Ever feel like getting your toddler to bed at night is a battle you just can’t win? They tell you they are not tired so you let them stay up late and even just getting them into their own bed and staying there can take well over an hour. Familiar story? Well today, Carla Berlin, a highly experienced and certified paediatric sleep consultant is here to share with you her top tips to help make bedtime run more smoothly so you can crack open that bottle of wine and watch Netflix that little bit earlier!
1. AN EARLY BEDTIME
Although they may tell you different, toddlers still need a total of 11-14 hours sleep in a 24 hour period. A bedtime between 7pm and 8pm is ideal. Especially if they have given up their day nap which usually happens after about 3 years old.
2. GIVE A HEADS UP BEFORE BED
If bedtime is suddenly sprung on them in the middle of a play time, they are going to be frustrated you have abruptly ended whatever fun and games they were having. So just before the bedtime routine is about to begin its always advisable to give them a 10 minute warning.
3. ROUTINE ROUTINE ROUTINE!
Aim for a 30 minute bedtime routine which include the same steps each night (e.g bath, pjs, book bed) . Make a chart beside their bed with each step of the routine and even get them involved in making the chart and as they go through each step they can put a sticker or a check mark next to it. This gives them a feeling of responsibility and a sense of control in their bedtime routine. You can even include a prize at the end of each week if they have successfully completed the bedtime routine each night.
4. CONTROLLED CHOICES
Toddlers are at an age where they are testing boundaries and want to feel in control. So by giving them controlled choices – two or three options that you are equally happy with, they are more likely to co-operate. For example – “do you want to wear the green or blue pjs tonight?” or “ which two books would you like to read tonight?”
5. ANTICIPATE THE REQUESTS
Always try and be one step ahead with the stalling tactics! For example the likes of being thirsty - have a glass of water on their bedside table all ready. The famous one more book- let them already have chosen the two books they are going to be reading that night. If they start questioning this and want another book for example you can always refer back to the chart that’s by their bed which says only 2 books so they understand that this is non-negotiable.
6. LIMIT SCREEN USAGE AN HOUR BEFORE BED
The blue light emitted from electrical items such as TV’s and phones suppresses the body’s sleepy hormone called melatonin. This makes it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep!
7. DONT CHANGE FROM A COT TO A BED TOO SOON
If you think by moving them to a bed will solve sleep issues its unlikely to be the case. Its likely the situation will become worse as they now have free reign of the house! Its not only dangerous that they can go wondering in the middle of the night without any supervision but when moved too young they lack the impulse control to stay in bed. So unless it’s becoming dangerous for them to be in a cot as they are able to climb out or they have reached 2.5-3 years old and they are talking about wanting a big boy/girl bed I recommend keeping them in their cot with the mattress as low as possible. The transition should be a positive experience, not because of poor sleeping habits.
8. USE THE ‘EXCUSE ME’ APPROACH FOR EASING SEPARATION ANXIETY
When separation anxiety creeps in it’s really common for toddlers to start getting upset when you leave their room. So before getting into bad habits you want to nip it in the bud. This is a great gradual approach to ease their worries so that they can become comfortable being left on their own at bedtime and when they wake at night. The concept is to leave the room and make an excuse e.g. “Excuse me I just need to go and turn the oven off”. When returning after just 30-60 seconds at first, give them lots of praise that they stayed in bed. The praise is usually enough for them to want to stay in bed. You keep repeating with different excuses and slightly longer intervals over the course of the week. This may take over 20-30 returns the first night before they fall asleep when you are out the room. But the interval of time out the room can get longer and longer until your child will start falling asleep without you needing to repeat.
I hope you have found this useful and can start putting these tips into practice at the next bedtime. For more information or help with your baby or toddler sleep you can contact me via snoozetots.com or on Instagram @snooze_tots
Carla Berlin, Snooze Tots