Just after you feel relieved that those sleepless nights during the infancy period finally ended, your toddler now suddenly starts having trouble going to sleep again. It’s either she’s throwing a tantrum, refusing to go to bed, or having separation anxiety where she just doesn’t want to sleep alone. While it’s a normal part of their development, how can you minimise all those sleep troubles and ensure your child is having enough sleep she needs?
The most common answer you’d hear is that you should establish a positive sleep routine for your little one. However, for a sleep routine to work, you can start by sleep training your toddler to help her learn self-soothing and learn to sleep on her own without crying or calling you out.
This article covers everything you need to know about toddler sleep training and choices of methods you can implement, so you can both get the rest you need.
What is Toddler Sleep Training?
Sleep training is helping your little one to learn to sleep on her own without your presence. Most sleep training includes starting a positive bedtime routine with your help as parents, but then later slowly reducing your presence until she’s able to sleep on her own.
Therefore, the objective is that you’ll only need to put her to bed, kiss her goodnight and leave the room until the morning. Not only is it essential if your toddler has started sleeping in her own room, but it’s also a great way to build independence in your child.
Does my child need sleep training
Every toddler is different. Some toddlers have no difficulty at all falling asleep, while some are just full of bedtime battles and have trouble having a regular sleep pattern. It’s true that these sleep troubles eventually end as your child grows, but it can also be stressful for parents when their child doesn’t get enough sleep.
If those bedtime battles just keep going, especially longer than a month, you may want to consider sleep training your toddler. After all, both you and your child need to get the rest you need for optimal health and well-being.
When to start sleep training?
Basically, it’s more ideal – and a lot easier – to start sleep training your child as early as possible, even from when your child is five months old. Sleep training a toddler is typically harder, especially because they’re already able to speak their demands and call you out.
Though it may be more difficult, sleep training a toddler is still possible. The key is to have a clear plan, putting clear boundaries and stay consistent with what you try to establish.
How to sleep train a toddler
There are many multiple ideas and methods to sleep train your little one, but keep in mind that there’s not one must-work method that’s effective on all children. The most essential thing is to understand your child so that you can implement something that’s suitable for their personality.
Here are some ideas that you can try.
Reducing interval checking time
This is a great balance between the assertive and the lighter methods, which is why it’s also one of the most favourable choices for parents. It involves accompanying your child for a while on her bed and later leaving the room for a while before checking her again, but you will slowly increase the interval time to return until she’s able to sleep on her own. Be consistent in not staying long and only assure her that everything is okay when you return to check on your child.
The idea is that she will eventually fall asleep on her own in between these interval checks. Also, your child will be calmer and less anxious when knowing that you will be back to be with her again later.
Of course, you may need to get back to check on her many times before she falls asleep, especially on the first few nights. But rest assured, your toddler will slowly get used to having less presence of you and will finally be able to sleep on her own without your help.
This method is almost similar to the previous one, except it doesn’t involve you leaving the room. So, what you do is sit next to your child’s bed until she’s asleep and move your chair closer to the door every night until she doesn’t need your company anymore. The idea is to get your child to slowly feel comfortable with you being further away from her and until you don’t have to be in the room.
Though it may take a long time to work – yes, you don’t move the chair for the first few nights – the Disappearing Chair is a much lighter method, especially for a toddler who has separation anxiety or just starts crying when you leave the room.
Camp it out
You may want to consider this method if your child is transitioning to her own bed or room. In this method, you will “camp out” in your child’s new room on a separate bed (an air mattress would work) and leave the room when she’s already asleep.
You can combine this method with the Disappearing Chair by moving to a chair before eventually totally leaving the room for her to sleep on her own.
Waiting until she gets tired
Some children are just too tough to break through, and just don’t sleep without you no matter how you try. If that’s the case, you may try this method to let your child ‘naturally’ sleep.
Often called the ‘Fading Method’, this method’s idea is to simply wait until your child gets tired before putting her to bed. You need to adjust her naptime to not too close to the evening and encourage her to be physically active during the day so that she’ll get naturally sleepy a lot earlier. You then can combine it with any of the methods above to be in your child’s presence before bed.
What Can Also Make Your Child To Fall Asleep Faster
You need to be both patient and flexible in order for the sleep training to work. And in terms of teaching your child to sleep on her own, solely depending on sleep training is often counterproductive. There are many other factors that help to establish a healthy sleep pattern in your child, or simply make your child sleep faster and easier such as:
- Establishing a positive sleep routine. Create a sleep routine that makes your child feel calm and comfortable. It can be a warm bath before bed or as simple as reading stories and small pillow talks. This helps to make her feel secure.
- Offer a comfort object. Comfort objects help to make children feel comfortable, especially if she’s transitioning to their own bed.
- Provide a comfortable sleep environment. Feeling comfortable is a must to relax, and that starts with her sleeping environment. Decorate the room the way she likes it, and make it sleep-friendly with a dimmed light and cool temperature.
- Limit screen time before bed. Both television and digital devices can prevent your child from being sleepy because of the blue light these devices produce. Avoid any screen time activity at least two to three hours before bedtime and you’ll see the difference.
- Maintain a healthy diet. In fact, some foods can actually keep your child awake. These foods are those that are high in sugar, caffeine and other stimulants. Instead, offer the foods that can increase the melatonin production in your child’s body to make her naturally sleepy, such as bananas and warm milk.
Sleep training varies for every child. Some do it within just a few nights, while some children need more than a month. It just shows that every child is different and we, as parents, need to understand our children better to find a solution that suits their personality.
We hope that these toddler sleep training tips help you improve your and your child’s sleep quality and that everyone can get enough rest every night.