Toddler Sleep Issues: Top 5 Solutions
Need help with your toddlers’ sleep? Expert consultant Emma Purdue solves the top 5 issues that toddlers have with sleep
6 min read
You may be dropping a nap too soon
Over 80% of children could still use a nap at 3 year’s old although the majority start kindergarten at this age and drop their nap. However they still need 12-13 hour’s sleep and thus could use a nap. If your 2 year old suddenly tries to drop their nap have a look at your life and their life.
Has life become chaotic? A new baby on the scene? A new playgroup to attend? Have you started to neglect the wind-down ritual – arriving home late for the nap 4 days out of 5 and rushing Mr 2 years old to his cot for a nap?
Try to ensure you are not late for naps at this age 80% of the time, as 2-year-olds quickly develop FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and any over tiredness only fuels this desire to not nap, and want to play blocks instead!
A new baby makes a wind-down ritual tricky, but just like you don’t need to kick your toddler out when you wind down your baby, you don’t need to kick your baby out when you wind down your toddler.
If your naps are out of sync, simply bring baby to Mr 2 year olds room while you read him some stories, if your baby needs a feed give Mr 2 the role of turning the page – make a “ding” sound when you need the page turned. Tell your toddler the new baby is also going straight to bed after he gets into his cot, so there is no jealousy around mummy time.
If your 2 year old has dropped their nap and is experiencing the “terrible 2’s” – chances are overtiredness is largely contributing to this behavior, as the advantages of a nap on your child’s emotional state have been lost with the early dropping of the nap. Lots of toddler sleep issues can be brought back to overtiredness.
Perhaps too quick to move to the big bed
So many toddler sleep issues come down to moving to a big bed too soon. If your toddler makes no attempt to climb from the cot you can keep them in the cot as long as you like. We see a lot of parents rush the transition to a big bed as the next fun phase or needing the cot for the new baby. If your toddler is not the best sleeper, chances are a big bed will only escalate the problem.
Look for a second-hand cot for the new baby (this will be somewhat cheaper than our consult to solve to your toddler sleep issue if you move him too soon), and consider borrowing a bassinet which will give you a 6-month leeway on the cot you currently have.
Most toddlers will happily sleep in their cot until close to 3 years old – if your toddler is happy don’t rush it. Your toddler’s sleep will probably be saved by a second cot.
Are bedtime delaying tactics being deployed?
Toddler sleep issues: You know the drill, its 7pm and Miss 3.5 is meant to be in bed but suddenly she needs to use the toilet, and then she needs a glass of water, then she needs you to find her favourite blue teddy, then just when you are sitting down to a cup of tea in the lounge, she appears again, this time she realises she has a sudden fear of the dark….. Argh Toddler Sleep!
All of these reasons for not going to sleep are classic delay tactics. It might be tempting to talk through all of these things with your toddler and lecture her on how she should have used the toilet before she got into bed, and remind her not too drink too much water before bed, and growl her for losing her favourite blue bear – don’t!
Deal with the lecturing and growling and explaining in the morning, don’t allow these excuses to delay bedtime any further. The less attention you give these excuses the faster she will hop back into bed and go to sleep. When dealing with toddler sleep, think less not more!
Are wake-ups too early?
Is your toddler waking at 5am and creeping into your room to wake you up too? Or calling out too early in the morning for breakfast? I recommend checking the following.
- Overtiredness can be a reason your toddler is waking early – try an earlier bedtime.
- Another reason is that the nap is too long and its time to trim it back by 15 minutes.
- Check your toddler’s diet is not lacking in protein as this too can be contributing to early wake ups.
- Is the sun streaming in at 5am?
- If your toddler is old enough for a big bed they are old enough for a sleep trainer clock – check out www.cruisybaby.co.nz to browse.
How about night wake-ups?
Toddlers who still wake at night are more common than you might think. If your toddler is waking for a bottle of milk at night, your dentist will thank you for stopping this habit.
Either replace the milk with water for a few nights or cut the milk out entirely and re-settle your toddler. Again, check their diet and check they are not overtired when they go to bed.
Consider how they get to sleep for their nap and in the evening – are they relying on milk at these times also? If so, it’s time for a change!