Playful Days, Peaceful Nights: How To Work Through Bedtime Issues With Your Toddler
Does your toddler fight bedtime? Does he wake frequently at night? Does he toss and turn in the crib, unable to get comfortable? Is he ready for a pillow?
These are questions many parents of toddlers ask. It is just as important to create a solid bedtime routine and a relaxing sleep environment for toddlers as it is for younger babies. Although the days of formal “sleep training” may be long behind you, you may find that your toddler still goes through periods of difficulty sleeping. Read on for some tips for working through common toddler sleep issues.
Babies and toddlers alike thrive on routine. Having a predictable nighttime schedule is just as important for toddlers as it is for infants. Knowing what to expect can help your little one settle more easily into a peaceful night’s rest. How do you go about setting up a bedtime routine for a toddler?
Figure out what relaxes your toddler. This may vary from child to child. Some toddlers enjoy a warm bath in the evenings. Other toddlers appreciate a gentle massage with soothing baby lotion. Many toddlers enjoy singing with their caregivers and having quiet playtime in the evenings. Other toddlers enjoy reading books with their parents as a way to wind down after a long day. However, your toddler relaxes, incorporate that into your nightly routine. Try to put your toddler to bed at the same time every night, and no later than 9 pm. Toddlers still need 12-14 hours of sleep between naps and nighttime. Work within your family’s schedule and create a simple bedtime routine that can be followed by all caregivers.
- Too much stimulation.
Overstimulation can be a major source of nighttime woes. In the hour before bedtime, try to avoid loud noises and bright lights. Make a habit of turning off the TV and reading books instead. If older siblings are around, ask them to play quietly before your toddler’s bedtime. Avoid playing with toys that light up or play music. Instead, engage in calming activities such as reading, singing, coloring, or stretching. Avoid sugary snacks and drinks before bed. Turn down the lights and move your toddler into a different room if the rest of the house is too loud. Try to give yourself plenty of time to go through the nightly routine so you aren’t rushed trying to get your little one to sleep. Avoiding overstimulation can be a great way to avoid bedtime battles.
Although separation anxiety tends to make its first appearance around the time your baby turns 9 months old, separation issues usually occur again in toddlerhood, between 15 and 18 months. Many toddlers also go through periods of preferring one parent to the other. You may notice that separation anxiety comes and goes in waves, with your toddler acting clingy one day and totally independent the next. The good news? Separation anxiety usually diminishes significantly by the time your little one turns 3. If your toddler is struggling with separation anxiety, help them work through it by giving them coping strategies. Many toddlers do well with a “comfort item” or security items, such as a special blanket, toy, or stuffed animal that they can take with them anywhere. Help your little one attach to a particular object by consistently taking it with you places, in the car, in the stroller, and during nap time. Your toddler might also appreciate looking at a picture of you that you’ve hung up in the nursery or cuddling a blanket or scarf that you’ve worn that day.
Helpful hint: If your toddler is attached to a particular blanket or stuffed animal, buy a few extras to hang onto just in case one gets lost!
- Teething or sickness.
If your toddler wakes frequently at night, he might be teething or sick. Toddlers can still get teeth up until age 3! Your toddler will get two sets of molars, the first usually appearing between 11-18 months and the second set of molars around 20-30 months. Alleviate your toddler’s teething pain with cold teething toys, pain medicine, and good tooth brushing in the evenings.
If your toddler pulls at her ears, has a stuffy nose, runs a fever, or coughs in her sleep, and wakes frequently at night, she is probably sick. If your toddler runs a fever for more than 3 days, call her pediatrician for an appointment. She may need antibiotics to treat an infection. You can also give your toddler fever reducer medicine, run a cool-mist humidifier in her room, give her saline spray and use a nasal aspirator, and give her a warm bath.
As your toddler grows and matures, he might prefer a new sleep environment. Some toddlers outgrow the pack-n-play and suddenly stop wanting to sleep in it. Other toddlers don’t like their crib and prefer a toddler bed or floor bed. Some toddlers like using a blanket, while others prefer to be uncovered. Some toddlers prefer sound machines or night lights. Other toddlers don’t like being hot at night or prefer their feet uncovered. Figure out what helps your toddler sleep more soundly and create a new bedtime ritual.
Helpful hint: Is your toddler ready for a pillow such as the KeaBabies Toddler Pillow? As a general rule, when your toddler begins sleeping safely with a blanket (18 months or older), it is helpful to introduce a small pillow as well. The KeaBabies Toddler Pillow is a perfect size. and design to ensure a good night’s rest for your little one!
Another common cause of bedtime woes is night weaning or weaning in general. If you’ve chosen to nurse your toddler but are trying to wean her, it may be helpful to cut out nighttime feedings first. Many toddlers nurse to sleep and create a habit, long after it is nutritionally necessary. Try to distract your toddler with a new bedtime ritual such as storytime, singing, or rocking in a chair instead of nursing as a means to fall asleep. This process may take several weeks. Once your toddler learns to fall asleep, and stay asleep, on his own, it may be easier to wean from daytime feedings as well.
If your toddler is having difficulty sleeping, consider what might be bothering your toddler. From teething to weaning, there could be many causes to your little one’s sleep issues. Consider trying the KeaBabies Toddler Pillow to provide your toddler with all the comfort and luxury she needs for a peaceful night’s rest!
Parenting is awesome. Sleep is overrated. Every day is an adventure.
Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Kaitlyn Torrez
I’m Kaitlyn Torrez, from the San Francisco Bay Area. I live with my husband and two children, Roman and Logan. I’m a former preschool teacher, currently enjoying being a stay at home mom. I love all things writing, coffee, and chocolate. In my free time, I enjoy reading, blogging, and working out.