Take The Dread Out Of Bedtime!
Happy Turkey Week Family!
I hope this week will be filled with rest and lots of yummy food for all of you! I thought a good topic for this week would be...don don don...BEDTIME. I've been seeing a lot of Moms posting about their challenges with trying to get their little to go down for bed. The general consensus seems to be that your littles want to stay up and party all night and that bedtime is the least of their concerns. As much as I'm sure you love every minute of time with your little, getting no sleep will certainly not bode well for either of you. So, let's talk tips and tricks to try and ease this phase. Know that everything we discuss in these articles is a jumping off point and while I aim to be the magic fairy teacher that takes all your problems away, every toddler is different. Some things may work, others may not. Things may come easily, others may take longer. Since your littles are still too young for bourbon or Benadryl, hopefully these things will help!
Schedule and Keep Consistency: Of course things change...I mean hey, 2020 has not stayed on schedule whatsoever! But until your little has a better understanding of how to adapt when things change, it will be easier for them if they stay on a consistent schedule. That also may include what their schedule looks like for the day, so that the transition into their bedtime routine is just an even flow from the day. That routine can be a collaborative creation with you and your little. Maybe it's go potty, brush teeth, go into the bedroom and put pjs on, tuck into bed, and then maybe it's either a book or two, a song, etc. When I was little, I had to know every night before bed that I was going to get to have peanut butter toast and orange juice in the morning when I woke up. If this question wasn't answered or I forgot to ask, I couldn't go to sleep. Sometimes little quirks like this will help...;).
Remove Negatives From The Routine: The routine is key but it also shouldn't be something your little dreads. Maybe your little hates baths or brushing their teeth. It may be helpful to find another time to do these things rather than before bed. Take a bath before dinner and brush teeth right after dinner. That way they have some time between these activities and bedtime and things can hopefully stay positive.
Try To Avoid Getting Over Tired: Of course there will be days when this will be unavoidable. I still haven't mastered this and I'm 30, so baby steps...;). To avoid your little getting over tired, this may be as simple as not missing nap. Some of you may say, "My toddler doesn't want to nap either!" If this is happening, maybe first try pushing nap time and then bedtime back to a later time. Try doing this in 15 minute increments to start.
Make Sure They Feel Comfortable: Everyone has to adapt but it's not easy for any of us to fall asleep when we are feeling uncomfortable. Find the sleeping position that your little likes best and make sure the temperature in the room is well suited for sleeping comfortably. Maybe your little needs a comfort toy or animal, special comfy pjs, a night light, or white noise/music to sleep comfortably and through the night. I listened to a tape as a toddler that told stories and the ambient noise helped me fall asleep. Sometimes the silence can be too quiet and can seem scary to your little. The dark may also seem scary.
Limit Juice/Milk/Water Intake Before Bed: The less your little has to get up and pee in the middle of the night, the better.
Wind Down Time Before Bed: Going straight to bed from running around and having fun can be really difficult. Your little needs time to calm down and relax. Here's a few wind down tricks that may help: Limit screen time or have no screen time an hour before bed. Encourage quiet activities after dinner like coloring, reading books, or puzzles. If your little does not hate baths, have bath time and use some lavender oil in the water, this will help soothe and relax. Cuddle in bed and read books together. Avoid snacks that are high in sugar before bed.
Wake Them Up: This one may seem strange and your scratching your head saying, "I thought the point of all of this was for my little to sleep!" This trick may only be useful for those of you that have littles waking up at certain points of the night. Many pediatricians say that if you go in and wake your little up before the time they would wake themselves up, they will gradually stop waking up in the middle of the night. If your little wakes up at 3 am, the last thing you want to do is set your alarm to get in there before they wake up, but maybe try waking them up before you go to bed. Go in, gently wake them up and give them a hug and take them to potty. They should go right back to sleep and sleep past that point that they normally would wake up on their own.
Wake Up Cues: This one may take some time to catch onto but you can start teaching your little about when is a "good time" to get up. There are actually toddler alarm clocks that turn green at a specific time, that way your toddler knows when they can get out of bed and come get you. Maybe they have to wait until they can see Mr. Sun popping up and saying good morning before they can get up.
Late Night Snack: Often the reason your little may be getting up in the middle of the night is because they are hungry. Try having a protein filled snack about an hour before bed to avoid this.
Setting A Timer: Your little probably spends hours calling after you for things once you have left the room. Most likely they are fine and do not need anything but they just want you to come back into the room. Set a timer and let them know that they can call after you for things but once the timer goes off, they no longer can. I also used to babysit a little girl who would always get up out of bed and come peak out the crack of the door. I learned a trick that if I told her she could stay up as late as she wanted but had to stay in bed, she without fail fell asleep in 5 or 10 minutes after I said this. Sometimes if a toddler has some kind of power over the situation, they will go to sleep faster.
Have Conversations: Try and talk to your little about the importance of getting sleep. Try and figure out if there is something scary to them about sleep and talk through ways to solve this together. My parents used to tell me to close my eyes and think about my favorite parts of the day. This kind of created this peaceful meditative routine that helped me soothe myself into sleep.
Your little is learning every day and things don't happen over night, so with anything time and patience are key in anything being successful! I do hope you find this article helpful and that you and your little are able to catch some zzzzzsssss.