We all know it, that dreaded feeling of the 2am wake up call that leaves you fearful to go to sleep every night. Getting a toddler to sleep through the night can be frustrating, but you’ve made it this far! Hang in there and have a read of these tips on how to get a toddler to sleep through the night to help you on your way to a beautiful full night of sleep…
Firstly, it’s important to recognise the reasons that may be causing your toddler to wake up during the night. Without combatting potential problems, that dream of a toddler who sleeps through the night will probably remain just out of reach for a little longer.
1. Sleep Onset Associations
This will be a problem if your child is falling asleep under circumstances that are not available when he/she wakes in the night. Think back rubbing, nursing, feeding, cuddling, a pacifier. If these things are not present when your toddler wakes up in the night, it is likely that they will cry out until you go to them and pick them up. To remove these sleep associations, you will need to encourage your toddler to fall asleep by themselves – which can be a mammoth task in itself!! Wait until they are very drowsy, but not asleep, before putting them into their bed. You could extend their bedtime by 30 minute or so to start with just to make this easier! Your toddler probably won’t be very happy about this for a few nights, but will soon get used to the new routine.
If your child feeds multiple times during the night and needs diaper changes, it is likely that night hunger is your problem. Going ‘cold turkey’ on this issue can be tricky because it’s likely that your toddler actually is hungry if they are used to feeding multiple times during the night. You can combat this by reducing the amount of milk that your are giving them during night feeds, and by avoiding feeding your toddler to sleep.
3. Medical Issues
Medical problems such as asthma, sleep apnea and acid reflux are often overlooked when considering why your toddler has just woken you up for the third time! If any of these common problems are suspected, it is best to contact your paediatrician so that they can either be treated or ruled out.
4. Environmental Factors
Too much light? The dreaded noisy neighbours? A TV on inside, or near, the room?! These are obvious things that could be keeping your child from getting a full night of sleep. White noise machines can work wonders for blocking out sounds that are out of your control, also make sure that the room is at a comfortable temperature, neither too hot or too cold.
If you can rule out all of the above as things that might be causing your toddler to wake and cry out in the night, then it might be time to try out some sleep training techniques. Trust me, it’s not as scary as it sounds!
Routine…that thing that so many of us try to fight for so long, until we realise that it might actually be the thing keeping us from a night of peaceful sleep (myself absolutely included). Putting your child to sleep at the same time every night can work brilliantly alongside a pre-bedtime or a ‘wind down’ routine.
Consider adding things like a bath, massage, quiet play and story into your routine, choose what would work well for your family, and when you have decided make sure that you stick to it! Consistency is key, and children can thrive off of a routine when it comes to a calm and successful bedtime! This will be especially helpful if you’re trying to encourage your little one to fall asleep alone.
When setting a ‘bed time’ make sure you’re watching for signs of tiredness and beginning the wind down process immediately, an overtired child may find it particularly difficult to get to sleep!
Different naps work for different children. Some toddlers will sleep better at night following a day of one or two long naps, whilst others will need to cut back on their daytime naps in order to sleep for longer at night. It could be worth experimenting with this to see what works in your house.
Adding things such as night lights and a white noise machine to your child’s room can be super helpful in reaching nirvana (aka, a night without waking up). You can get free white noise apps on your phone, just make sure that it’s out of reach of your child and on air-plane mode! A night light is best placed behind a piece of furniture so that your toddler isn’t looking directly at it, but can still be comforted by it.
Pictures can be effectively used to establish a bedtime routine. Have pictures on the wall of each stage of your child’s routine so that you can point to the image as it’s completed. Another great visual is a sticker chart! Giving your child a sticker for each night that they don’t wake you is a great way to add a reward at the same time as giving your child a place where they can monitor their own progress.
9. Night wakings
When (yes, unfortunately, when) your child wakes up at night, try to extend the amount of time before you go to them – start with 5 minutes, then 10, then 15 – and avoid picking them up. Instead, comfort them with words, a song or a back rub, and then leave the room again. You may need to repeat this until your child falls asleep! Yes, you may be in for a few long nights, but think of the end goal! So worth it.
If your little one wakes up in the night due to toilet issues because they are potty training Peejamas could be great option to help you both out. Peejamas are made of incredibly abosrbant material that soaks up any liquid- even up to 15 times their weight in liquid. This means your little one’s sheets won’t get wet and stained so you can all get a more restful night’s sleep. I think that the designs look really cute as well!
10. Age Appropriateness
Consider your toddler’s age when going through the motions of ‘sleep training’. For example, a sticker chart is neither effective nor appropriate for a child of 18 months, and nap times will differ depending on your child’s age. You could talk to friend’s with children of a similar age to see what techniques they have found to be helpful when getting their toddler to sleep through the night!
Congratulations, you are one step closer to getting your toddler to sleep through the night. It can be a long process, so try to remain patient, and don’t get angry! This will be a new experience for your child as well as you, so provide them with some reassurance and eventually you’ll hit the jackpot.
For more advice on parenting toddlers, you’ll find a lot more tips by clicking here. I really hope you enjoyed reading this article. If it’s not too much trouble it would be awesome if you could leave a comment in the box below with your thoughts or any more tips. Thank you and good luck with your sleep training 🙂