don’t want to enter that room unless you have too, or it will be game over and they will be up for the day!
Consistency at bedtime is key to helping this active age group settle for sleep.
TIP 3: Dealing with nap refusal
If you can’t get your toddler to nap, some question to ask are:
– Has it been 5 hours (or just over) since they woke up?
– Have they had enough physical play?
We can set the stage for sleep, but we can’t force it. I highly encourage your toddler to spend at least 30-60 minutes in their room for some quiet time. Whether or not they fall asleep in that time is out of your control, however, continue to offer this ‘quiet time’ as an opportunity for rest and/or sleep. If your toddler does not sleep, offer an early bedtime.
Most toddlers will drop their nap between 2.5-3 years, and by this age if they are still having one, we would recommend capping it at 45-60 minutes. As I said, you can only do what you can do, if your toddler doesn’t nap, don’t let this stress you out, quiet time and an early bedtime is just as good at this age.
TIP 4: Boundaries are so important right now!
Having the confidence to set bedtime boundaries, for the resistance you will no doubt come to experience at some point, with your toddler is key to making sure they know that it is okay for them to feel big feelings.
But as parents, it’s important to feel comfortable and confident about not necessarily needing to fix the big emotions that your toddler is displaying.
Instead, be present and reassure your toddler that they are safe and loved. As parents we take on a role of what we will and will not except from our children.
Each family will embed certain boundaries and expectations onto their children which demonstrates what our limits are and what is and is not acceptable. Boundaries are put into place to keep our children safe, but also to provide a feeling of safety for them – children thrive off predictability!
When it comes to boundaries and expectations around bedtime, it is common to see parents taking the path of least resistance, understandably as they are tired after a long day themselves. This is often where our children will take the lead in letting us know what their wants are.
TIP 5: Take the lead back
As mentioned earlier, your toddler will want to assert their independence, and this is where parents need take the lead back and decide what is working for their family or perhaps what they need to start to move away from.
When parents know they have tools at their disposal, (rocking, feeding, staying in the room) and know these tools will avoid a battle they tend to offer the want which is different to a need.
If, as a family you have decided to move away from these associations for whatever reason, to get your toddler to sleep – this is the time to stay super consistent in your expectations around sleep and bedtime.
Let your child know ahead of time what is going to happen. Have flash cards, a bedtime checklist that you can make together, make sure to include getting a drink, going to the toilet, and reading however many books you decide on. Once everything is checked off there is no more getting out of bed.
Toddlers really are so much fun, their little personalities and those chubby cheeks, but they are learning new ways to express themselves in this big world and they will try to test those boundaries.
Like anything, consistency and holding the boundary is what will ensure sleep stays on track, start small and work upwards from there.
Brought to you by Tommee Tippee Australia