Nov 10, 2013

Toddler Sleep Tips

Over the past several weeks, my oldest daughter, Isabel, who will be 3 this week, has given us a total challenge at bedtime. She learned to open her door and would sneak around the house, pull up a chair in the dining room, and come find us every 10 minutes or so until well after 9:30pm. She was so tired, but her new found freedom was far more exciting than sleep. It was affecting her days at school, her evenings at home, and everyone was noticing that we were not dealing with our normal, sweet curly headed girl.

I'd like to share with you what I have learned over the past few weeks. In no way do I consider myself an expert. In fact, after 3 weeks of frustrating nights, I reached out to the experienced Mamas I know who gave me lots of good ideas. I'd like to pass along some of these ideas to you.

1. Make sure you have a time at night to relax.

Do not rush to sleep, have time with no tv, no iPad... Just wind down time. Perhaps a warm bath with a handful of Epsom salts. Maybe you read a book each night. Set aside a few minutes between wrangling kids into their pjs and putting them in their bed to have a special routine that helps your toddler know that sleep is coming soon.

2. Grandma knows best.

Certain things do, in fact, make you feel relaxed. Diffusing Lavender Oil at night can give a soothing effect. A glass of milk (warm is good) can help fill the tummy and relax you (dentists and pediatricians recommend not giving babies milk or juice in bed - save those teethies!)

3. Assess the reason why your toddler is not wanting to sleep.

For mine, it was just because she thought we were having more fun than she was, but for some of the littles I know, there was fear or discomfort involved in their sleep issues. Too hot or too cold in their room? A light shining in the window? A fear of something like monsters or robots? (Yes, that is Isabel's go to thing she is afraid of.) Give your baby a sense of courage by making monster spray (just water in a spray bottle, though you could add some lavender for added benefit). Or you could do what we do every night and pray - we thank God for his blessings and we pray that He would watch over the girls and protect them through the night. When we skip this step, Isabel always reminds me.

4. No talking.

Once the night time routine is done, the lights are off and your toddler is in bed, that is the end of communication (obviously there are exceptions to this rule). This was the game changer for us - when Isabel would get up, I could hear her door open and I would meet her at the door, pick her up, kiss her head and put her back in her bed without saying a word. She did not like this one bit. On the first night of doing this, she said, "Mommy, why are you doing this to me!?" It just about broke my heart! But I was not doing this to be mean, I was ensuring that she was getting enough rest. I was not having a discussion with her about whether Darth Vader was a good guy or a bad guy - even though that might be an important discussion (yes, we are nerds), it was not important right then. I only had to do that 2 nights before the waking and walking around then house stopped.

5. Stand your ground.

Remember, you are the parent. What you say goes. When you BELIEVE this, your children will get that. Our kids test us - not to be disrespectful, but to see how far they can go. It is so important for us to empower them, but to also set boundaries and to help them grow up to be respectful adults. Believe it. Do it.

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