Infant & toddler sleep issues are among the most pressing issues moms and families struggle with, and one of the most important. Sleep habits are developed in childhood and can help or hinder our growth, development, and overall health – not to mention, a mom’s sanity. Fostering healthy sleep routines for infants & toddlers is a crucial step for any parent, and with the proper methods implemented, it can ensure a restful night’s sleep for the whole family.
Not a mom (yet)? These tips can be modified and applied to adults, too! It’s never too late to try and break bad habits and create healthy routines later in life.
From the moment we moved Rose out of her bedside bassinet in our room at 8 months, she has slept through the night in her crib for at least 12 hours every night. Yes, there was one night of “crying it out” while I sat in her room with her until she wept herself to sleep (so heartbreaking, by the way) but from that moment she was sleeping on her own, in her crib, from sundown ’till after sunup.
How, you ask? How. Did. You. Do. That.
Well, I have done my research and have my theories, but it is a combination of many things, one of which is the DockATot™.
Scroll down to read my Top 7 Infant & Toddler Sleep Solutions – I use ALL of them!
Top 7 Infant & Toddler Sleep Solutions
I have used the DockATot™, and now the DockATot™ Grand now that Rose is older, and it has become an integral part of her sleep situation. It’s also great to travel with – read more about how it works, more reviews, and safety info here on the DockATot™ website. The reason I love it is for the simple reason that Rose loves it. She can roll around safely without bumping her head, and it also eliminates suffocation hazard because of the way it is made. I like how the edge is round, which is neat because now as she’s getting older she’s using it a bit like a pillow, preparing her for a big girl bed/pillow down the road. It’s portable, washable, and helped her feel secure when she became too big (and squirmy) to be swaddled. I even invested in the travel carrier and kept the cardboard insert that comes in it for vacations and easy storage.
A true game changer for us has been the use of a white noise machine (we use this one). The National Sleep Foundation tells us that white noise works by reducing the difference between background sounds and a “peak” sound, like a door slamming, giving you a better chance to sleep through it undisturbed. “If you have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, creating a constant ambient sound could help mask activity from inside and outside the house.” It is not only another important piece of her bedtime ritual and cues, it can help shut down a busy brain, helps her STAY asleep & sleep more soundly, and I can bring it anywhere we go.
According to a plethora of sound research (no, really, just Google it – it’s ALL out there) sleeping in total darkness is essential for good health, as well as developing healthy sleeping habits. Sleeping in darkness helps produce the naturally occurring hormone, melatonin, in our body. Any light exposure such as a small amount of light that filters in through the curtains and hits your skin can interrupt the hormone production, causing a decrease in melatonin levels. This in turn can affect sleep and interfere with the body’s normal process in a good quality sleep. I highly recommend blackout drapes which completely block out all light from the windows. It also helps with sleeping cues: dark room equals nighttime, which equals sleep time.
Strict Bedtime Routine
Less is more. Research shows that parents need to start a child’s bedtime routine just 30 minutes ahead of the time they normally go to sleep (a longer routine gives your kid more opportunities to misbehave, get distracted or otherwise try to resist going to bed). Rose’s routine is three steps: 1. Lounge on the couch with mom or dad and drink some milk. 2. Change into pajamas and her nighttime diaper. 3. Get into her crib after a kiss, “Goodnight”, and “I love you” from mom an dad. Lights out, and it’s off to sleep – no fussing.
Kids need to associate their sleep time with certain cues. Darkness & routine are some of them, but also objects and actions can be useful, too. Rose has a special blanket that is only used for bed time – she tries to bring it with her around the house, but I do not let her. This way, she ALWAYS associates this blanket with the fact that it is time to sleep. When I hold her with the blanket, she automatically puts her head on it and mentally prepares for bed. She also does not wear socks to sleep in, so when I take them off she knows what time it is. Find your own bedtime object for your child to associate with, like a special stuffed animal, pacifier, or soft blanket.
To avoid the need to wake your child up to be changed during the night, if they are old enough to sleep through the night, try nighttime diapers. I prefer the Honest Company‘s product and have found that they are super absorbent, even when Rose sleeps for 13 or 14 hours. Now, this is only the case of urination – if you feel that your child has pooped, then by all means, change them (carefully and in the dark). However, most babies will come to a certain point where they will have a more regular bathroom routine and will only pee at night, usually by 3 or 4 months.
No Rocking or Feeding to Sleep
If you rock or feed your baby/toddler to sleep, it prevents them from falling asleep on their own. They don’t get to explore self-soothing techniques, such as rocking their head or sucking their thumb because you are doing all the work for them. If your baby can’t sleep on their own and doesn’t know how to fall back asleep when they wake up in the middle of the night, it means you will have to get up A LOT to help them get back to sleep. While Rose was still young, I allowed her to eat until she was full, or rock her until she was awake but drowsy, and then go to sleep on her own without my help. Now, she goes to bed on her own for bedtime and naps, and if she wakes up in the middle of the night, I just watch her on the camera and she goes back to sleep by herself in a few minutes.
I have found that by using these techniques as a combination, Rose has developed extremely healthy sleep habits. We have been able to travel with her, too, and use these same routines to help her sleep well even in a new & unfamiliar place. This hasn’t been without it’s struggles, however: she occasionally has a “bad” night, or slightly fluctuating bedtimes. Recently I had to lay with her for a whole night when she had a fever from her baby molars, and neither of us slept for more than a couple of broken hours – total – that night. But, it happens! On the whole, she gets to sleep easily every night at 6:30, and wakes up between 7:30-8 am. I am able to rest and have an uninterrupted night’s sleep, so this system is what is working for us. Of course, everyone is different, but if you and your toddler are struggling to find your groove, I hope you can take some of these tips and implement them into your toddler’s sleep routine.
What works for you? Leave your mommy advice below! Have a question? Just ask and I will do my best to answer! Read more about Pregnancy & Parenting here.
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