My younger sister is a proud mommy to a one-year-old little boy, and while she revels in being a first-time parent and watching her little bundle of joy grow, it is not without its challenges.  Just recently she messaged me asking how to get her little boy to sleep through the whole night.  Currently, he is up and down from dusk into the wee hours of the morning; and the minute he is awake he expects his milk pronto!  After a year of this, you can imagine that my sister has a few rings under her eyes, and if you are having the same issue with your little one, then read on to find out what you can do to get your toddler to sleep through the night and eventually, how to get your toddler to sleep in their own bed!

How much sleep does my toddler need?

Understanding children and their needs supports parents in setting a good nighty-night schedule for them.  Toddlers need about 10-14 hours of sleep every night and one or two naps during the day.  And as parents may know, a well-rested toddler means a happy household.  If your youngster isn’t rested, or happy, it usually means no one is happy!  So set you AND your child up for success by ensuring that they (and you) are well-rested.

What Can I Do To Get My Toddler To Sleep Through The Night

1)     Create a bedtime ritual

Toddlers especially like schedule and routine, and if they are anything like my daughter, they liked knowing what’s coming up whether that is breakfast, playtime, story time or nap time; and bedtime is no exception!  Bedtime in our household entails three different phases:  preparation, goodnight and sleep-time.

Preparation usually began about 20 minutes before bed, where my daughter would shower, brush her teeth, and get her blankets and stuffed animals in order.  The next phase was the goodnight time:  she had this habit of going to everyone in the house to give hugs and kisses (even though everyone often came to tuck her in once she laid down a few minutes later).  Eventually she would lay down, but would often play for a bit with her hands, or by talking to herself, or by trying to engage me in conversation.  Finally, the last phase came about (my most favorite one); sleep-time occurred when she began to close her eyes and doze off.  All in all, the ritual took about 30-40 minutes or so.  But it made her happy and she slept in her bed after a few nights of practice.

For the first few nights she woke up once or twice, and would climb into mommy’s bed, but this is where I, with eyes half shut, would walk her patiently back to her bed and wait for her to fall asleep.  It took some time in the beginning, but it was better than getting punched and kicked all night!

2)     Delay gratification/don’t come running the minute he or she starts crying; because then it is you being trained instead of your baby!

In the beginning, your child will cry, sob and express their discontent with the new schedule and with their lack of a parent-sized bed partner.  Your job as a parent is to allow them to disapprove and throw their tantrums without deviating from the plan!  It can be a bit difficult in the beginning, but over time your child will get the message and eventually will come to accept the new sleepy-time schedule and their bed!

3)     Give it time/repeat daily

Consistency is a big part of implementing a new schedule for your little one.  Be consistent and repeat as necessary.  One sure-fire way of prolonging the tantrums and upsets is to be irregular in your application of the new routine.  Think of it like you would exercise:  you can’t exercise once for 45 minutes and then never exercise again and keep the same physical results.  Practice, patience and consistency are the keys to your child’s peaceful new bedtime customs.  If you have started implementing the “stay in your bed” rule and “sleep the whole night through,” keep at it.  You have nothing to lose!

4)     If your child refuses to sleep without you being there, get creative.       

One of the things that really supported me in getting my tot to sleep in her own room was to make it look like as if it was her decision.  I would give her a choice of course, and then she would make her choice.  For example, I would tell her, “You can either sleep in mommy’s room tonight and not play in the park tomorrow, or you can sleep in your own bed and play in the park tomorrow.”  Obviously playing in the park was something very important to my daughter; she liked socialising with the other children in our neighborhood.

Another thing I did that really supported us was to change the routine when she got back home after staying somewhere else for a few days.  For example, we once went to the East Coast of Malaysia for a few days and nights for a family holiday excursion.  By the time we arrived home after our fun little vacation, I set a new rule the first night back to sleep in her own bed.  I had to lay with her for a few minutes, waiting idly as she fell asleep, but it was worth it in the end!

5)     Stick to your guns AND your schedule/routine

Sometimes the hardest thing a parent can do is say no to their child.  We want them to be happy, we want them to feel loved, but sometimes saying no to your child is the only way to get your point across.  A lack of boundaries, especially with your youngster, invites a lack of respect.  When supporting your child into a new transition, whether that is getting them to sleep the whole night through or to simply sleep in their own bed, stick to your guns; no means no, rules are rules and though your child may resist the changes in the beginning, it eventually will support them and you in the long run.

As with all things, find out what works best for you and your child.  Your youngster may respond better to certain methods than others.  Either way, remember to practice, be consistent and to be patient; it will all pay off in the end!

Wishing you peaceful and restful nights for you and your whole family!

Jana Moreno