Bedtime battles and torturous tasks now a thing of the past - 2 years old
We’ve all done it – found ourselves counting down the hours (or minutes!) until our children’s bedtime so that we can have some downtime.
But what if that bedtime routine didn’t result in your retreat into Netflix, but actually marked the kicking off of an hours-long battle with your toddler who didn’t want to go to sleep?
Unfortunately, the latter scenario had been the case for two year old Cindy and her mum Fiona.
“We had a good evening routine in place, with dinner, bath-time, winding down, a story and a bottle, and Cindy would go into her cot relatively happily, but then she would soon be standing, jumping and calling out. It could go on for more than an hour some nights,” Fiona explains.
“She’d created something of a game out of it and could be quite persistent. It was driving us a little insane and Cindy was keeping our son awake too, so we knew we had to do something.”
Fiona turned to what she had done a couple of times before – for both her son and during Cindy’s earlier years – and opted for a phone consult with Waikato-based baby sleep consultant, Becky.
“It was my husband initially that said ‘can’t we ring those people again?’ and I knew we’d had such miraculous results the other times we’d used them,” Fiona laughs.
“Sometimes as a busy mum, it’s hard to see the wood for the trees, but I knew there must be something I was doing that wasn’t quite right.”
Fiona imagined that there would be a simple solution to Cindy’s bedtime battles – and had previously seen significant behavioural changes from just small tweaks in the past – but admits that she wasn’t sure what the solution was.
“I had been experimenting already and what I was doing wasn’t having much of an impact,” Fiona shares.
“Not only was bedtime becoming a torturous task, but Cindy was waking twice during the night – once around 11pm and again at 1 or 2am. We were exhausted!”
Looking to the day to see you right for the night
Becky took some time to catch up on where Cindy was at now, before coming up with a plan for Fiona to try. The plan had two main pillars – tweaking Cindy’s daytime sleep, and reducing the volume of her bedtime bottle.
“When I ran through our day and routine with Becky, she sensed that Cindy was sleeping 30 – 40 minutes too long during the day, and having her nap a little bit early in the day,” Fiona explains. “The key was to create a longer gap in the afternoon that would see Cindy ready to go back to sleep at bedtime.”
Other than the timing tweaks earlier in the day, Cindy’s routine leading up to night-time stayed exactly as it had been – with the exception of a smaller night-time milk feed (and less heavy wetting overnight!) And the result?
“That very first day we changed things, Cindy went to sleep so much easier and slept right through,” marvels Fiona. “We’ve had moments of protest in the few weeks since, but they have been tiny in comparison to what we used to face. Previously, that evening stretch was just relentless and we were enduring this battle that seemed to go on forever, then dreading what else the night might bring.”
A more harmonious household
Now Fiona’s family is much happier. “We’re a much more harmonious household. Cindy is happier, so is our son – and my husband and I can have a bit of peace in the evenings now, which has made such a massive difference. Correcting things has meant that now everyone can wind down in the evenings, and we no longer have to face that tortuous task!”
Fiona also feels forewarned and forearmed, as Becky provided some extra tips about how to continue supporting Cindy’s sleep as she gets older. “I understand how and when to further reduce her day sleep now, as she continues developing.”
Toddlers sleep is quite uniquely different to baby sleep. Where sleep begets sleep when it comes to babies, over sleeping can cause bedtime dramas, and delayed onset of sleep in toddlers. Just as feeding to sleep works well for babies, but excess feeds can disrupt sleep whether through digestion or full bladders and lots of wet nappies. We often refer back to sleep strategies that worked for our babies and try to apply them to our toddlers when in fact they need a different solution one suited to toddler needs.
Our Baby Sleep Program helps tired parents TO DEVELOP HEALTHY SLEEP HABITS BY FOCUSING ON NAPS, SETTLING AND NIGHT SLEEP.
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My toddler is still in a cot can you help?
Yes! It is very normal for a toddler to stay in their cot for up to 3 years, and often beyond if they don't out grow their cot. Most toddlers find security in the small space and feel a reduced stress at not having to control their impulses to get up and run around at bed time. It can actually make improving your toddlers sleep easier than if they are in a big bed depending on their age. We have strategies for both big beds and cots/
My toddler is in a big bed can you still help?
Yes. Depending on how old they are, and how well their impulse control has developed will influence what strategy you find the most effective.
Does my toddler need to ditch their dummy?
We find keeping toddlers dummies/pacifiers until they are closer to 3 years effective. Once they hit this next stage of toddlerhood we can explain to them that actually their dummy has gone away to the dummy fairy or the rubbish truck and they can understand this idea and learn to sleep without their dummy. Much younger than this, the easier approach is to keep it and help them to sleep independently and find their own dummy in the night.
My toddler is at pre-school in the day is this a problem?
No not at all. Most toddlers benefit from some ECE during the day. If you find your toddler naps for too long or too short while at pre-school, chat to us about a solution to this to help with your night sleep.
My toddler is taking a nap, do they need to drop their nap?
Sometimes a nap is contributing to delayed onset of sleep at night, but dropping the nap leads to a very tired grumpy toddler who can't make it through dinner! Getting the balance and timing of nap reduction right is important to preserve night sleep, and ensure these situations don't arise. If you are already stuck in this pattern, we can help.
I can't get my toddler to stay in their bed, can you help?
Yes! Getting up multiple times a night, creeping into bed with you, or calling out for lost toys, bad dreams, or milk are all common night waking problems which we have plenty of solutions for. Try the online sleep program or a private consult.
Can my toddler sleep through the night?
Yes! Obviously all toddlers wake at the end of their sleep cycles at night, but just like you and I, they can easily learn to roll over and go back to sleep. Thus giving the impression of sleeping through the night. Unless otherwise medically indicated there is no need for night feeds in toddler hood, and we can work with you to drop any night feeds.
My toddler wakes at 5am every day, is there a solution?
Early morning wake ups are on of the most common toddler problems. The cause is a little more tricky than we imagine. Often a toddler is in a very light sleep phase by 5am, physiologically their melatonin levels have dropped right off and their cortisol is rising which in turn helps to wake them up. These wake ups are reinforced by light, parents interactions and food, so we need to be mindful of avoiding these things. We have an early morning wake up master class, and we also cover early wake ups in our online sleep program.
My toddler asks for a dozen things before bed every night.
Toddlers are brilliant at delay tactic at bed time. You need to consider if your toddler is not tired enough to sleep, needs less day sleep, a later bed time, or is just testing boundaries. Once you work out which of these is true, our online program has solutions. If you are unsure, speak with a consultant for more help.
Does night toilet training disrupt night sleep?
Often children day toilet train a LOT younger than they night toilet train. It is normal for children to not night time toilet train until 5-7 years old. If your toddler is being woken by a full bladder they are ready to toilet train, but this would usually only occur 1-2 times a night maximum, and it is easy to teach them to take themselves off to the bathroom. If they are getting up multiple times and pretending they need the bathroom, this is behavioral and not night time toilet training. We have strategies for this.
When can I ditch my toddlers sleeping bag?
Sleeping bags are such a positive sleep association, you don't need to rush the move from sleeping bag to sheets. If you are moving to a big bed, you can either take the sleeping bag with the child to the big bed to provide similarities with sleep, or you can make the move to sheets and blankets. If you find your child is constantly waking up cold is a big bed, and are not pulling their own covers up, you may need to layer up some warm layers under their PJ's
My toddler calls out and wakes the entire house if I don't give them a bottle in the night, is there a solution?
Sometimes when we work on a sleep solution it is a short term pain (being woken by the yelling) for long term gain (months of quiet uninterrupted sleep). We definitely have solutions for you, but we can't guarantee your toddler will be quiet.
My toddler screams at bed time, I think it's separation anxiety.
Separation anxiety is common in toddlers, if they struggle to be away from you in the day, cry when you leave the room during the day, and show day time clingy behavior they maybe experiencing separation anxiety. It is unlikely for this anxiety to only show up at bed time...... this is more likely to be behavioral. Either way we have solutions to support you and your toddler.
I think my toddlers tantrums are due to his tiredness, can you help?
Yes! You are right, so often a tired toddler is a grumpy toddler and one having tantrums. This is because our emotions are regulated while we sleep, and lack of sleep is linked to an inability to reason or regulate our emotions. Combine this with the big emotions your toddler is already feeling and we have a melt down coming. Our consultants can help you with better sleep solutions, and toddler tantrum ideas, chat with us today.
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