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Are those 2am wake-up calls taking their toll? If your toddler is still waking at night, you’re not alone. Try these tactics to help everyone in the house get a good night’s sleep
No one expects a newborn to sleep through the night, but by the toddler stage you’d hope that your child would have got sleep sussed. Alas, this is often not the case and broken nights can still feature heavily. This is tough on the whole family, as years of toddler sleep problems will really grind you down.
The good news is you’re near the end of your sleep-deprived journey. I used to weep with exhaustion when my two-year-old woke me up at 3am night after night. But that time passed in the blink of an eye. Now she’s a teenager and it’s me who gets to wake her up.
Factors that can affect your toddler’s sleep include:
• Arrival of a new sibling
Many toddlers’ behaviour becomes a little more babyish when a rival for your affections comes along, so previously good sleepers may start waking up at night.
• Any other life change, such as moving house or problems at home
Toddlers show how they’re feeling with their behaviour, so if their sleep gets worse, look for any other changes happening in their life at the same time.
• Food sensitivities and allergies
Think about what they’ve eaten the previous day and how that might be making a difference.
This is an easy one to miss, as the teeth that are coming through are the big ones at the back, which aren’t immediately obvious.
How to help your toddler sleep better at night
• Make sure they get plenty of activity during the day. Lots of energetic play will help tire your toddler out, so they sleep better at night.
• Start calming-down activities, such as a bath and book reading, at least an hour before bedtime. Encourage quiet playing in their bedroom. This is not the time for boisterous pirate games or racing round the garden.
• Don’t restrict naps if your toddler still seems to need a daytime sleep. Your toddler’s sleep needs will be changing.
• If teething is the problem, give appropriate pain relief, such as infant paracetamol or teething powders. Always check and follow the dosage instructions on medication.
Teach your toddler that it’s time to sleep
Mum-of-two Fi Star-Stone, author of The Baby Bedtime Book and Top Toddler Tips, says a Gro-clock is a great investment. Gro-clocks use images of the stars and sun, to show when it’s day and night. ‘It helps little ones understand when it’s OK to get up for the day,’ she says. ‘If your toddler is coming to you at night, gently walk them back to bed, offer lots of reassurance and explain it’s still night-time.’
Above all, take care of yourself. All those broken nights will take their toll, and you need to look after yourself so you can look after your family. Rest when you can, eat healthy food and try not to spread yourself too thinly. It might feel like it’s going on forever, but toddler sleep problems do end eventually.
By Joanne Mallon, author of Toddlers: An Instruction Manual