How to Get Toddlers to Sleep in Their Own Beds
By Sarah Parker Ward
It’s 2 a.m., and you’re lying in bed wide awake because you’re getting karate kicked in the side by a tiny, but surprisingly strong, foot. Such is the scenario thousands of parents face because their toddlers are stuck in the difficult routine of sleeping with them, not in their own beds. Still, getting enough sleep is a critical part of everyone’s wellness, so while co-sleeping may not be an easy habit to break, it can be done — and the following tips will help you achieve it.
Get into a routine
Preparing for bed can easily become a chaotic, last-minute mess if it’s not placed high on the priority list. Give your best effort to make your toddler’s nighttime routine more standardized and relaxing by setting aside a 30-minute window for a bath, brushing teeth, reading books and quietly discussing the best parts of the day.
Start with intervals
If your toddler is scared of sleeping alone, get the little one started on the right track by leaving for short intervals and assuring the child that you’ll be back in just a few minutes. After roughly three minutes, return to check on the toddler and then repeat, this time leaving for five minutes. Continue this process, extending your time away during each interval. This helps your child build confidence that he or she is OK alone, but also reassures the little one that you’re still nearby should he or she need help.
Offer ambient distractions
Help get your toddler’s mind off the fact that they are going to bed alone by giving them a stuffed animal or comforting blanket, or by playing soft, relaxing music. There are also products available that will project soft lights on the ceiling or walls, which may offer the distraction the child needs to get to sleep without stimulating his or her mind in a way that actually keeps the child awake.
Put them back in their bed
A lot of parents deal with toddlers waking in the middle of the night and trying to climb into the parents’ bed for comfort. While reassuring your child is helpful, letting the child stay in bed with you is likely to lead to poor sleep for one or both of you. Walk your child back to his or her own bed, and repeat the routine — with intervals, if necessary — until the little one falls asleep.
Be patient — and strong
No one enjoys a restless night of interrupted sleep, and while it’s much easier said than done, having the willpower to stick to your routine is critical. When you give in and let your toddler sleep with you, it reinforces the wrong behavior.
Positive reinforcement has deeper and more mutually fulfilling effects than a negative reaction, so when your little one starts sleeping through the night in his or her own bed, be sure to praise the child — and yourself – for the win! Get down to the child’s eye level and express how proud and thankful you are that the little one is becoming grown up.
Toddlers are in a period of growth that requires a full night’s sleep of roughly 11 to 12 hours, and getting your toddler to sleep through the night in his or her own bed allows you both to stay rested and healthy. While it’s not always an easy task, following through with independent sleep tactics will give each of you the best start to a happy day each morning.
Find more health and wellness information for you and your baby, go to our Baby and Child Solutions page.
The links provided in this article are for educational purposes only. No sponsorship or endorsement is implied. Information was used from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Mayo Clinic.
©Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. 2016
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