A cranky toddler is no fun. Add to it a SLEEPY cranky toddler. Easily equivalent to a nightmare!
One of my readers had left a problem in my comment box about not being able to get her toddler to sleep on her own. And I had promised to resolve any issues left in the comment box to the best of my capability. So here I am!
The irony of the whole situation is that when it comes to sleeping…I am actually no expert. Including my own sleep patterns! I have very little sleep. And my toddler also has it on the last leg in her priority list. Yet, let me pass on all my experience and what I have seen other mothers do.
Yes, my toddler sleeps on her own now. She is 3.5 years. But when it comes to sleeping there is no straightforward rule. There are loooooots of factors that come into play- age of the baby, whether he is a co-sleeper or has own bed/cot, sleep cycle of parents, whether he is the only child or has a younger/elder sibling. All these factors will play an important role in coming up with your formula of independent sleep.
However, there are some rules and tips I put into play while teaching my daughter to sleep. You will find some of them useful in tucking your baby too-
- Make sure all other aspects of the baby’s life are in place: You cant get a hungry baby to sleep. Neither can you get a sick baby to sleep easily. Make sure your baby is well fed before you even start the training for independent sleep. If there is nothing else bothering the baby, chances are that she will go to sleep.
- You sleep when you are tired– A big problem with kids I see nowadays is that they don’t get that much required evening play. Where they run and skip and cycle with other kids and bring themselves to that dirty sweaty look. The days my daughter doesn’t go to play in the evening, are the days when she is not tired enough to sleep. So make sure your baby is tired enough to sleep.
- Night time bath– Nothing puts my daughter to bed than coming back from play all dirty, taking a lukewarm bath and getting tucked into the sheets. The whole picture painted in the last line is enough to make me want to sleep!!! Imagine a hot terrible sweaty day when you come home and take a relaxing lukewarm bath. Wow! Where is my bed!!!
- Have a routine– I am not proud but my daughter’s nighttime routine is TV. Yes there are all those who say don’t make your baby watch TV and go to sleep. And I say it too. However, I stress more on the fact that if its about developing a sleep cycle, sleep should be your prime motive. How she goes to sleep, can be tackled later. If watching 15 mins of TV is making her sleep on her own- so be it. I can think about substituting TV with books or music later.
- Give your baby time– If you rock a tired but well fed baby to sleep chances are it will take just 2 mins for him to shut eyes. However, if you want your baby to learn to sleep on his own, you will have to give him his time. My daughter takes 15-30 mins to sleep after I tuck her in. So know that your toddler will take some time before finally sleeping.
- Walk away– You have to leave the room for your baby to sleep on her own. As long as she sees you, she expects to be entertained. So tuck her in, and just leave the room.
- Don’t stick to conventions– I realized that my toddler sleeps with ALL lights on. My switching off the lights was just scaring her as she was alone in the room. So now I switch off the lights only once she has gone to sleep. Unconventional. But works for my baby. And that’s what matters. Don’t chain yourselves with beliefs when it comes to training your child to sleep.
- Give them a time-frame– Kids love it when they don’t have to do something they don’t like for too long. So I tell my daughter that I am going to wake her up in 2 minutes. I am not cheating her. Its just that 2 mins for her is anything that is short-lived. (Eternity is 10 mins!) so whichever term your baby uses for temporary short-lived events, tell her that the sleep is going to be for that time frame only.
- Skip the afternoon nap– Your baby’s sleep decreases with age. If you find it extremely difficult to make your baby sleep at night, try skipping or shortening the afternoon nap. My daughter doesn’t sleep in the afternoon now. She is up from 8am-9pm and then goes in for her 11 hour sleep at night. If you think your baby cant stretch out a 13 hour day, then try shortening the afternoon nap if not skipping it completely.
- Have a snuggle object: Most kids have their favorite pillow or sheet they sleep in. Other than that, they have a snuggle toy too. I give my daughter my pillow to snuggle with during sleep. It reminds her of me and it is also quite snuggly. I think it just comforts her to sleep on her own.
- Give yourself 7-10 days: It takes about 7-10 days for any pattern to get set. If you are planning to start independent sleeping habit for your baby, you will have to give up everything else for these 7-10 days. If you have a party or a dinner to attend after 2 days of training her, it will make her forget her pattern. Chances are you might have to start all over again. And once her routine is set, even if she can’t follow her sleep cycle for a day in between for some reason, she will not forget her sleep routine. So start your sleep training once you know your calendar is free for the next week atleast.
- Listen to your baby: By the time your baby is a toddler, you are adept enough to distinguish drama from reality. If you really think your baby is not comfortable enough to sleep, try asking her the problem. Or check for body language. It could be a genuine issue of the temperature not being optimum for her or the mattress being too hard or the pillow being too soft. Make sure you take such cues seriously and solve them.
A rested baby is a delight- both for mom and themselves! There are no set rules for the number of hours the baby should sleep etc. So as long as you see your baby is rested and is active on waking up, don’t worry too much if her sleep hours are lesser or higher than what is prescribed for her age.
Just snuggle up with your baby and sleep too!!!
Sleep, they say is the highest form of meditation. And meditation is the best way to become NIRVANA-MA!
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