When you first bring home your baby, you expect some sleepless nights, and sometimes even enjoy the snuggles! But, after months of sleep deprivation, you expect your baby to grow into a toddler sleeping through the night. And, when that doesn’t happen, you can be left feeling even more exhausted, frustrated, and confused. Look no further! We are here to help you learn how to get your toddler to sleep through the night.
Why Does My Toddler Keep Waking Up at Night?
One of the most perplexing things about toddlers not sleeping through the night is… why are they waking up in the first place? It might surprise you to learn that some waking up at night is completely normal and something most of us do. Most of us simply roll over and go right back to sleep. So, why do toddlers keep waking up at night?
The most common reasons for toddlers waking up at night include the following:
- Hunger – Believe it or not, even though your toddler is likely fully capable of sleeping through the night without eating, many toddlers are very busy…too busy…to eat enough during the day. And, these days, some adults are afraid of over-feeding their toddlers. Toddlers need a LOT of calories to support their growth and activity levels!
- Schedule – Your toddler’s schedule could be completely off-base. If you are offering two naps and it’s time for one, for example, that could cause waking at night. Or, vice versa, your toddler should be taking two naps and is only taking one. Or, perhaps your bedtime is too early or too late. Getting the right schedule sets up your toddler to sleep through the night and your success.
- Sleep Associations – This is the main reason toddlers don’t outgrow their sleep problems. If they “need” or expect a certain something from you when they wake up at night, then it becomes very difficult for toddlers to sleep through the night. Whether they want you to rock them, feed them, sleep with them, or rub their back, having sleep associations that require your physical presence will reinforce the very night-waking you’re trying to fix.
- Cold – If you’ve graduated away from a sleep sack to a toddler blanket, your toddler might not be proficient at keeping it on all night. Until my son got good at it, I’d dress him with the expectation the blanket WOULD come off at night whether it was intentionally or by accident. It wasn’t until he was past 3-4 years old that I could expect it to stay on!
There are other reasons toddlers wake up at night, but these are the most common. So, how can you get your toddler to sleep through the night? Read on!
Address the Source of the Problem(s)
In my 15+ years as a sleep consultant, I’ve seen many families succeed, and those who do have one thing in common: they address the source of their sleep problems. Of course, some families need our help in diagnosing the reason for their toddler waking up at night.
The #1 thing to realize is that letting your toddler cry it out, for example, does no good if you haven’t addressed the source of their night-waking problem. For example, a toddler who is hungry might cry for long periods at night for many nights in a row. You haven’t addressed the main problem. Similarly, you could do a lot of sleep training at night, but if your toddler’s schedule is wrong, you will continue to have problems. Sometimes you’re just too close to your own situation to figure out the “why” your toddler is waking up and “how” to fix it. That is the primary reason we are here, to help you figure this out!
What About Sleep Training My Toddler?
In the end, if you know you have addressed the main reasons your toddler is waking up at night and nothing seems to fix it, sleep training your toddler can be a good solution. This doesn’t mean, necessarily, that you have to let your toddler cry it out. There are many ways to sleep train your toddler just like there are multiple ways to learn to tie your shoes. The end result is a happy, sleeping toddler, and through your guidance, love, and teaching, you too can have a toddler who sleeps through the night! The first key is to find a sleep training method that is the best fit for your toddler and your family.
How Do I Get My Toddler to Sleep In Their Own Bed?
Co-sleeping is a unique “sleep association” since, technically, your toddler may be sleeping fine but in your bed. Since children are notoriously active sleepers, even sleeping sideways sometimes, this can mean it’s not very restful for you to have your toddler in your bed and you want your toddler to sleep in their own bed.
Every situation is a little different, but the #1 thing to remember is that as long as it’s an option to sleep in your bed, your toddler will see no reason to change it. Now, of course, it’s easier said than done to say ‘just don’t let them!’
That isn’t helpful or practical.
We have heard of parents who “rip off the band-aid” and just put their toddler in their own bed and then do cry-it-out.
In my experience of 15+ years, that often involves a lot of crying, and many parents give in regularly. If it were that “easy” (though I don’t think cry-it-out is “easy”!) your toddler wouldn’t likely be co-sleeping in the first place.
Instead, we recommend a more methodical, gradual plan 99% of the time when we work one-on-one with families. This is because if you have a plan that you feel good about, you are more likely to follow through and be successful, even if it’s not “done” in 3 days. Keep in mind your toddler has probably been co-sleeping with you for months, if not years, at this point. It would be wise to consider a method that may take at least 2-4 weeks over an abrupt approach. It is much more likely to be long-lasting, giving all of you much better sleep!
You Might Also Like…
- 9 Toddler Sleep Problems (And How To Deal)
- 7 Tips for Taming Toddler Sleep Problems
- A Day-By-Day Plan to Transition From Co-Sleeping (VIP Members Only)
- Transition a 17-Month Old From Co-Sleeping Case Study (VIP Members Only)