My Toddler Hates Bedtime
Things to do when your kid won't let you out of the room.
Here’s the scenario: you’ve all had a long day, you’re tired and you’re totally ready for your toddler to go to bed for the night. You do the bath, the PJs, brush teeth (maybe), read a story, sing a quick song, pick a new stuffed animal…then you go to put your toddler into their crib and your sweet child stands there and screams at the top of their lungs!
It might catch you off guard. It might be something new. You’ve entered a new phase of growth. I promise it’s normal for a toddler to scream and protest at bedtime.
Why does my toddler scream?
Here's what's going on: Your toddler is learning! Toddlers are learning how to do things, how to get things and what's expected of them. They want to have all the independence in the world, but have no idea what to do with it. For instance, your toddler wants to run free in a parking lot filled with cars...do you let him? Of course not! Your little one likely doesn't understand cause and effect...the same thing goes for bedtime when your toddler would rather be playing and having a good time with you than go to bed!
What do you do when your toddler screams at bedtime?
As parents, it's up to us to set limits.
We can fall all too easily into the trap of letting our child run the home. I mean, they are incredibly needy and can’t do much for themselves right? But as parents, we know what is best for our child (aka they need to sleep to function…) and we have our own sleep needs as well. Setting limits helps us to meet our own needs in addition to the needs of our child when they can’t meet those needs (or even recognize them) themselves.
So how do we set these limits?
It can become a bit of a dance, but it all starts with a firm, predictable routine. Each night, do the same routine so it is clear to your child that bedtime is approaching and they will be sleeping soon. Taking a bath, getting into pajamas, brushing teeth, etc. are some things that can be a part of your routine.
Here’s where the fun comes in! Since toddlers are discovering their independence, they are likely to want to gain control of every situation they can, which can be a part of the reason why they are struggling with bedtime. The key to dodging big power struggles is to give your child bit-sized bits of control throughout the evening. What do I mean? Consider this. Your child cannot choose whether or not they want to go to bed, but they can choose if they want the red blanket or the green one. See what I mean? If your child is given the chance to make age-appropriate decisions, they will feel more in control. Let them choose the bedtime story or the song you sing to them. Allow them some independence in the smaller things while standing firm in the big picture.
Once your child feels like they have some control, it will be easier to enforce the limits you’ve set surrounding bedtime. One of these limits should be a specific set bedtime, and can also include expectations such as reading only one story, singing just one song, etc. Being firm but gentle with your child will send the message that this is a solid rule that they are expected to follow. Of course, with each child and situation, it’s important to use your own judgment. Come up with a plan. Predict what may happen before it occurs and plan out your responses. What will you say if your child cries for you to stay with them? Maybe you settle them in and tell them you’ll check in on them in 10 minutes. Maybe you remind them of what a great day they had and encourage them to think about what to do tomorrow. Maybe you let them cry for a little bit to show them you mean business before checking in on them again. Whatever you choose to do, make the expectations clear. And remember that it is only a season and you won’t be dealing with this forever!
Have you ever been trapped by an overtired toddler? Are you stuck in a rut and can’t figure out what to do next? Schedule a free call with me and I’ll help you troubleshoot!
There are three key aspects to focus on in helping your child develop healthy and effective sleep habits. When working with clients, here is what I focus on first:
1. A Regular Bedtime Routine
Little ones thrive on consistency. They look to us, the parents/caretakers, to guide them in what they should be doing and how/when/where they should be doing it. This is why it is so important to develop routines. Babies and toddlers need consistent routines to orient themselves to where they are in their day and be able to anticipate what is coming next. Creating a regular bedtime routine that begins at (relatively) the same time each night will cue your baby to the fact that it is almost time to sleep. A simple bath, pajamas, a story/song, then off to bed routine can do wonders as long as you repeat the same actions in the same order each night.. Develop your routine based on what works best for you and your child!
2. Boundaries Around Sleep
If you’ve been around a toddler for more than 5 minutes you’ll know that they love to push boundaries. This is a completely normal developmental milestone, and it’s important for toddlers because they are looking to you to communicate to them what is allowed and what is not. To avoid frustration and confusion, it is important to set clear boundaries for our children, and sleep habits are no exception. Beginning when Baby is young, you can communicate that the expectation at bedtime is for them to sleep in their own bed. Other boundaries you can enforce could be keeping the baby in their room/bed until a certain time each morning (who wants to get up at 5am??) or making sure your toddler is staying in their bed all night. Decide on some healthy boundaries that will serve everyone in your household.
3. Consistency and Holding Boundaries
With both of the above tips, consistency is key. As I mentioned before, babies and toddlers look to us to orient themselves within their day and the world at large. Keeping consistent routines and boundaries allows them to know what to expect as well as how to act. This is crucial for them to be able to develop a sense of security and understand the world around them. You’ll begin to notice your toddler taking initiative when you prompt them to begin their bedtime routine. Keep it consistent and everyone will be on the same page!
What does your bedtime routine look like? What healthy boundaries have allowed your child to develop good sleep habits?
Traveling with Kids (Part 1 of 3)
The holidays are fast approaching and many of us are making plans to get on the road to visit family and friends.
And if you've never traveled with your child or your last trip made you feel like you'd rather have stayed home, I have something for you!
For the next 3 weeks, I'll be sharing tips about traveling with kids, how to sleep well and make travel less stressful...
Nightmares vs Night Terrors
Walking through a large store last weekend with my daughter, she asked to go through the Halloween section. I’ll admit I was a bit surprised but also excited that she’s starting to enjoy one of my favorite holidays! We turned down the aisle and she ran right past the candy, the girly costumes, the silly masks… then stopped cold in her tracks in the face of a creepy looking clown thing that you hang up on your front porch to greet trick or treaters. The look on her face said it all… Yikes!
My favorite sleep things
I often get asked by parents about my recommendations for my favorite sleep things items that are out there on the market to help children sleep at night, so I thought I’d share the Sleep Solutions by Christine list of the best items out there I’ve found.
There are plenty of lists out there telling you about the hottest baby items to help your child sleep. According to one list, all the items related to sleep totaled more than $3000! The thing is… do you know anyone who’s used them or recommended them? Are they even safe to use? I have you covered! And I wouldn’t recommend anything that I wouldn’t use with my own child or one of my clients.
My list of favorite sleep items for your child
1. The first must have on my list is the Halo Sleep Sack.
Used all over by parents, hospitals and daycares to give babies warmth as well as a safe sleep environment, it’s a must-have for all babies under the age of 12 months. Get the one that allows baby’s arms out and free to move so they can self soothe by sucking on their hands or be able to roll if they want to. This simple piece of clothing can be easily be used as part of your bedtime routine or whenever baby sleeps to provide warmth and a snuggly feeling. Available in sizes to fit toddlers as well, they can also help keep a toddler from climbing out of the crib!
2. The Marpac Dohm white noise sound machine
Got another child running through the house, pets that can’t seem to stop running through the house or creaky floors? A white noise machine is a great way to drown out the noise. The best one stays at a stays on all night and at a constant sound. My fav, the Marpac Dohm white noise sound machine, is simple, portable (we take it everywhere) and the noise level can be easily adjusted to whatever level you need. Be sure to keep it low enough that you can talk over it and place it in between the noise you want to drown out (such as the hallway) and the baby to act as a simple noise barrier.
3. Ok to Wake! color changing clock
Struggling with early wakeups and toddlers running through the house at 2:00am thinking it’s time to get up for the day? I recommend the Ok to Wake! color changing clock for toddlers. Even when she was in the crib, we used a clock with our daughter at 18 months to get her used to the idea that when the clock turns green, it’s ok to get up for the day. The clock is a visual reminder to toddlers for wake up time before they can tell the time. I’ve tried a few clocks and this one was by far the easiest to program. It’s so easy to set the clock and the desired wakeup time (usually 7:00am). Use it as part of a reward and consequence system to teach your child when to stay in bed and sleep and when it’s time to get up for the day.
4. Gro Company Gro-Anywhere Blinds.
Traveling anytime soon? You need the Gro Company Gro-Anywhere Blinds. While most hotels have good blackout curtains, what about Grandma’s house? These portable and adjustable blackout curtains can be attached to any window using suction cups to darken a room, whether it already has curtains or a cute little valence that does nothing other than dress up the window. A must if you’re going on the road this summer.
5. The Fridababy NoseFrida Nasal Aspirator.
The Fridababy NoseFrida Nasal Aspirator. When you have a sick baby or child, you want nothing more than to make them as comfortable as possible. This product is amazing to say the least. Compared to the silly bulb syringe that you get from the hospital, this actually sucks out the mucus from your baby’s nose. No, you won’t actually suck it into your own mouth, since there’s a handy little filter at the top of the tube so you don’t inhale green gooey-ness. It’s the best way I’ve found to clear a little one’s nasal passage.
If you add these few items to your registry or pick them up the next time you’re on Amazon, you won’t be disappointed. You can literally spend thousands of dollars on items your local baby store will tell you that will help your baby sleep. Don’t waste your money (especially on moving bassinets, which I’ll cover in another blog post) because working with a sleep consultant is WAY cheaper and lasts beyond the first few months.
Have questions about your child’s lovey or other sleep related questions? Schedule a free call with me to begin your journey to a better night's sleep!
Creating a Safe Sleep Environment
When you’re considering where your baby should sleep, the obvious answer is ‘a crib’. What you put in that crib important…and I’m not just talking about the baby.
Baby stores, social media and online decorating boards show beautiful huge cribs with lots of bedding, stuffed animals and fluffy-ness all over. While it’s really cute, are those beautifully decorated cribs the safest place to put baby? When my husband and I were shopping for our daughter’s crib, there was a crib in the store decked out in all white with cushy bumpers, a sparkly mobile and soft sheets. My first thought was…what if she spits up? Who wants to try and clean spit up out of white sheets? Not only that, but the crib bumpers were nearly 6 inches thick!
Babies move, even the little ones just a few weeks old. They squirm and wiggle all over the crib so you want to create the safest place for them to sleep. Yes, they need to sleep in a crib or bassinette…not in your bed on the soft mattress, not on the couch or a comfy chair. Don’t use positioners either. If your crib height is adjustable, start it at the highest position, but as soon as baby starts to push him/herself up on her hands, lower the crib mattress height.
Bare is best when it comes to decorating cribs. Cribs should have a firm mattress, with a waterproof cover and a single sheet. Bumpers can become suffocation hazards. Also, don’t put mobiles, toys, stuffed animals, projectors or mirrors in their cribs. Not only can the toys become hazards, but we want baby’s crib to be a place for sleep…not playtime.
Dress baby in one piece pajamas to sleep and make sure nothing covers baby’s head. If you feel like they need to stay warmer, use a wearable blanket, such as a sleep sack. Do not use loose blankets.
Lastly, baby should be put to sleep on his/her back. It may not be the way that you were put to sleep or what you hear from your mom but since the Safe to Sleep campaign (formerly known as the Back to Sleep campaign) was implemented, SIDS deaths are down 50%. Once baby is old enough to roll, it’s ok to let them.
Making sure that your baby has a safe sleep environment is important, not only for parents, but also for all caregivers. Make sure you communicate to anyone who cares for baby about these safe sleeping practices.