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30 01, 2017

Sleeping Through the Night; Two Mistakes Most Parents Make and How to Avoid Them

January 30th, 2017|Categories: Baby Sleep, Toddler Sleep|

Sleeping Through the Night

Whenever I teach workshops or talk to parent groups, I will hear “I just have a quick question-why isn’t my child sleeping through the night?”.

Although the question may be quick, the answer isn’t. It’s difficult to give a short summary in a sentence or two.

There are a plethora of reasons for night wakings, and in order to be able to offer advice, I need to know specifics about that child; age, personality, sleep temperament, napping routine, bedtime, plus more.

What’s Your Definition?

“Sleeping through the night” means something different to every parent. And it can look different at various ages.

We have different expectations for a four month old versus a four year old. The first one will likely still need to wake up to feed during the night, whereas the latter won’t.

If the four month old wakes up to eat twice a night but goes right back to sleep and overall sleeps 11-12 hours each night, I would consider that sleeping through the night. If the four year old did the same thing, I would not.

Keep in mind that children and adults alike, do not technically sleep straight through the night, without waking. We all wake up throughout our sleep cycles, however most of the time it is not a full, conscious, “gee, I’m awake and it’s 3am” type of waking.

We shift our position, get comfortable and go back to sleep. This will occur in children as well. This a normal and healthy sleep pattern. The trouble happens when a baby or child fully wakes up and signals, cries or calls for a parent multiple times a night.

A Tale of Two Culprits

But putting those details aside, and assuming a child is healthy, and I can summarize the two main mistakes that parents inadvertently make that can cause and encourage night wakings.

First, I want to preface the information with the caveat that you should always check with your child’s doctor if you believe there may be a medical reason for the sleep issues.

This can include (but is not limited to) severe reflux, poor weight gain due to breastfeeding difficulties, insufficient transfer of milk, tongue or lip ties, snoring, mouth breathing, food or environmental allergies, restless leg syndrome or obstructed sleep apnea.

If no medical issues are present, then one of the following two issues may be at play;

  • Sleep debt accumulation: the child is chronically sleep deprived and exhausted
  • Sleep Associations: the child is unable to fall asleep independently

What is a Sleep Debt?

Sleep debt is the cumulative effect of not getting enough sleep, and leaves your baby, toddler or preschooler feeling mentally worn-out, physically exhausted, and can dramatically impact their mood, thought, and behaviours.

In most cases sleep debt occurs when a child habitually does not get the required amount of sleep each day and night, leading to chronic sleep deprivation.

This occurs most often when children are;

  • being kept awake for too long during the day,
  • naps that may not be occurring at the right biological times,
  • or bedtimes that are too late.

A sleep debt can be thought of like a financial debt; the more money you take out, the greater the debt becomes. If you don’t replenish the money, the debt remains.

Similarly, the longer the child goes without the proper amount of rest, the more overtired they are and the bigger the sleep debt becomes.

In both examples, if the debt is large, making a small one-time deposit doesn’t clear up the debt.

How Do I Know if My Child Has Sleep Debt?

When children are overtired, they can get revved up as their body releases more stimulating hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline in an effort to counter the exhaustion.

It is common for parents to tell me that their toddler will have a ton of energy in the evening, or as they try to rock their baby to sleep, the child is crying in their arms, pushing away and arching their bodies. The harder the parent works, the harder the child resists the attempts to soothe her.

Being overtired also manifests itself as;

  • seemingly scared of or,
  • hating their crib/bed,
  • excess crying,
  • taking extended periods to go to sleep.
  • Appears to not be tired and acts hyper, almost manic
  • Clingy behavior
  • Unable to settle

Getting Out of Debt

Luckily, these issues can be resolved by adjusting the child’s routine so that they are getting more sleep. One of the easiest ways to do this is by moving bedtime earlier in the evening.

For children under the age of 5, regular bedtimes earlier than 7:30PM work best. If you suspect your child has a sleep debt, then moving bedtime up by 20 – 30 minutes may help them feel more rested.

Some children even need a bedtime closer to 45 minutes to an hour earlier. If you’re not sure, this wake time infographic below can help you determine the right bedtime for your child.

 

Can you guess what the number one follow up question is, when I suggest an earlier bedtime? Parents wonder if it means their child will now wake up earlier in the morning.

To that I say a resounding “no”.

The reason is that when a child is overtired, doing an earlier bedtime allows their brain to acquire more cycles of sleep, which is like putting money into their sleep bank and reducing the sleep debt.

Why Your Child Needs an Early Bed Time

During a child’s sleep, their brain cycles through REM and Non-REM (NREM) types of sleep.

REM sleep is light, active, helps to consolidate memories and results in dreaming.

NREM is a deep sleep that helps the body to repair itself, release growth hormones and helps to clear the sleep debt.

The structure of night time sleep is such that there are more cycles of the deep NREM sleep in the first part of the night than there are later on.

When a child is overtired, an early bedtime helps to take advantage of this.

When we put a child to bed too late, the potential maximum cycles of Non-Rem sleep that they could be receiving, is cut off.

Part of this is due to the fact that a child’s morning wake up time is biologically set. A young child that goes to bed at 7pm has a better night and more cycles of NREM than a child that goes to bed at 9pm.

They will both likely still wake up at the same time in the morning. And if they don’t, for many children, if they do sleep in (past 7/7:30am), it can be a red flag that their body is extremely overtired and the quality of their sleep is already compromised.

Naps Are Necessary For Sleeping Through the Night

How many of you have been given the advice to skip your child’s nap because it will help them sleep better at night?Did you know that doing so will almost guarantee the opposite to happen?

Ensuring your child is taking long, regular naps is a crucial component for a healthy, debt-free and sleeping though the night, routine.

This is much easier said than done, I know. Helping a child to nap better can be a challenge because it takes much longer for a child’s brain to consolidate naps than it does for night time sleep. Whereas night sleep starts to get on track within a week of dedicated work and problem solving, naps take closer to 2-3 weeks.

 

Get your FREE copy of HELP YOUR CHILD SLEEP THROUGH THE NIGHT, 5 TIPS EVERY PARENT NEEDS TO KNOW.

The good news is that it absolutely can be done! By maintaining a regular napping routine that matches a child’s natural sleep rhythm, we can help a child get the maximum amount of sleep cycles they need for a healthy nap.

The timing of when a nap happens is just as important as how long the child naps. This important fact is often overlooked when sleep problems are discussed.

To begin with, consider how long your child can stay awake in between naps. It will slightly increase the older your child gets, but only slightly.

For more tips on napping, see here and here.

The Skill of Falling Asleep Independently

The second area that commonly causes sleep problems in children over four months of age are sleep associations. Around four months of age your baby’s circadian rhythms will begin to mature, allowing your baby to develop the ability to fall asleep on their own. However, sometimes as parents we don’t realize that this transition is taking place. Out of love, we continue to “help” until our child becomes so dependent on our methods, that it feels like they “need” it to get to sleep.

These can include:

  • Physical stimulation, such as rocking, holding, or bouncing
  • External props, such as feeding, soothers, or bottles

When we begin to remove the extra help, this can produce tears of frustration in our little ones. If you’re a parent overwhelmed with sleep deprivation yourself, it can be difficult to recognize this. But keeping the context of the crying in mind can be helpful. If you’ve taken your child’s daytime routine into proper consideration, have fed and changed your child, then the crying that is happening is a result of being frustrated.

Consistency is Key

Once you’ve determined which external factors are at play you can start to remove them. This is the act of sleep training.

Sleep training is ONLY helpful in these situations. It does not fix a child that is waking and crying at night because of a poor daytime routine-that will continue to happen long after a sleep association has been weaned if the sleep debt is not first addressed.

Now, I know that the term most people are familiar with is Crying-It-Out (CIO) (AKA Extinction), but that isn’t your only option. You can choose to wean sleep associations slowly or quickly, depending on your preferences.

The key here is consistency: every day, every nap, every bedtime, and every night waking (minus the one or two that are for true nutritional purposes). For more information see my sleep training series here.

Ensuring that you remove bedtime “associations” not only helps establish a healthy bedtime pattern, but children who fall asleep without a sleep association experience better night sleep cycle transitions. This, combined with an age-appropriate daytime routine, in turns leads to children sleeping through the night.

Compare the dotted line with the solid line in the image below and you will see how a child that can move through sleep cycles easily has a deeper and more restorative sleep.

 

 

 

Removing all the sleep associations in the world won’t help if you don’t address an underlying sleep deficit and keep your child on a healthy sleep routine. It’s also important to introduce these changes during times when you are distraction-free and can focus on the task at hand, so avoid attempting to implement any changes during vacations, travel, when you are hosting visitors or doing home renovations.

If you find yourself slipping back into old habits then break the changes up into small, manageable steps. The easiest first step is to make sure that your child is napping at appropriate intervals, and that bedtime is consistent and meets their needs. This is the foundation for any sleep training that you may want to implement later on.

If you have a child that isn’t sleeping through the night, you may be too tired to make any changes yourself. Are you feeling overwhelmed and want someone to make a plan for you and guide you through the process? Book your consultation today and save yourself time and frustration or join me during one of my free Q and A sessions every Wednesday night from 8-9pm CST on the Baby Sleep 101 Facebook page.

 

 

1 09, 2016

Help Your Child Adjust to Daycare

September 1st, 2016|Categories: Daycare and Sleep, Uncategorized|

Help Your Child Adjust to Daycare (Daycare Series, Part 3)

Whether you’re going back to work after 6 weeks or a few years, knowing how to help your child adjust to daycare can be a challenge.

This transition can be a stressful time for any family, and in my Daycare Series I’ve already outlined how to choose a day care which respects your child and sleep, and best practices when it comes to helping your baby adjust to napping at a daycare.

This 3rd installment of the Daycare Series I’ll share my tips on how to help your child adjust to daycare with its new and unfamiliar routines:

Be Up-Front with Your Daycare Provider

Before you begin taking your child to a new daycare it’s critical that you communicate openly and honestly with the day care providers about your little one’s sleep, feeding, and eating requirements so that you can ensure that you are on the same schedule.

Keeping this pattern consistent will help your child feel more secure because they are following a familiar, established routine, and it also helps the daycare workers make sure that your child is happy and comfortable.

Bring a Comfort Item for Your Baby

Check to see if the daycare will allow your baby to bring a comfort or “lovey” item with them, such as a special stuffed toy or blanket, which can stay at the daycare for all naps. For young infants, there should not be any items in the crib, but for the older ones, your daycare may allow a small, soft lovey. It shouldn’t have any parts that can come off such as buttons, nor should it be stuffed to prevent a choking hazard.

If you can, have Mom or Baby sleep with the item for a few days before bringing it to daycare for the first time, so that the item has familiar scents attached to it.

Do a Gradual Introduction

If your schedule allows, ease your child into daycare alternating days when they are at daycare, and when they stay at home. One alternative that I recommend (if possible) is to do the morning nap at home, and then bring the baby to daycare for their second nap, or vice versa.

If your child has already gone through the 2-1 nap transition, then you may want to again bring him or her for only half a day for the first week and then alternating full days in week two.

Adjust Accordingly

The first several weeks at daycare are usually a bumpy time for families, and it’s common for a child to resist napping, or to skip napping altogether at the start.

In order to help your child adjust to daycare the quickest, I suggest that parents reschedule bedtime for earlier in the evening to accommodate any sleep loss which may be happening the day. Sometimes it may feel like you are barely able to spend any time with your little one because they are needing to go to bed earlier, however, if this helps everyone to continue to sleep well at night, then it’s worth the initial sacrifice.

Usually by the end of the first month, our little ones are doing much better with the new routine and are able to return to their regular bedtime. (Keep in mind that for children under 5, bedtime is often between 6-7:30pm)

Continue to Communicate Consistently

Some day cares provide daily logs, or summaries, of each child’s behaviour and routines throughout the day. If your daycare doesn’t provide one for you, make sure to communicate about their naps every day, and ask questions like:

  • Did your child nap?
  • How long did they nap for?
  • How long did it take for them to fall asleep?
  • What was their mood like pre and post-nap?
  • Did the provider have to do anything to help them fall asleep?

These answers will help you understand how your child is sleeping, and assist you in determining if you need to adjust bedtimes accordingly.

Remember; the best thing that you can do to ensure a smooth transition for your baby, and to help keep them as well-rested, happy, and healthy as possible, is to communicate with your daycare.

Would you like more tips on how to help your child adjust to daycare?Join me during one of my Q and A sessions on the Baby Sleep 101 Facebook page and ask a question.

 

 

 

13 07, 2016

Wake Time Per Age; From Newborn to Toddler

July 13th, 2016|Categories: Sleep Training, Wake Times For Children|

Wake Time; Are You Keeping Your Child Up Too Long?

“What is a good wake time for my 5 month old?”

“How long should my child be staying up between naps?”

“Once my child transitions to one nap, how long should they be awake for before bedtime”

I hear these types of questions all the time from concerned parents, and for good reason.  Getting the timing of sleep right can mean the difference between struggling for an hour or having your child quickly drift off.

We know kids need their sleep, and a lot of it.

For small children two years and younger, sleep is a critical part of their development process and it’s important to develop healthy sleeping and napping patterns in order to help them grow and develop at a safe and healthy rate.

For parents? Well, it maintains your sanity. 😉  It gives you some much needed down time.

But let’s be honest here; for some parents, having a child that sleeps well, without a lot of fussing, is akin to having a unicorn. They hear about it, but they don’t think it really exists. Having a child that goes down for their nap or bedtime quickly, easily and sleeps long stretches without having to rock, bounce, feed, drive around or lay down with, seems like a mythical creature.

But I’m here to tell you that this isn’t the case. Your child wants to sleep and they want to sleep well. But part of the success comes from understanding your child’s biological processes.

Why do babies and children need naps?

It’s not uncommon for a well-meaning relative or friend to advise the parents I talk with to skip a nap in the hopes that it will make the child sleep better. However it is a myth that skipping naps results in a better night’s sleep. In fact, the opposite is true.  Poor quality or non-existent naps will result in a child that is overtired, cranky, prone to more crying and night wakings.

When your baby or toddler is napping their brains are processing and making sense of all of the physical and mental inputs they received while awake, and since our tissue regeneration and growth happens while we sleep it’s important to help babies settle into a healthy cycle where these processes can occur.

This is why babies need to nap often: their bodies are growing and processing a high level of external inputs.

Homeo-What?

As a result of all the learning your child’s brain is going though, the feeling of needing to sleep builds up throughout the day. This need to sleep, or sleep “pressure” builds up quickly, requiring the need for frequent naps. This pressure is known as the homeostastic sleep drive.

The homeostatic sleep drive is basically how long the body can stay up before it starts to feel sleepy. Another way to think of it is as wake time; how long your child can stay awake before needing a nap or bedtime.

However the sleep drive is not the only component that comes into play. Otherwise we would likely be taking short naps all day long. For babies, this is common in the first 3-4 months, but after that point, a child’s sleep matures and other factors come into play.

Tick-Tock Goes The Circadian Clock

Your child’s sleep drive is also influenced by their sleep/wake circadian rhythms which controls the release of melatonin (the sleep hormone) and cortisol (the awake hormone, among other functions) over the course of 24 hours.

The circadian rhythm influences the timing of when your child’s body is biologically ready to sleep.  It is regulated by the brain based on the amount of light that the brain receives. The daylight signals the brain to keep releasing cortisol. At certain points in the day however, other circadian rhythms begin to prepare the body to sleep by lowering core body temperature and releasing melatonin.

Then, as evening approaches and the sunlight diminishes, the brain begins to release melatonin and allows your child to really feel the pressure to sleep. This is why bedtime tends to be the easiest sleep period to get a child to fall asleep.

To summarize, in children, the sleep drive creates the need to sleep, but the circadian rhythms influence the timing of sleep.

The trick to having a well-rested child is not only to time their nap with the sleep pressure building up *just enough*, AKA their wake time, (not so much that they are overtired which results in a super short nap and a lot of crankiness) but to also match the timing of the circadian rhythm.

Signs That Your Child is Getting Tired

To help you determine what your child’s wake time may be, look for subtle sleepy cues:

  • Staring into space and seeming disconnected from the surrounding environment
  • Turning away from you or another caregiver
  • Rejecting toys and food
  • Jerky, sporadic limb movements
  • Periods of quiet rest followed by vocal fussiness as they become overtired

The Downfalls of Being Overtired

If your baby or young child is being kept up too late, or is frequently missing nap periods, they may become overtired. This means they are in a state where they are sleepy and feeling fatigued, but are unable to sleep. Some of the issues which can arise from overtiredness are:

  • Waking up often throughout the night
  • Waking up very early
  • Short, or broken naps
  • Resisting naptime and exhibiting crying or giddiness
  • Night terrors
  • Battles at bedtime surrounding getting the child to sleep

Guidelines for Wake Times

Therefore, to avoid a multitude of sleep issues mentioned above, timing your child’s nap or bedtime just right can help to not only have them go to sleep easily, but also have a deep, long and restful sleep period.

One way to help this to occur is to follow wake times. Recommended wake time by age are:

 

BS101-WakeTimes-v2 (2)

Tips For Wake Time

  • Calculate wake time from eyes open to eyes closed, especially in the young babies.
  • If your child is overtired, begin with the shorter amount listed and slowly increase it as needed.
  • Requiring shorter intervals of wake time in the morning but a little longer in the afternoon is common.
  • Newborns naps will naturally be erratic and unpredictable, even with the same wake period.

 

Examining the amount of wake time your child is experiencing between naps and bedtime is a great step to take in solving their sleep issues.  It can take some trial and error to find your child’s sweet spot, but when you do, you will find that those unicorn children really do exist.  😉

For more tips and advice on how to help your child sleep better, download my FREE sleep guide.

Have a sleep question? Join me Wednesday nights for my free, live Q and A session on Facebook.

29 06, 2016

5 Tips to Help Kids Sleep Well While Travelling

June 29th, 2016|Categories: Travel Tips|Tags: , , |

5 Ways To Help Your Child Sleep Well On Summer Vacation

Summer’s almost here! Have you made any travel plans—maybe a trip to the beach or the lake? If you’ve been thinking of traveling this summer, you’ve probably also started to wonder how you’re supposed to accommodate your child’s sleep schedule along the way.

It can be challenging! But with a little planning that begins even before you leave for your trip, you can make life much easier for your little one—and for your whole family.

Here are 5 tips to keep your child’s sleep routines as seamless as possible, even during summer vacation.

#1. Arrange Nap time Around The Car Rides

Any child’s ideal sleep environment will be flat and motionless—in other words, the opposite of naps in the car.

But while sleeping on the road is not as restorative, it’s preferable to missing out on a nap completely. If your child falls asleep in the car easily, feel free to take advantage of it and drive while they sleep.

For many children though, it takes a while to unwind enough to go to sleep in the car. Try leaving at least 20-30 minutes before their nap would normally begin. Some children become too stimulated to fall asleep in the car at all. If that describes your child, try your best to arrive at your destination by nap time. If this isn’t possible, the next best option is to simply plan for an earlier bedtime that evening.

#2. Help Your Child Get Accustomed To New Sleeping Arrangements

Will your child be sleeping, for example, in their Pack ‘n Play during your summer trip? You might find it helpful to give your child the opportunity to practice by sleeping in the Pack ‘n Play at home, beginning a couple of days before you leave.

Once you’ve arrived at your summer vacation spot, try to recreate your child’s home sleep environment as best you can. Does your child normally use something to create white noise? Is he used to sleeping with a certain toy? Bring those items along! You might even want to bring the same sheets and room darkening shades to create a comfortable home-away-from-home for your child.

By bringing along items your child associates with a good night’s sleep, you’ll help his or her brain release natural sleep hormones into the bloodstream. You also won’t have to work as hard at helping your child fall asleep.

You’ll also want to have a soothing and calming wind-down routine in place before you travel—preferably one that’s easy to recreate when you’re on vacation.

Regardless of where you are, these familiar routines will help your child relax and drift off peacefully.

#3. Maintain Your Child’s Regular Schedule (As Much As Possible).

It’s no secret that kids thrive on routine. It’s comforting, and can help them handle the sensory overload that often comes along with traveling to a new environment.

As much as possible, start the day at the same time, keep meals and naps the same each day, and don’t let your little one stay up too late.

#4. Be sensitive to your child becoming overtired.

When your child is overtired, you’ll find they’re often even more resistant to sleeping somewhere new, going along with new routines, and interacting with new people. If you do your best to ensure your child is caught up on sleep before heading out on the road, you can avoid a lot of frustration. The best way to do this? Keep a regular nap schedule and an age-appropriate bedtime for at least 1-2 weeks before you leave for your trip.

Even though it might be convenient for your travel schedule, don’t force your child to skip naps. It’s very hard on a child’s body, and you’ll likely see the negative effects that night as they wake up more often. The stress can also show up during the daytime hours with temper tantrums and crankiness. It’s definitely not what you had in mind while trying to enjoy your summer vacation.

#5. Keep your child’s temperament in mind

Typically, babies and toddlers have sensitive temperaments. They can sense all the excitement (and sometimes stress) that a summer vacation can bring. It’s common to become easily overwhelmed with too many activities, so build in some “down time,” whether you’re visiting a relative’s house or spending time at the lake or beach. This extra bit of planning can lead to longer, deeper, and more restorative sleep.

Did you know most children have a sleep temperament? It also plays a part in how they’ll adjust to a new sleep routine.

Over the years I’ve found two categories of sleep temperaments in children: sensitive and flexible.

  • The Sensitive Sleepers: Babies and children who are highly affected by even small changes in their routines. They’ll require recovery time to get back on track. As much as possible, their routines need to stay rigid.
  • The Flexible Sleepers: These little ones are able to adjust and adapt to a disrupted sleep environment more easily. A shorter nap or a later bedtime doesn’t throw their system off, and they won’t need a lot of recovery time.

Don’t be afraid to give it a try!

It absolutely takes planning and plenty of patience to head out on a summer vacation with an infant or toddler. But you can do this! 

It’s never too early to start making family memories with your little one. Enjoy your summer!

Need more sleep tips? Download the Baby Sleep 101 Free Sleep Guide.

Have a question about your child’s sleep? Join the Baby Sleep 101 on Facebook for weekly live Q & A sessions.

 

This article originally appeared in Canadian Family.

6 04, 2016

Sleep Training Your Toddler; 5 Tips for Success

April 6th, 2016|Categories: Preschooler Sleep, Toddler Sleep|Tags: , , , |

Is sleep training your toddler right for you?

It happens to the best of us; we have a baby that was sleeping well ( or not) but then the toddler years hit and all hell breaks loose. Your child is climbing out of the crib, coming out of their bed and into your room, resisting nap, waking early, not letting you leave-you name it, you’ve got it.  You start to think that sleep training your toddler is needed. But how to begin? All the baby books focus on just that-babies.

The good news is that I have helped many families with toddlers (and preschoolers! ) start to have healthy sleeping habits so that the whole family *including mom and dad* are feeling well-rested and happy. It is never too late!

Let’s not waste another moment of you feeling tired or frustrated, shall we? Here’s what you need to know…

Sleep Log

The best place to start at is with documenting your child’s sleep. Without having a base from which to start from, it is hard to move forward.

Maybe you’re back to work during the days and struggling to get your little one to sleep at night. The last thing you want to do is start writing everything down, *BUT* it’s exactly for this reason that it’s important to log your child’s sleep. As a busy mom myself (are there really any other kind?) I know it’s hard to accurately remember everything from day to day. But after working for years with exhausted parents, I know it’s even more difficult to remember details when you’re sleep deprived.

Record it on your computer, open up your favourite sleep app, or go old school with a pen and paper, but whatever you choose, there are some important factors to document;

  • Wake up time
  • Nap starting and end times
  • Bedtime
  • Night wakings, and
  • Your child’s mood

Record this information for 5-7 days to provide valuable clues about your child’s sleep. It will help you to asses how much overall sleep and nap time they are getting each day on average. From there you can adjust accordingly.

This sleep logging time period should be one where everyone is on a pretty regular schedule. Don’t do it when there is illness, vacation, vaccinations, or house guests that may influence your results.

Baby or Toddler?

The term “toddler” is pretty ambiguous, describing everything from 12 month-3 year olds. When you’re looking at developing a healthy sleep routine though, it’s important to know where your little fits in for two reasons.

The first being is that you need to know what the average sleep requirements are for his or her age. And the second is for the most appropriate sleep training method options for their cognitive level.

A 13 month old toddler is going to have very different sleep needs than a 23 month old toddler. And each will have different options in terms of what is appropriate to expect from their level of understanding when trying to change behaviours.

Another special area to note is whether or not your child is still in their crib as it will impact your sleep training methods. I generally recommend that you wait until at least 3 years old to move a child to a big-kid bed for reasons outlined here, but I understand that not every family is able to do that.

Age Appropriate Routine

When you’re thinking about sleep training your toddler, it’s essential that you make their daytime and bedtime routine the primary focus. Although the talk in moms’ groups tends to focus on the sleep training aspect, it is in fact only focusing on the sleep training part that will ensure failure.

A perpetually overtired child will continue to cry, have temper tantrums, get silly, resist sleep period even after being sleep trained if their routine isn’t on track. Sleep training is *only* meant to get rid of sleep associations. It does not fix routines that have poorly timed naps and/or a bedtime that is too late.

If your little one is taking 2 naps a day, they will generally need a morning nap around an hour in length, and an afternoon nap ranging from 1.5-2 hours. A toddler that has completed the 2-1 nap transition will need a midday nap ranging from 1.5-3 hours in length and bedtime falling somewhere between 6-8pm.

Please note that these are just averages-always take your child’s unique sleep temperament into consideration.

Manage the Sleep Debt

This goes hand in hand with the preceding tip. As you focus on your child’s routine, their sleep debt will begin to be reduced. You can further this process along by not allowing bedtime to be too late.

How late is too late?

Well-rested toddlers can handle about 4-5 hours from the wake up of their last nap until bedtime. However if they are overtired, moving bedtime up earlier than this will be very helpful.

Change Sleep Behaviours and Expectations

Now it is time to decide how you want to change your child’s sleep behaviours. Do they come out of their room each night? Need you to lay down with them? Insist on something to drink before they go back to sleep? This is where you would choose the appropriate sleep training method and employ it consistently to change these sleep habits.

This is one of the last areas to consider and should never be done without addressing any daytime routine issues first. This way, we tackle the child’s sleep debt which assists with reducing the amount of crying. Win-win!

Picking the actual sleep training method for your toddler will be based upon their age (see point #2), their personality, and your parenting philosophy. Consistency is essential; pick a method that you can see through to the end. Constantly changing your method or response will ultimately confuse your child (read: crying) so following through once you have begun is the quickest path to success.

For a comprehensive review, I detailed many options in this sleep training series and several of them can be adapted for older children in big kid beds.

BONUS: A Tip For Older Toddlers

The older a child is, the more you can talk to them about how great sleep is for their bodies, preceding any changes you intend to make. You want to sell them on the idea of sleep and what it can do for them.

Most toddlers love to be physically active; running, jumping, swinging, climbing play structures and the like. Use this to your advantage and begin to draw the connections for them about how sleep helps their energy levels; allowing them to feel good enough to play.

By discussing the benefits of getting enough rest before sleep training your toddler, and then following through during the implementation period, you will help your child start to take pride in their sleep skills.

It is actually pretty amazing and quite touching to see when this transformation begins to happen. I have had many parents amazed how suddenly their child is eager to go to sleep (after resisting sleep for sometimes years). The child begins to appreciate and feel the difference in themselves!

If your little one has been lacking sleep for sometime, it may be time to consider making some changes in their routine. Sleep training your toddler can result in your child getting healthy and restorative sleep, and teaching them a valuable life skill. The preceding tips are a great place to start and should you want more detailed help, check out the toddler sleep consultation options.

If healthy sleep habits are well under way, but you need to ask a quick question, be sure to like and join the Baby Sleep 101 Facebook page’s Wednesday night free Q & A sessions.