Help! why won’t my toddler sleep?

I LOVE toddlers. I should- I have had 3! I have learnt so much about life from simply stepping back and observing their innocence and basic inquisitive way of how simple the world can be- before we grow up. Wanting to preserve that innocence and enhance it to become a part of their authentic being.  So yes, when it comes to sleep issues,  they are my most common client  in the family home.  This age and drive for independence makes them tough little characters to please!

On average toddlers need about 12-14 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. When they reach about 18 months of age their naptimes will decrease to once a day lasting about one to three hours.

Many toddlers experience sleep problems including resisting going to bed and night time awakenings. Night time fears and nightmares are also common. Many factors can lead to sleep problems. Toddlers’ drive for independence and an increase in their motor, cognitive and social abilities can interfere with sleep. In addition, their ability to get out of bed, separation anxiety, the need for autonomy and the development of the child’s imagination can lead to sleep problems. Daytime sleepiness and behaviour problems may signal poor sleep or a sleep problem.

Chronically over tired children may not seem tired, and don’t always act tired. They will always resist sleep and need us to help them form good sleep habits.

Signs of over tired toddlers are:

-tend to be whiny, fussy or clingy

-sucks thumb, finger, or wants to suckle other than at bedtimes.

-carries blanket, stuffed toy around during the day.

-is hyperactive, especially at times when you think they should be tired.

-is overly stubborn.

-has regular temper tantrums, or easily becomes upset or angry.

-has difficulty falling asleep when put to bed

-falls asleep frequently when in car, bus or train.

-falls asleep in front of TV

-sometime’s falls asleep on the couch or floor before bedtime.

-takes a long time to become alert and awake in the morning.

-does not appear to be well rested and full of energy.

-doesn’t seem as happy as she should be.

Key Points   to help your toddler slip into sleep.             

-Maintain a daily sleep schedule and consistent bedtime routine.

-Make the bedroom environment the same every night and throughout the night.

-Set limits that are consistent, communicated and enforced. Encourage use of his favourite stuffed toy or comforter.

-All children need a comforting bedtime routine, and they need it from early infancy right up through the school years. It gives them a healthy sense of predictability and it’s a wonderful opportunity for parents and children to slow down and reconnect peacefully at the end of the day.

-Give your toddler choices before bed like which pjs does he/she want to wear, which book may he/she want to read or what extra toy (quiet), he/ she might want to take to bed.  It will make him/her  feel in control and make him/her less likely to resist when it’s time for light’s out. Think about creating your own unique bedtime ritual which you will share for years come: a special song, sharing two things you liked about your day, reading out loud, prayers, blessings or sending kisses and love to others.

-Done right, bedtime can be a special, loving time to celebrate closeness; a time your child will look forward to and cherish. If two parents take turns at bedtime, they don’t have to follow an identical script but should have a similar routine, style and response to any bedtime power plays, fears or stalling.

-A soothing bedtime routine signals the body and brain to slow down and prepare for sleep. The tone of bedtime should be calm, quiet and reassuring as you prepare your kid to separate from you all night.

I emphasize strongly every child is an individual and it’s important to listen to the cues that your toddler is giving you. What may have worked for your friend/sister/neighbour doesn’t necessarily work for another. Clear rules and parental consistency is essential for transitioning sleep situations…mixed liberally with plenty of love, cuddles, and kisses!

And MOST importantly be wary that your expectations are that of an adult not as a 12,15,18 or 24 month old.

5 tips on transitioning your baby from the family bed (ending co-sleeping gently).

Transitioning between sleep environment’s for you and your child.

Our baby’s sleep in many different environments around the world, and all mum’s with newborns soon find out that whether bed sharing (sleeping in the family bed), is the right thing for them and their family. It can be a permanent, conscious decision from the outset of birth, or a do what you need to do situation to get sleep.

But what happens when this is not working for you or your baby anymore- what is the easiest way to transition from the family bed?

Firstly I suggest work out your why? Make sure you are choosing to move bub out because it is not working for either of you. Not because someone said so, make sure you want this and are ready for it to be a permanent change, and that you feel great about your decision- not guilty on any level.

Secondly work out your where? Where is bub going? To a bassinette, cot, mattress/bed in your room or own room. Is the transition going to be easier on your feeding pattern. Make sure you are not going to resent you or your partner having to get up walk up 2 flights of stairs in the middle of the night- 3 times. Work out if your baby monitor causes you more anxiety than having your bub in closer proximity. For the older toddler transitioning to a “big” bed, safety is the number one priority, then creating a cosy sleep environment the next. This often begins with a mattress on the floor (or on your floor) with the original cot still in the same room. Start with role play, give examples to your child about what is going to happen and what new and exciting changes are about to occur for him/her. This can include anything from new exciting sheet sets, clocks, pillow pets, books etc.

Thirdly work out your when? Depending on the age of your bub, will depend whether you do night sleeps, day sleeps in your baby’s new environment. I always say start with your child’s best sleep time. Never make a change around sleep environment around any other large changes in your household, make them 4-6 weeks before any major event. Most common example is baby number 2 coming. The more you mention the transition, the more your child will have time to process, think, and become aware that bedtime is going to change soon. Consider starting these conversations and reminders at least three to five days before you plan to begin the transition.

Fourth, work out your bub’s personality. Is bub sensitive to any change, or easy going. A change in sleeping environment will take any child some time to adjust, no matter how chilled your bub is. Be prepared for a 2 week transition and have support in process as you make these changes.

Fifth– make a list of every step you take to help sooth your child till relaxed enough to full asleep peacefully. Then replicate it in the new environment. Know that a child that feels nurtured, safe and calm at bedtime will show little resistance to settle. Are you feeding to sleep? Do you need to introduce a comforter, or is it time for bub to move from swaddling to a sleeping bag. Is your bub on the appropriate wake/ sleep pattern for age and development? What sleep comfort’s is your child used to and will they still work in the new environment.  If you think a particular settling method maybe required then research which one will suit your parenting style (there are at least 26 types), or consult with a certified sleep expert for a individual consultation- like me!

Happy Transitioning!