I have been getting many questions from parents lately on what to do when their toddler’s sleep regresses. This is every parent’s worst nightmare.
So I thought I would put together an easy list of tips to follow, when your toddler throws some curve balls at you at bedtime.
So what exactly are we talking about when we say regress? Your toddler has learnt to sleep on their own without your help and things have been going great for a few months, when all of a sudden they start to leave their rooms, wake up early, cry when you say good night etc.
Regressions do happen due to family events (birth of a sibling, new house, new school, new care giver, developmental milestones etc.) Here are some tips on how to get back on track:
1. Don’t panic. Toddlers are a tricky bunch and they are learning a lot about the world around them. They learn by asking questions, pushing boundaries and rules. So be consistent in your response by sending them to bed at the regular time. Don’t give in to new demands like “will you please just stay in the room for a little bit more”? (sound familiar)? If you give in to one thing, then they start to wonder what else is up for negotiation.
2. If there is a new baby in the house, then you might be worried about letting your toddler cry for a few minutes for the fear of waking up the baby. Yes, this is a toughie. But, your toddler will only do this for a few nights. They will quickly learn that their new tactics are not getting the results they want and will go back to sleeping again. If you start bending the rules, instead of a few nights of disruption (for both kids and yourself), you will be looking at a few weeks of disruption for yourself and your toddler……….trust me, before you know it, you might be giving in to their demand of wanting to sleep in your bed again, so that they don’t wake up the baby!
3. Do a careful check of their sleeping environment to see if anything new could be causing the sleep disruption. Is the room as dark as it can be? I know my 4 year old son is now old enough to realize that it’s still light outside when he goes to sleep and he questions me on why he has to. So we have had to heavy up on the room darkening stuff, by taping the drapes and stuffing the gaps so that the light doesn’t peek through. It’s not pretty but it does the job! Do you need to get a noise machine to mask any early morning noises? A toddler clock will help them understand when it’s time to go to bed and when it’s time to wake up.
4. It might be time for them to transition nap schedules. If they are tossing and turning in bed at night, it could be because they are getting too much daytime sleep. Keep a sleep log for a few days to see if a pattern emerges to give you some clearer answers.
Just remember that this regression is a part of growing up.
Toddlers are light night watchmen. Their job is to go around opening doors. But they don’t want to find anything behind those doors!
You will feel an immense amount of guilt about being so strict and drawing a line in the sand. But DON’T! They are comforted and feel secure in the fact that nothing has changed. It makes them feel good and safe that everything has stayed exactly the same despite all their negotiations and pushing. Sounds crazy, right?!
Post your thoughts below in the comments section on what you think about these tips.