6 04, 2016

Sleep Training Your Toddler; 5 Tips for Success

April 6th, 2016|Categories: Preschooler Sleep, Toddler Sleep|Tags: , , , |

Is sleep training your toddler right for you?

It happens to the best of us; we have a baby that was sleeping well ( or not) but then the toddler years hit and all hell breaks loose. Your child is climbing out of the crib, coming out of their bed and into your room, resisting nap, waking early, not letting you leave-you name it, you’ve got it.  You start to think that sleep training your toddler is needed. But how to begin? All the baby books focus on just that-babies.

The good news is that I have helped many families with toddlers (and preschoolers! ) start to have healthy sleeping habits so that the whole family *including mom and dad* are feeling well-rested and happy. It is never too late!

Let’s not waste another moment of you feeling tired or frustrated, shall we? Here’s what you need to know…

Sleep Log

The best place to start at is with documenting your child’s sleep. Without having a base from which to start from, it is hard to move forward.

Maybe you’re back to work during the days and struggling to get your little one to sleep at night. The last thing you want to do is start writing everything down, *BUT* it’s exactly for this reason that it’s important to log your child’s sleep. As a busy mom myself (are there really any other kind?) I know it’s hard to accurately remember everything from day to day. But after working for years with exhausted parents, I know it’s even more difficult to remember details when you’re sleep deprived.

Record it on your computer, open up your favourite sleep app, or go old school with a pen and paper, but whatever you choose, there are some important factors to document;

  • Wake up time
  • Nap starting and end times
  • Bedtime
  • Night wakings, and
  • Your child’s mood

Record this information for 5-7 days to provide valuable clues about your child’s sleep. It will help you to asses how much overall sleep and nap time they are getting each day on average. From there you can adjust accordingly.

This sleep logging time period should be one where everyone is on a pretty regular schedule. Don’t do it when there is illness, vacation, vaccinations, or house guests that may influence your results.

Baby or Toddler?

The term “toddler” is pretty ambiguous, describing everything from 12 month-3 year olds. When you’re looking at developing a healthy sleep routine though, it’s important to know where your little fits in for two reasons.

The first being is that you need to know what the average sleep requirements are for his or her age. And the second is for the most appropriate sleep training method options for their cognitive level.

A 13 month old toddler is going to have very different sleep needs than a 23 month old toddler. And each will have different options in terms of what is appropriate to expect from their level of understanding when trying to change behaviours.

Another special area to note is whether or not your child is still in their crib as it will impact your sleep training methods. I generally recommend that you wait until at least 3 years old to move a child to a big-kid bed for reasons outlined here, but I understand that not every family is able to do that.

Age Appropriate Routine

When you’re thinking about sleep training your toddler, it’s essential that you make their daytime and bedtime routine the primary focus. Although the talk in moms’ groups tends to focus on the sleep training aspect, it is in fact only focusing on the sleep training part that will ensure failure.

A perpetually overtired child will continue to cry, have temper tantrums, get silly, resist sleep period even after being sleep trained if their routine isn’t on track. Sleep training is *only* meant to get rid of sleep associations. It does not fix routines that have poorly timed naps and/or a bedtime that is too late.

If your little one is taking 2 naps a day, they will generally need a morning nap around an hour in length, and an afternoon nap ranging from 1.5-2 hours. A toddler that has completed the 2-1 nap transition will need a midday nap ranging from 1.5-3 hours in length and bedtime falling somewhere between 6-8pm.

Please note that these are just averages-always take your child’s unique sleep temperament into consideration.

Manage the Sleep Debt

This goes hand in hand with the preceding tip. As you focus on your child’s routine, their sleep debt will begin to be reduced. You can further this process along by not allowing bedtime to be too late.

How late is too late?

Well-rested toddlers can handle about 4-5 hours from the wake up of their last nap until bedtime. However if they are overtired, moving bedtime up earlier than this will be very helpful.

Change Sleep Behaviours and Expectations

Now it is time to decide how you want to change your child’s sleep behaviours. Do they come out of their room each night? Need you to lay down with them? Insist on something to drink before they go back to sleep? This is where you would choose the appropriate sleep training method and employ it consistently to change these sleep habits.

This is one of the last areas to consider and should never be done without addressing any daytime routine issues first. This way, we tackle the child’s sleep debt which assists with reducing the amount of crying. Win-win!

Picking the actual sleep training method for your toddler will be based upon their age (see point #2), their personality, and your parenting philosophy. Consistency is essential; pick a method that you can see through to the end. Constantly changing your method or response will ultimately confuse your child (read: crying) so following through once you have begun is the quickest path to success.

For a comprehensive review, I detailed many options in this sleep training series and several of them can be adapted for older children in big kid beds.

BONUS: A Tip For Older Toddlers

The older a child is, the more you can talk to them about how great sleep is for their bodies, preceding any changes you intend to make. You want to sell them on the idea of sleep and what it can do for them.

Most toddlers love to be physically active; running, jumping, swinging, climbing play structures and the like. Use this to your advantage and begin to draw the connections for them about how sleep helps their energy levels; allowing them to feel good enough to play.

By discussing the benefits of getting enough rest before sleep training your toddler, and then following through during the implementation period, you will help your child start to take pride in their sleep skills.

It is actually pretty amazing and quite touching to see when this transformation begins to happen. I have had many parents amazed how suddenly their child is eager to go to sleep (after resisting sleep for sometimes years). The child begins to appreciate and feel the difference in themselves!

If your little one has been lacking sleep for sometime, it may be time to consider making some changes in their routine. Sleep training your toddler can result in your child getting healthy and restorative sleep, and teaching them a valuable life skill. The preceding tips are a great place to start and should you want more detailed help, check out the toddler sleep consultation options.

If healthy sleep habits are well under way, but you need to ask a quick question, be sure to like and join the Baby Sleep 101 Facebook page’s Wednesday night free Q & A sessions.

14 04, 2015

Taming Your Toddler’s Sleep Part 2; The 1-0 Nap Transition

April 14th, 2015|Categories: Preschooler Sleep, Toddler Sleep|Tags: , , , |

 

The 1-0 Nap Transition

We’re exploring a big milestone in the life of your child today; the 1-0 nap transition.  Check out Part One where we also delved into the Big Kid Bed Transition.

For better or worse, you have probably had a long history with your baby’s naps. In the beginning you and naps were in the initial stages of your relationship.

It was all new and exciting. You loved your baby’s naps! They were so pleasant and low maintenance; they appeared whenever and wherever and often lasted for hours. It was wonderful and you barely had to do anything!

Then came the 4 month sleep regression and you started to see a new side to naps. They started to become resistant and stubborn and often only stuck around for 45 minutes at a time. Your baby would wake up, still tired but wouldn’t go back to sleep and the novelty wore off quick. You started to become resentful of how much time you and naps spent fighting.

But, if you were lucky, those naps started to listen to your concerns and decided to really try to change. With some time and patience, they learned to  lengthen back out again sometime around month 6.

Somewhere between months 6-9 your baby dropped their 3rd catnap, leaving you with 2 solid naps and life was good. You could depend on naps again to always be there for you-in the morning and again in the afternoon.

Hopefully, the love affair continued until you hit the 2-1 nap transition somewhere between months 14-18. This is where you and naps hit the lowest point in your relationship. It was a really rocky patch and you didn’t think you two would make it. But surprisingly you did!  You persevered and found your way back to each other for another few years.

But now the time has come to finally say good-bye to your child’s afternoon nap. Like any breakup; it’s bittersweet. You know it’s for the best, but you will be sad to see it go. So, how does one survive the emotional toll that going through the 1-0 nap transition takes on a parent?

Of course, the above is all tounge-in-cheek, but anytime a child goes through a nap transition, there are certain steps you can take to help make the switch as painless as possible. Often, by the time a toddler or preschooler is ready to drop his nap, many parents make the mistake of thinking that the child is old enough to handle the change without any problems. But this is usually not the case and our little ones will often be very tired by the late afternoon. Much like the 2-1 nap transition,  this may not happen right away, but problems may start to show up a few weeks later. So here’s what you can do:

Is Your Child Really Ready to Drop Their Nap?

This is by far the most common mistake parents make. They’ve heard from their friends or well-meaning relatives that “so and so never napped after the age of 2” and take the first instance of nap resistance as a sign that their child doesn’t need to nap. The vast majority of children don’t permanently drop their nap until somewhere between the ages of 3.5-4 years old and even then will still require naps every few days to help their bodies adjust. What is more common though, are periods of time when your toddler or preschooler will not nap. If your child is under the age of 3, then this is likely just a phase and will return to napping in a few weeks. In the meantime keep offering nap time every day.

Know the 1-0 Nap Transition Signs of Readiness

The biggest indicator of your child being ready to drop their final nap lies in their mood and behavior in the afternoon and early evening.

If, on the days that your child misses her nap, she is still able to stay calm at minor grievances,  plays independently with ease, does not become defiant (or more so than what is usually attributed to this age group), grumpy, whiny, hyper, extra silly or clumsy as the afternoon wears on, then she may be ready to go without that nap. If not, it’s likely she is becoming overtired and a sleep debt is forming.

Keep ‘No Nap’ Days Dull and Boring

When your child skips a nap, it takes a toll on their bodies and although they may not show it, they get tired quicker. Try to keep the afternoons on these days low-keyed and uneventful.

Obviously you won’t always be able to do this, but try as best as you can. Those days are not the days to decide to go to a restaurant for dinner or to a sporting event. You don’t want to over exert or over stimulate your little one who is already going to be tired, making a meltdown much more likely.

 Put Your Child To Bed Early

On the days that jr. misses a nap or is actually starting the 1-0 nap transition, then it’s imperative that you put them down to bed super early.

Not just early, but super early!

SEBT (super early bedtime) will be your best friend through this, just like it was through all nap transitions. Your child is missing anywhere from 1-3 hours of sleep and their bodies still need to get it somewhere as they adjust to going a full day without any rest. Remember, this isn’t a permanent change of bedtime, just long enough to help them through the transition.

If you don’t do SEBTs, then expect your child to grow fangs and a tail around 5pm.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you. 😉

Instill “Quiet Time”

Just because your child is no longer napping, doesn’t mean that they can’t still go to their room for some down time. This allows their body to rest and gives everyone in the house a break.

Depending on the child, you may need to set a timer and/or go over expectations first. Purchase some “quiet time” toys (see the Baby Sleep 101 Pinterest Board for more suggestions!) or books and only let your child use them during this hour. They may or may not nap during this time, but at least you have provided them the opportunity to do so.

Going through a nap transition can be challenging at any age, but it can be quite difficult when you’re dealing with a toddler or preschooler and the 1-0 nap transition. However, if you follow the above advice, maintain the consistency and have some patience, it will help you make it through relatively unscathed. 🙂

When did your child drop their final nap? Tell us about your experience with the 1-0 nap transition in the comments below!

If your child’s transition didn’t go so well, or if you’re needing expert help with their current nap routine, consider investing in a consultation package.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
16 12, 2014

The 2-1 Nap Transition: How to Handle It Successfully

December 16th, 2014|Categories: Nap Transitions, Naps, Toddler Sleep|Tags: , , , , , |

2-1 Nap Transitions; Signs, Tips and Advice

There comes a time in a toddler’s life when it’s time to transition from two naps to one. I frequently get asked about this transition, even from clients whose baby is only 4 or 6 months old. The 2-1 nap transition has a well-deserved reputation for being difficult as children adjust to the longer activity times.  Here are my tips to help make this nap transition go smoothly.

2-1 Nap Transition Tip #1 : Wait Until It’s Time

Is your child really ready to transition to one nap? Although many people believe that as soon as a child turns one, they can handle being on one nap, this just isn’t the case. The vast majority of children naturally transition somewhere between 15-18 months of age. Forcing the 2-1 nap transition before the child is ready can result in a child becoming very overtired.

2-1 Nap Transition Tip #2: Determine If It’s a Milestone or Transition Time

When toddlers are learning how to pull up, cruise and walk, the new physical skills can lead to overtiredness and nap resistance. Since these milestones tend to happen around the one year mark, it can easily be misinterpreted as a sign to transition to one nap. Review what skills your little one has been practicing lately. If there has been new developments, then don’t rush to transition just yet. What your child needs is more sleep right now as they recover from all the new exercises ;), and bringing the bedtime up earlier will be more beneficial than switching to one nap.

2-1 Nap Transition Tip #3: Know the Signs

If your child is between 15-18 months and they’re not going through a milestone, the next step is to determine if they’re showing the signs to transition. Very often, we will see one or more of the following…

  • The child starts taking a long time to fall asleep for the morning nap which then pushes the afternoon nap too late
  • The child easily takes a long morning nap, but then refuses the afternoon nap
  • The child plays right through either the morning or afternoon nap and doesn’t sleep
  • Early morning wakings star to occur that are not related to being overtired, discomfort or outside disruptions.
2-1 Nap Transition Tip #4: Hang on to Two Naps as Long As Possible

This nap transition tends to be the hardest of all for children to handle, so if you can hang onto the two naps for even a few more weeks, do it. The older your child is, the easier the move will be on their bodies. Even though they may seem to handle the transition well for a few days, it doesn’t mean that after a few weeks it will be the same story. Adjusting to extended wake periods after the transition can be very tiring for children and over time,  a sleep debt can begin to accumulate and rear its head. After a few weeks, night wakings and early morning risings can start to occur.

2-1 Nap Transition Tip#5: When Ready, Move Quickly

If your child is ready to move to one nap, move them to a mid day nap as soon as possible. Yes, it will be a stretch and they will be grumpy, but moving the nap this far right away helps twofold:

  • It will help to close the gap to bedtime, even if the nap is short, thus helping to prevent early morning wakings from a too-late bedtime.
  • The nap is appropriately timed with the body’s circadian rhythms and helps to ensure the most restorative nap possible.
2-1 Nap Transition Tip #6:  Keep Bedtime Early!

It’s really important that bedtime is early, super early in fact for the first few weeks. Even if your child consistently takes a solid 2+ hour nap as soon as they transition; adjusting to the longer wake periods takes some time, so respecting their need to go to sleep early for the night is essential.

By following these tips, you will help to keep your toddler well-rested as they transition from 2-1 naps and adjust to the longer days. If you find that you need more help with your toddler’s sleep than this article provides, purchase a consultation to have private, one-on-one help to resolve the issues quickly!

Has your toddler transitioned yet? If so, share your experience in the comments below and remember to join our weekly Facebook Q and A sessions to chat with other tired parents!

28 07, 2014

Can Certain Foods Keep My Child Awake at Night?

July 28th, 2014|Categories: Feeding Tips, Guest Post|Tags: , , , |

Can Certain Foods Keep My Child Awake at Night?

This article comes to us from guest blogger and child-feeding expert; Kristen Yarker from kristenyarker.com. She provides us with another commonly asked question about food and sleep. You can read Kristen’s previous guest blog articles, “Will Starting Solids Help Your Baby Sleep Better” here and “How to Stop Your Toddler’s Food-Related Stalling Tactics” here and ” Are Snacks at Bedtime a Good Idea?” here.

 

A parent recently asked Joleen this question. Being a food-related question, she forwarded it on to me:

We gave our 2.5 year old daughter Frosted Mini-Wheats right before bed. She slept worse than usual. Did the snack keep her up at night?

In a nutshell: maybe.

Let me expand.

Mini-Wheats (original) have a fair amount of sugar in them – 10 grams in 21 pieces (that’s 2 ½ teaspoons of sugar). When scientific researchers investigate the effect of sugar on kids, they find no effect on their behaviour. However, many parents do find that giving their kids foods high in sugar is associated with “hyper” behaviour.

I don’t have a way to explain this gap.

What I do know is that each person is unique. Many of us have sensitivities to foods that the scientific community can’t explain. So, it could be that the sugar or something else in the cereal that interrupted this little girl’s sleep. Or, it could have been something completely unrelated.

With this in mind, I recommend being a bit of a scientist yourself with your kids – use your observation skills. If you’re finding that some nights your child goes to bed well and other nights are a struggle, do some record keeping. Take as detailed of notes as possible (yes, actually write it down) about everything that happened that day. Your child’s eating (both what they ate and at what times) is just one aspect of their day. Look for any patterns that arise.

Circling back to this parent’s original question, the cereal isn’t what I would suspect initially as the culprit for their child’s rough night. But I wouldn’t rule it out as a possibility. I’d consider it after ruling out all the other more likely possibilities.

 

Kristen Yarker, MSc, RD

Child-Feeding Expert

Helping Moms and Dads support their picky eaters to try new foods on their own (without being forceful or sneaky)

www.kristenyarker.com

www.facebook.com/KristenYarkerNutrition

Twitter: @kristenyarker

Pinterest: kristenyarker

Have you ever found that certain foods effect your child’s ability to either fall asleep or sleep solidly at night? Tell us about it in the comments below!

 

30 10, 2012

Taming Your Toddler’s Sleep Part 1; The Big Kid Bed Transition

October 30th, 2012|Categories: Preschooler Sleep, Toddler Sleep, Transition Tips|Tags: , , , , |

The Big Kid Bed Transition

Having a toddler is fun, crazy, and challenging all at the same time. I know, I have one. 😉 No longer are conversations one sided-we can chat about the weather, the birds, shapes, colours, what Elmo said or did that day. The baby is gone and the little person is starting to emerge.

But with this little developing person comes a new side with some tantrums and limit testing. Unfortunately this is part of their development and although it can be trying and tiring for us parents, we must seize this opportunity to begin to instill rules and structure now.

If not, then you make it that much harder on yourself later on.

So how does this pertain to your toddler’s sleep? Well, somewhere in the toddler years, usually between 2-4 years of age, two big changes happen that can affect sleep.

The first is that the toddler is moved from a crib to a bed. That’s where we’ll focus our attention on for this article. In part two we’ll take a look at the second big change and that is when they drop their last nap. Both of these changes can be fantastic or disastrous, depending on your child’s personality and how you approach it.

Need getting your child to sleep better at night? Download my FREE sleep guide and get started tonight!

Let’s start off with the big kid bed transition. Some children have no troubles making the switch and stay in their bed all night, right from day one.

You’ve never heard of those children, you say? Yeah, me either.

Just kidding. 😉 It does happen.

More popular though, are the stories of children who keep popping out of their beds at night to explore their new-found freedom. Usually the first few weeks are pretty good and then the child starts to either resist bedtime or get up through the night and walk around. It may be cute at first, but over time if they are putting up a fight every night, not falling asleep until hours later and/or getting up through the night, they will become overtired and Cr-Anky. And so will you.

Big Kid Bed Transition Recommendations:

Are they actually ready? Are you sure?

A 17 month old is going to have a much harder time understanding that they’re not suppose to wander around their room, than a 3-year-old will. If the reason for the change is to use the crib for a new sibling, consider purchasing a 2nd hand one, borrowing one, or using a bassinet for baby to give your toddler more time in the crib.

Climbing out of the crib = time for rules

Has your toddler suddenly turned into a monkey? Just because they are getting out, doesn’t mean you have to move to a bed! What it does mean is that it’s time for you to set some clear rules for them.

Repeatedly tell them to not climb out. Be firm, serious and consistent. If you can catch them in the act-even better. It will take some commitment on your part to do this every time they try it. If you think this is tedious now though, imagine what it will be like if they are in a bed and have the ease of just rolling out for a jaunt down the hall at 3 am. 😉

Big Kid Bed Transition Talk

Depending on your child’s personality, they may need quite a bit of discussion to get used to the idea and expectations. The more we can prepare them and reinforce the expectations in advance, the greater the chances of success will be.

Don’t let them smell fear. Keep it fun, positive and upbeat so that they are excited about the switch.

Read books about big kid beds, consider taking them shopping to look at different sheet patterns or pillows or even shopping for a new mattress if they won’t be going to a toddler bed.

When you have developed a plan of action, talk with your toddler about it in an age appropriate and positive way. You may want to use simple rules chart to help your child stay on track.

Make the chart colourful, fun and positive. Review the expectations everyday in a casual way and again before bedtime.

If you choose to do some method of positive reinforcement, make sure your toddler receives it immediately in the morning and not halfway through the day. If they don’t have a successful night, don’t make them feel bad about it. Instead praise their efforts and tell them that they have another chance the next night to try again.

The final big kid bed transition tip; keep your expectations realistic.

If you have a three-year old that has rarely slept through the night, then you can’t expect them to start doing it immediately once in a bed. You need to be committed to your plan long-term so that you can help change your child’s behaviour. If you aren’t consistent in reinforcing the new plan, then your child can’t be expected to follow it either.

Kids love to test us, and it’s by sticking to the rules that let’s them know where the boundaries are. But if you are consistent now, it will help for years to come with every new behaviour and emotional challenge that comes your way. 🙂

How did your big kid bed transition go? Need some tips now that you’ve started? Join me on my weekly Facebook Q and A sessions and chat with other tired parents!

If you find that you need more help with your toddler’s sleep than this article provides, consider purchasing a consultation to have private, one-on-one help to resolve the issues quickly!