Baby sleep training can be challenging, but toddler sleep training? Whew, boy… That can feel like an impossible task sometimes! That’s why many parents find they need sleep training methods and techniques that are especially for toddlers. Sometimes, the tips that work well with baby sleep training fall short with toddler sleep training.
Fortunately for you, we know a thing or two about toddler sleep training! And today, we share 7 key toddler sleep training tips and tricks. Keep reading for details!
Toddler Sleep Training: 7 Tips and Tricks
- Establish sleep boundaries in advance. With toddlers, sleep training is as much about enforcing boundaries with discipline as it is about teaching new and healthy sleep habits. We usually recommend that parents who are planning to sleep train their toddlers start by outlining sleep-time boundaries they want their child (and themselves) to follow. For instance, decide ahead of time how you will handle middle-of-the-night waking, or nap refusals. Then stick to those sleep rules so as to help your toddler understand where the boundaries are.
- Optimize your toddler’s schedule. Sometimes, toddler sleep problems are due as much to schedule issues as they are to sleep associations and unhealthy sleep habits. Take a hard look at your toddler’s daytime nap schedule. Are naps ending too late in the day? Are naps themselves too long? Remember, too much nap sleep can result in less night sleep, especially for toddlers. If early-waking is one of the problems you want to solve with sleep training, be sure that bedtime isn’t too early. Many toddlers who are still napping during the day actually benefit from a later bedtime, to help prevent early waking. You can use our schedule resource page to see sample schedules by age, and to create a custom sleep schedule with our schedule-maker.
- Offer a snack before sleep times. Toddlers are mobile little things, aren’t they? And all that mobility can seriously make a kid hungry! That’s why we usually suggest offering a snack (or a breastfeed, or a bottle, perhaps) before a nap, and before bedtime. While you don’t want a child who grazes constantly and never eats a real meal, most toddlers do need healthy snacks between meals in order to sleep well, and to not wake from hunger. Just be sure to brush your toddler’s teeth after the bedtime snack, before your little one goes to sleep.
- Give your bedtime routine a clear, definitive end. Hopefully, you have a bedtime routine at this point. (If you don’t, get one soon!) It’s really important, for toddler sleep training purposes, that you give your bedtime routine a very clear end. Toddlers are masters of bedtime stalling. Be sure that your routine has a strong end that clearly signals to your toddler that it’s time to lie down and sleep. This can be a phrase you say, a song you play, a prayer, etc. If you do this consistently, over time you can help to cut down on (and maybe eliminate) your toddler’s stalling.
- Provide incentives for progress. Older toddlers will really benefit from being able to see their progress somehow – like on a sleep training chart. They will also do well with periodic rewards for progress. For instance, you may want to offer a small reward, like a sticker to put on the chart, each night that your toddler stays in bed at bedtime and falls asleep without getting up. But you may also want to offer bigger rewards. Maybe after a week of earning stickers, your toddler gets to pick a small toy from a favorite store.
- Be calm, because your toddler may not be! Toddler temper tantrums may very well be a part of your toddler sleep training. Most toddlers don’t respond well when their usual routines and ways of sleeping are altered! This is one reason why sleep training a toddler can feel so difficult. Just remember that throughout this process, you will need to keep your cool and remain calm. While you may feel sorely tempted to match your toddler’s wails with your own, it’s best if you can remain calm and in control.
- Remain consistent – this is key with toddlers! Staying calm is important. Staying consistent is vital. Most toddlers are incredibly smart about this. If they sense that they can breach any of your sleep boundaries, and that you will give in, they will surely do it. So even though it may be tough, stay firm in enforcing your sleep-time rules, and in your sleep coaching plan. If you do, it’ll pay off soon, and your whole family will be sleeping better!
Need Toddler Sleep Training Help? Look No Further!
If you’re struggling with frustrating toddler sleep training problems, we can help! We have worked with thousands of families to overcome toddler sleep problems. We can help you overcome yours, too, with one of our Personalized Sleep Plans®! Connect with us today, and we’ll craft a plan just for your toddler.