How to troubleshoot your little one’s biggest sleep troubles, according to pediatricians.
If there’s one rule about sleep habits in babies and children, it’s this: Nothing is set in stone. Babies who were god-awful sleepers can go on to become good snoozers with some time and training. And yep: Those miracle babes who slept through the night at 10 weeks will go through their own share of rough sleep patches at some point.
So even if you feel like you’ve conquered your baby’s biggest sleep problems, don’t get too smug just yet. (Sorry!). There are plenty of other sleep-robbing issues that can crop up as your baby moves into toddler and preschooler stages and starts going through a host of other developmental changes.
While your two- or three-year-old may wake up less in the middle of the night than they did as an infant, now they know how to use their voice and are starting to learn all the various strategies they can use to delay bedtime and keep Mommy and Daddy closeby. Enter the “one-more” stage: one more book, one more snuggle, one more glass of water, one more trip to the potty.
Before you keep falling victim to preschooler procrastination and manipulation, check out this advice from pediatricians to help your kiddo sleep better so (let’s be honest) you can too.
Understanding Toddler and Preschooler Sleep Timeline
“As your child gets older, their need for sleep the amount of hours decreases,” says Preeti Parikh, MD, a pediatrician at the Mount Sinai Hospital and HealthiNation’s chief medical editor. A typical amount of sleep for toddlers and preschoolers can range from:
- Ages 2 to 3 years: 11 to 14 hours of sleep
- Ages 4 to 5 years: 10 to 13 hours of sleep
Your toddler’s nap schedule will change, too. Kids around 15 to 18 months usually start only needing one nap a day; once they reach 4 to 5 years of age, they may not even need to nap anymore. (Sigh: the end of an era.)
“It’s still great if they do want a nap, because it is [helps] consolidate that information that they’re learning through the day, but if it’s affecting their nighttime sleep, and they’re fighting you on the nap, it’s OK to let it go,” says Dr. Parikh.
How to Deal With Your Toddler’s Biggest Sleep Issues
When switching from crib to toddler bed…
Many kids are very happy in their crib for a long time, but around ages 2 to 3, many toddlers are will force the move to a “big kid” bed for you … by climbing out of the crib. “There are those really rambunctious kids whose whole purpose in life is to get out of their crib, and that could be dangerous,” says Dyan Hes, MD, a pediatrician who is double-board certified in pediatrics and obesity medicine. “If you see that your kid is one of those babies who’s trying to put their leg over, that might be time to get them into a toddler bed.”
When your kid keeps coming into your room…
When your child does finally make the switch to a big-kid bed, parents usually find that their kid can get out of their bed and come into mom and dad’s room, says Dr. Parikh. And why would she want to sleep solo when we can snuggle with her favorite people in the world? “You just have to be very consistent about putting your child back in their bed and walking out. Don’t start negotiating, don’t have a conversation. Even if they’re screaming crying, you lay them back down and you walk out. Because the more you talk to them, they more they’re winning. They’re engaging you and they’re getting a response,” says Dr. Hes.
When your child can’t fall asleep without you by his side…
If your child needs you to fall asleep with them or lay next to them before they can conk out, try this tactic: Start moving yourself further and further away from the bed each night, says Dr. Parikh. “So one night you’ll be sitting next to them, then the next night you’re a couple feet away. And you reassure them, say, ‘I’m right here,’ say, ‘everything’s OK,’ then the next night you move further away. Until you can actually get out of the room,” says Dr. Parikh.
When your toddler piles on the “delay tactics”...
“Many toddlers and school age children have delay tactics to not go to sleep, says Dr. Hes. These “delay tactics” might be them saying they’re thirsty or insisting that they have to go to the bathroom (even though you know they just went).
A way to solve this problem is to reassure your child that they’ve already done everything that they need to do before bedtime. “You can curate a nice chart for them and say, ‘See you drank and you went to the bathroom and you’re all set,’” says Dr. Parikh. “And then when they do start calling you from the bed, don’t go in. Just call back saying, ‘You’re fine you already drank, you went to the bathroom.’ Because if you do start responding to them every time they see that it works.”
The Ideal Bedtime Routine for Young Children
“The most important thing for toddler’s sleep is making sure you have a consistent routine,” says Dr. Parikh. To help your toddler transition into sleep mode, try:
- Giving a warm bath
- Reading a nighttime story together
- Making the environment conducive to sleep by dimming the lights and noise
Having a routine helps your child understand that this is what they’re going to do every night, says Dr. Parikh. “Which helps them facilitate going to bed in a happy way.”
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As your child get older, their need for
sleep, the amount of hours decreases.
00:00:10,370 --> 00:00:14,974
A typical amount of sleep for a toddler
can arrange from 11 to 14 hours of sleep.
00:00:14,974 --> 00:00:18,581
For 4 or 5 year olds, they may only need
10 to 13 hours of sleep at night and
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they may not need a nap anymore.
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As a child gets older,
their nap schedule will change.
00:00:23,980 --> 00:00:28,740
Some babies around 15 to 18 months
will start only needing one nap a day.
00:00:28,740 --> 00:00:32,269
So for 4 to 5 year olds,
that's when the afternoon nap for
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a lot of them starts to drop.
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I mean, it's still great if they do
want a nap, because it is wonderful to
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consolidate that information that
they're learning through the day.
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But if they're showing signs that's
affecting their night time sleep, and
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they're fighting you on the nap,
it's okay to let it go.
00:00:47,460 --> 00:00:51,480
Many kids are very happy in
their crib for a really long time.
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They feel secure in it and
they'll stay in it until they're three.
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And that's usually the time that,
between two and
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three, most kids transition
to a toddler bed.
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Now there are those really rambunctious
kids whose whole purpose in life is to get
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out of their crib.
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And that could be dangerous.
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If you see that your kid is one of
those babies who keeps on trying to put
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their leg over, that might be a time
to get them into a toddler bed.
00:01:12,300 --> 00:01:15,980
When toddlers go into the toddler bed
one of the biggest issues that arise is
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that they can actually get out of their
bed and come in to Mom and Dad's room.
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You just have to be very consistent
about putting your child back in their bed
00:01:23,680 --> 00:01:25,010
and walking out.
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Don't start negotiating,
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don't have a conversation,
even if they're screaming, crying.
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You lay them back down and
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you walk back out because the more you
talk to them, the more they're winning.
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They're engaging you and
they're getting a response.
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If your child needs you to fall asleep
with them or lay next to them before they
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can fall asleep, one of the best ways to
help deal with that situation is you start
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moving yourself further and
further away from the bed each night.
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So one night you'll be sitting with them,
next to them.
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Then the next night you're a couple
feet away and you reassure them.
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Say I'm right here, see everything's okay.
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Then the next night you move further away
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until you can actually
get out of the room.
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So many toddlers and
school aged children have delay tactics,
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do not go to sleep.
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So they'll say they're thirsty,
they want water, they want milk,
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they have to go pee pee again.
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One of the key things to do is to
reassure them, before they go to bed,
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that they've done everything
that' was going to do.
00:02:19,460 --> 00:02:23,320
So you can curate a nice chart for
them to see you drank and
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you went to the bathroom, you're all set.
00:02:25,530 --> 00:02:29,060
And then when they do start calling
you from the bed, don't go in.
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Just call back saying you're fine, you
already drank, you went to the bathroom.
00:02:32,760 --> 00:02:37,150
Because if you do start responding to
them every time, they see that it works.
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The most important thing for
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toddler sleep is making sure
you have a consistent routine.
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Things that I recommend definitely
giving a nice warm bath,
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having time to read books together.
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Making sure everything
is a little bit quieter.
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Really having a routine that they
understand that this is what they're gonna
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do every night which helps them
facilitate going to bed in a happy way.
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How Much Sleep Do Babies and Kids Need? National Sleep Foundation. (Accessed on March 28, 2018 at