I’ve written in the past about my Top 5 Baby Sleep Tips as well as all about Baby Sleep and Weaning. But today I wanted to focus specifically on toddler sleep. I asked Sarah Patel, a holistic sleep coach from Teach To Sleep to tell us why toddler sleep can be so tricky and most importantly, what we can do about it.
What Can I do to stop my Toddler from getting out of bed every night
Many of us expect that by the time our little ones reach toddlerhood, sleep will be easy, right ? We expect that sleeping through the night will ﬁnally be the norm and that they will stay in their beds all night. Unfortunately for many toddlers this isn’t the case. But why ? They are ﬁnally that bit older and more independent, shouldn’t this be the easy bit?
A common pattern is that little ones who have consistently slept in their cot all night suddenly wake up one day and refuse to do this any longer. This is because they are now developmentally able to process the sleeping arrangements: you are sleeping in another room and they are sleeping alone and they would much rather sleep with you!
This is completely normal (you haven’t done anything to cause this), most little ones, just like most of us, like to be close to another loved one at night. For this reason many families will choose to bedshare which can make sleeping a whole lot easier. Bedsharing can be as simple as letting your toddler get out of bed at night when they wake up and come and get in your bed and go to sleep. Or if that isn’t safe for your child, you can encourage them to call you when they wake up and you come and get them and bring them into bed with you.
For those of you who don’t want to or who can’t bedshare, here are my top tips to try:
Top Tips for Encouraging Independent sleep
1. Room sharing with siblings
This may seem crazy but moving siblings into the same room can actually help your toddler to stay in their bed. I have a whole other blog on this.
2. Spend time introducing a comforter
A comforter, such as a small soft teddy can be used to help provide sensory comfort for your toddler at night. It may take a few weeks but often if toddlers are able to associate their comforter with their caregivers, their home and feelings of security and comfort, it tends to be a great tool to help them with sleep. Having the comforter smell of you and your family (sleep with it overnight) as well as using it in play can really help with this process of association.
3. Role play
If your toddler wakes up and they are too hot, uncomfortable or thirsty, you may be able to teach them how they can resolve these problems themselves. You can do this through role play by using their comforter to act out any scenario you would like to teach them about, and having fun at the same time! For example if your toddler wakes up and they are cold, you can role play them waking up and getting their duvet and making sure they are all tucked in.
4. Creating positive associations with their bedroom
Spend lots of time during the day in your toddler’s bedroom. If you are able to, spend time together in or on their cot or bed, playing with toys, reading stories, cuddling or feeding. Lots of parents worry about their child developing an association with play and their sleep space but actually that is the aim, children learn through play and we want them to learn that this sleep space is a happy place where they feel safe and secure. Avoid using the room for anything which they may see as negative, for example if they currently don’t like having the nappy changed, don’t change them in this space.
5. Make sure your toddler is bed ready
This means making sure that they aren’t going to bed too early nor that they are still having a nap when they no longer need it. Getting too much sleep is very common in toddlerhood and it is one of the most common reasons for waking at night.
6. Be consistent
That goes for bedtime, the bedtime routine as well as how you respond when they wake in the night. Even though you may feel incredibly frustrated when your toddler wakes in the night, aim to respond to each wake up in a calm and loving way. This will help your toddler learn that they are not doing anything ‘wrong’ and that you will always be there if they need you. This in turn is what leads to truly secure and independent sleepers.
I hope this provides you with some reassurance as well as practical advice on how you can help your toddler stay in their bed at night.
Thanks so much to Sarah for these tips. If you are after any more sleep advice, check out Sarah’s Instagram account @teachtosleep where she runs a weekly Q and A session or see her website to ﬁnd out information about her online courses, sleep guides and one-to-one consultations.
And for all the food advice you need for your toddler, don’t forget to check out my factsheet on how to deal with fussy eating, my guide to what a toddler should eat in a day or my tips to help toddlers self feed.