WOO HOO! Your child has had their first (or second, or third) birthday making them officially “a kid.” (That’s right I said it, your baby is no longer a baby *gasp*). Which means that all your sleep woes are behind you, your child is happily taking predictably long nap, sleeping through the night, and all is well in snoozetown. So what are you doing wasting your time here for?
I often get asked, “Why don’t you write more about big kids?” And the answer is, “I AM!” but most of that is in the (as yet unavailable) book which isn’t particularly helpful in the moment. However many of the fundamental sleep challenges of toddlers and preschoolers are the same as those of infants namely: maintaining a consistent age-appropriate sleep schedule and having them fall asleep independently.
Babies often aren’t falling asleep independently because they’re being rocked, nursed, cuddled, or patted to sleep. Toddlers sometimes struggle with the same issues. Older kids may have evolved from “only sleep while nursing” into “only fall asleep as long as Mom/Dad stays in the room with me.” But fundamentally the root issue is the same – night waking as a result of not falling asleep independently.
So big kid or little kid, the need to fall asleep independently remains the same.
There are however, some additional pretty specific “big kid” sleep issues including
Sleep Stuff That is Normal for Toddlers and Preschoolers
- If they aren’t falling asleep independently, sleep training may be necessary.
- If they’re still eating at night, it’s time to put your gentle weaning plan into action. They’ve got teeth and are eating solid food now so cavities are a possibility. If cutting out night boob/bottle isn’t going well, check this out.
- Sleep goes to hell when a new sibling shows up – I call it the new baby bed bounce. AKA your child’s genius method to make sure the new baby doesn’t get all the attention.
- They drop naps. Often this isn’t a discrete affair but a bit of a bumpy process that can last weeks or months.
- A detailed case study about getting a toddler/preschooler to give up the pacifier (hint: it involves paci fairies)
- They sometimes continue to wake up super early. Happily, however, as they get older you can actually do something about it.
- They may need to move into a big kid bed.
- They may decide not to stay in their new big kid bed.
And don’t overlook this great post on toddler discipline and time out strategies.
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