Putting your toddler to sleep might seem like a very daunting task for a lot of moms and dads out there. After all, many of our pint-sized children manage to muster up the most energy right when it’s time for them to go to bed. Suddenly they want that last glass of milk. Or they want to hear about the time when you forgot your purse at the cash register at Target and had to run back, only to find out that it was in your cart the entire time. It also seems to be the time when they want to analyze – in detail, no less – the last episode they watched on Paw Patrol. They’ll give you every reason in the world why they don’t need to fall asleep during their scheduled bedtime. This, in turn, makes life a living hell for you and your spouse. Whatever happened to simply turning off the lights and calling it a day?
With that being said, here are 20 tried and tested ways that parents have gotten their kids to bed at night. Have any of these worked for you? Check out our list below and let us know what you think!
First and foremost, the most important thing you should do is turn off all electronics. That includes the television screen, the iPad or any other devices you probably use as an electronic babysitter for your kids (don't worry, we do it, too... we are not judging). Very Well Family writes, “Seeing toys, hearing a TV set, or noticing other people in the room will divide an overtired or over-stimulated toddler's attention and make it harder for her to settle down. If at all possible, take her into a dark room with no noise, or use soft music or white noise to create a calm environment.”
Another thing you may want to try is avoiding any huge meals before bedtime. As they say, you want to eat like a king for breakfast, eat like a prince for lunch and eat like a pauper for dinner. This helps eliminate excessive trips to the bathroom before bedtime. Of course, that doesn’t mean that your child should go hungry before bed. A light or suitable snack will work. Just make sure that your child won’t go to bed with a full tummy, otherwise, he or she will be getting up multiple times during the night, and in turn, interrupting his or her sleep pattern.
This may take a few tries, but you might want to try encouraging your child to self-soothe before his or her bedtime. In other words, let them calm themselves down before falling asleep, without your guidance or assistance. It also teaches independence and reassurance. Café Mom writes, “Giving your child a special transitional object, such as a teddy bear or 'lovie' to snuggle and go to bed with during the bedtime routine can help them learn to use this object to help themselves get back to sleep when they wake in the middle of the night.” As your child learns how to self-soothe they will need to less and less as a conduit for falling asleep.
The fewer activities you do before bedtime, the higher the chance of your child being ready to hit the pillow when it's time to turn off the light. After all, no one can fall asleep with an elevated heart rate, right? The same applies to our kiddos, too. If they feel energized, chances are they won’t fall asleep. Life Hacker writes, “Extra-curricular activities are important, but too many of them coupled with lots of homework can push the bedtime later and later. Kids this age still need about 10-11 hours of sleep a day, although the average is only about 9 hours.”
At the end of the day, it’s all about creating the ideal sleep environment for your child. If you must, try Feng Shui to make sure that everything in your child’s room is in the right place and space for optimal sleepy sleepy time, if you know what we mean! This mom wrote on Facebook, “My daughter is two and I rocked her to sleep when she was a baby. At some point, she stopped falling asleep in my arms so I rocked her until she was tired. Now she's in a toddler bed and we say our prayers, I sing her a couple songs while I rub her forehead, and she tells me to "go away" after a few minutes because she's ready to go to sleep.” There is hope!
We are not going to beat around the bush here: parenting is hard. It’s one of the hardest jobs you will ever come across. And there’s nothing harder in this world than making sure your toddler sticks to his or her bedtime. But believe it or not, it’s crucial and it’s something that you need to emphasize every night. Life Hacker writes, “You can't actually control how long your child sleeps, but you should try to start the routine at around the same time each day. If your child is showing signs of being frequently overtired, try moving the routine start time 30 minutes earlier.” So set a schedule and stick to it, but also pay attention. If something isn't working, it might be time to re-jig the schedule.
Now, this one might not work for everyone, as some kids simply can’t go a long period of time without a little shut-eye. But if your child is having trouble falling asleep at night, try skipping the nap. Baby Center writes, “even though the majority of children (about 70 percent) stop napping at 5 years, 3 in 10 still need a nap at this age. That said, every child is different. Much depends on how many hours your toddler sleeps at night. Toddlers need approximately 12 to 14 hours of sleep in each 24-hour period.” Just as some kids continue to need naps as they grow up, other kids grow out of naps quicker. You’re better off with a toddler who sleeps through the night than one that sleeps through the day!
Tag team it, baby! It takes two to tango and it certainly takes two to put a toddler to sleep, especially if he or she is having trouble doing it on their own. The more you and your partner work as a team, the better the chances there will be something to convince your child that going to bed – on time, nonetheless – is a good idea. Have your partner take over, especially if you feel like you can’t take it anymore. Life Hacker writes, “If you have a partner or other help, it's really important you tag team to make this more bearable—switch who has to get up every other feeding.”
For a lot of couples, their child’s bedtime might sound like freedom bells for them. But if your child is having a hard time going to bed on their own, try to make sleep a family priority for everyone. One mom wrote on Reddit, “My husband and I sleep share with our 17-month-old as recommended by Dr. Sears. She sleeps between us, and as she is a hefty 28 lbs we are not worried about rolling on her. Yes, she goes to bed too late (approximately 10:30 pm on average). Generally, we all go to bed at the same time. This has allowed all of us to sleep through the night. Plus we don't believe in the "cry it out" method. It works for us.” Every family and every child is different, so find what works for you and let us know!
If you must, deal with sleep troubles head-on. In other words, don’t ignore the problem and don’t think it’s going to go away on its own. And certainly don’t think that your child can get away with going to be at 11 pm because he or she says so. Baby Center writes, “Toddlers are great negotiators when it comes to bedtime. And because they so enjoy the time they spend with you, they'll do what they can to prolong it. Your child may take his time doing his nightly routine, ask repeatedly for a glass of water, or think of some urgent task he must do.” Only you know when this problem has left the realm of regular toddler tricks and entered problem territory, so be real with yourself and don't let a real issue go unresolved too long.
When it comes to how you sleep, it’s all about comfort, right? Even adults will tell you that they can't sleep peacefully unless everything is perfect. Well, toddlers are the same way. If their pajamas aren’t the right fit, the right material, or heck, even if they don't have their favorite animated character on the front, chances are they are not going to bed, mama! Make sure that that pajama set you bought from Target is on point. It might have been on clearance, but it needs to be 100 percent certified by your toddler, too.
If all else fails, take a few steps back. Try the cradle position if you need to, just like those first few months when he or she was sleeping every few hours. Café Mom writes, “Your toddler may think he's too old for that baby hold, but cradling him will truly help a tired child. Hold him as far up on your chest as possible. Preferably, you'll be able to reach his ear with your lips and put your cheek next to his. Don't press him tightly, but do encircle him firmly so that he'll be limited by how much he can wiggle and kick.” It worked before they were toddlers so it will likely continue to work while they go through this toddler stage, too.
There’s a good chance that your toddler might have a security object that he or she feels very comfortable with at home. If this is the case, make sure that they only have access to it during bedtime, which should make going to bed and falling asleep more special. This mom wrote on Baby Center, “I totally agree, as a mother you follow your instincts. I always thought that babies should sleep on their own because it's convenient to the family but now that I have my son I realized that it is about him and what makes him feel secure and loved. His needs are being met so he is very growing up a very happy baby.” Also it never hurts to have a back-up security object incase one is lost or in the wash!
Whatever you do, don’t give in. Remember that you are the adult here. You make all of the decisions. You pay the bills, the mortgage and you buy the groceries. He might be tiny and fierce, but he’s not qualified enough to be the CEO of your family. “One last thing” doesn’t cut it. Baby Center writes, “Try to anticipate all of your child's usual (and reasonable) requests and make them part of the bedtime routine. Put a glass of water on his night table, remind him to use the potty one more time, and give him lots of extra hugs to last him the whole night.”
You can try a toddler massage. And no, we don’t mean buying a super expensive gadget or toddler sized massage chair to get your baby to fall asleep before bedtime. Instead, try a simple trick like this one here. One mom said on Facebook, “A nurse at the hospital taught me how to gently massage my baby’s eyebrows before falling asleep. It worked as a newborn and it most definitely worked as a toddler. So if he’s having a hard time sleeping, I just lay down next to him and gently stroke his eyebrows until I know he’s in a deep sleep. It calms him and it soothes him and it works the majority of the time.”
As much as your child wants to discuss everything he or she witnessed during Disney on Ice, keep the pillow talk to a minimum. In other words, there’s a time and a place for everything and bedtime isn’t a time for late night discussions. Military Mom writes, “When kids want to connect, they will fight bedtime and continue to come out of bed in order to connect. If kids feel powerless and desire control, they will fight bedtime in order to fill their need for power. And if kids want the experience of sleeping in your bed, they will continue trying to experience it if they don’t see another alternative.” Just like we mentioned above, if this has become a habit, try to anticipate these late-night tell-alls and encourage the storytelling during dinner or before bath time.
If you are having a difficult time sticking to a bedtime, try to do the opposite and set up a wake-up time instead. That way your child will have no wiggle room, especially if it’s a time that he or she isn’t accustomed to. In other words, if you want your child to wake up at 7:30 am every morning, set the alarm. This might help encourage them to hopefully go to bed and get enough hours of rest before taking on another big day of fun activities and family bonding time. Keep in mind that toddlers should get at least 11 to 12 hours of rest each night.
Reduce stress before bedtime. In other words, make sure that there are no explosive meltdowns or waterworks before he or she is expected to go to bed. Military Mom writes, “Meeting a child’s need for power is often overlooked, but it is usually the primary need at the beginning of a bedtime battle because children feel powerless when they can’t get what they want. This might be choosing the pajamas they wear, the order of the bedtime routine, the books you read, or the game you play during teeth brushing. When kids feel in control, they stop trying to control others.” Find ways for you both to wind down before it's time to turn the lights out.
If your child views his bedtime in the same category as eating his veggies or giving grandma and grandpa a hug (in other words, in the “no thank you” category) then try to reduce the focus on sleep. It’s all about mind over matter, right? Don’t talk about how important sleep is. Instead, let your toddler take control of the wheel for a change. Baby Center writes, “Toddlers like to see how far they can push their independence. To help your child feel empowered, let her make bedtime choices whenever possible. Ask her which story she wants to hear or what pajamas she wants to wear.”
If you tried all of the above but still can’t get your toddler to fall asleep, there might be another, underlying issue that needs to be addressed. Be on the lookout for any possible sleep disorders and if you detect a problem, definitely consult your child’s pediatrician or another health professional. It doesn’t matter how old you are or what your lifestyle looks like, sleep is important for everyone, regardless of your age. And toddlers are no different! The more sleep they get, the better the entire family feels at the end of the day, and first thing in the morning, too!
source: Very Well Family, Military Mom, Baby Center, Babble, Facebook, Reddit