Toddler and Preschooler Sleep Guide

toddler sleep guideWOO 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

And don’t overlook this great post on toddler discipline and time out strategies.

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  1. Hi,

    Really need some advice. My 19 month old just got over a week long nasty cold and is now waking up two sometimes three times a night. Before this, he slept through the night and if he was to wake up all I had to do was lay him back down and he was out. During him being sick, we rocked, bounced, and even brought him to bed one night to monitor his fever. I know….. But he was really sick. So now, we are dealing with the aftermath.
    My husband and I have been doing our normal bedtime routine with him since he was six months old… And have gone through colds before, but for some reason this one has completely thrown us for a loop. We have used the Ferber method since he was little and it has always done the trick….. For the first time I’m questioning it because it’s three am and I’ve been up with him for almost an hour for the second time tonight. Plus this has been going on for a solid week.

    Please help….. Suggestions are so welcomed as we have been scratching our heads for days!

    • Did you ever get a response for this? I’m in almost the exact same situation. I have a 16 month old who would typically sleep through the night, was a pretty early riser (5am-ish) but has had a cold and is cutting 2 teeth so for the past week has been up screaming 1-4x/night. I’ve gone in a just held her til she falls asleep and then leave and sometimes she stays down, sometimes she doesn’t. I’m afraid its turning into a bad habit. She still has a cold and her teeth still aren’t all the way through but I want to head this off at the pass if I can. I always second guess what I do, so would love some insight.

      • Hi Jess,

        No, I never received a reply. This was a rough time for sure. I’m happy to report that my son is now three and a half and a great sleeper. So… what we finally did was let him cry it out. Hardest thing I’ve ever done. But I knew he wasn’t hurting or in need of anything but sleep! We went through a week of doing everything else first, including ferber method which we used successfully when he was little but nothing worked. He kept waking up screaming and would stay up for hours before falling back to sleep only to wake up again a few hours later. The first night we let him cry it out, my husband and l took turns monitoring him. We found out that night how determined our son was. He never laid down. Screamed himself to sleep on the railing….would wake up and start screaming again….but slept on and off all night on the railing.The next morning, I remember picking him up and seeing his legs shake from exhaustion 🙁 he fell asleep on the couch that morning for three hours. I remember cause I have it written in his baby book lol. Anyways, it got better…The next night, he cried for an hour solid….The next a little less, and by the fifth night it wasn’t even ten mins and he was asleep…..we’ve had our ups and downs with him since but nothing like this and he’s good at putting himself to sleep. I learned with him that whatever I needed to do when he was sick was what I did, but I would have to stand firm and handle the consequences. Typically a night or two of crying for a bit. But for him at this age, going in and reassuring him like we did when he was younger didn’t work, only reinforced his behavior. It was all or nothing. Hope this helps even a little.

        I wish you luck with yours. Such a hard time to go through and so many questions and worries. Just make sure you have peace about whatever you decide to do. It’s not easy being a parent for sure!

        • Thank you so much for responding. I know we are headed in that direction, it is just nice to hear that someone else survived it so I really appreciate you sharing! This parenting thing is very tough. Steeling myself up to start, just praying for a minimal amount of crying but we have a strong willed little one!

        • Thanks for posting your experience! I am about to try the full on CIO method starting tonight. Not looking forward to it. My son sounds just like yours, very strong willed and can scream for hours on end. We tried the Ferber method before and it worked for a few weeks but he went back to same old pattern of multiple night wakings, and with another son who sleeps well and a husband who wakes up very early for work, I would usually end up picking him up to stop his screams to not bother everyone else. He has never been a great sleeper, he always goes to sleep fine but wakes every night, anywhere from 2-5 times, and if he is not held or picked up or soothed by me or my husband in some way he screams bloody murder. It has gotten so bad lately that we are all miserable and suffering, and even if I do pick him up it takes him 20 minutes each time to settle down. He has been acting up in daycare, not napping, hitting and screaming at other kids. 🙁 We are at our wit’s end!! Hoping this works!!

          • Dani
            I just read your story and we are similar. My little girl is 13 months, i thought she was a good sleeper when she was a baby but have come to realize that I was wrong. We decided at 11 months to let her cry it out after a few nights of almost no sleep and by that point she was in our bed awake. She did really good until last week when she started waking up again. She is now up at 12-1a and i reverted to giving her mild (i know bad) but then she wont go back down. She will fall asleep in my arms but the minute i move her to her crib she screams and screams. Last night it took her over an an hour to settle and then she was up early and so upset. She has been waking up upset a lot! We need to get back to CIO as well but it is just so dreaded. Good luck to you all. Keep us posted.

  2. I’m also in need for some advice for my 18mo old. We’ve struggled with nighttime sleep for some time – nursing to sleep turned into rocking to sleep which is now turning into only going back to sleep in the middle of the night if mom/dad are laying on the floor next to his crib. Ugh. I know this is our fault and we’re giving him sleep crutches – I just don’ t know how to get rid of the crutches altogether! We all need more sleep!

    He naps well – 1.5+ hrs – and goes to sleep independently at night. It’s the middle of the night wakings that are the issue.

    Lately, he’s extremely hard to settle when we go in in the middle of the night, and even if we stay next to his crib until he falls asleep again, he’s often restless and it can take over an hour to get him back to sleep and get back to bed ourselves.

    Any advice on how to eliminate the need for us to be in his room with him would be MUCH appreciated! 🙂

  3. We had finally gotten my 17 mo old into a great sleep routine. She dropped her am nap early, right after her first bday and things had gotten all wonky… But for the past 2 months or so she was sleeping 7pm-6:30 am with anywhere from a 90 min -3 hr nap. Now for the past month she has been waking at 5:15 and only napping 45 min. We have moved bedtime to 6:30-6:45 and moved nap up during the day but she still is not napping well and waking early. She is getting about 12 hrs of sleep but she’s so cranky in the afternoon and she wakes from her nap crying so hard so I think she needs more sleep. Do I just wait it out and hope it’s a phase or is there something I can do? She puts herself to sleep after a boon and song and has for about 10 mo.

    • OMG – my 17 mo is the same! Maybe it’s a thing at that age? I keep trying to get her to nap longer than 1 hour but it’s just not happening. It’s weird because she was always a 45m or 1.5h baby – which made sense from what I understand about sleep cycles – but now she is doing 1 hour or even 1h15m which is in between and is completely baffling to me. Plus she wakes up so ANGRY and is a bear for like an hour after every nap. Night time isn’t so bad – it’s just these weird short naps. I keep hearing about toddlers who sleep for 3 hours in the afternoon! I would settle for 2 sleep cycles!

  4. Suggestions please! My 23 month old has been a great sleeper since 6 months. 12 hours 7pm – 7am approx. No night waking or early starts. Then 6 weeks ago, he suddenly struggles to get to sleep in the evening. Sometimes not drifting off until nearly 10pm!! He then wakes between 7am and 8am. There’s no screaming or resisting bed time routine. He loves his bath and book. He’s, Just awake, bouncing and chatting. We go in to settle him occasionally but no interaction, just in, lie him down and pop dummy in (if he had thrown it).We have tried everything to help him. He still has one nap in the day (he needs this as is way too tired when we skip). I have moved nap, lengthened, shortened, skipped etc… No joy. I moved bedtime to 6.30. No good. Any other suggestions would be most welcome. Thank you. X

    • Well there is a really common sleep regression at 2, so this could simply be that. However it will likely help if you hold his wake time at 7:00 AM and not let it slide later. Also his inability to fall asleep (combined with later wake time) could be a sign of a shifted circadian rhythm which can happen in the summer due to late afternoon/early evening bright light exposure. So if you’re doing lots of outside sunny stuff late afternoon/early evening, you might want to cut back on that and emphasize bright light exposure in the morning instead.

      • Thanks for your reply Alexis. I can’t attribute it to sun exposure as I live in the UK….bright sunny days aren’t a consistent part of summer (lol) and we certainly haven’t had a good run of weather which has led to exposure to sun light. I can only assume this is then sleep regression….? Advice please…do we simply stand firm and ride the storm? (I have recently put foil in his windows to black out his room……no change.) I feel bad for him as I can tell he’s trying to sleep but can’t. 🙁

        • Wondering how you made out. We are experiencing the exact same thing with ,y 21 month old. He seems very tired and ready for sleep by 7:15 or 7:30, but just plays in his crib sometimes till 9 or 9:30..

  5. hi Moms, i just had a huge fight with my SO cuz we just cant get our almost 3year old daughter to fall asleep. every night its a fight. she want us to bring her a million things, or she she sings for hours!!! hours…
    its putting a toll on our marriage. i think we are making progress, cuz she used to want me to lie nx to her untill she would finally fall asleep… he thinks we are doin everything wrong, cuz it takes too long… she finally passes out around 11-12 pm 🙁
    we have a firm consistant bedtime routine, but she doesnt get the concept of mami and daddy are done and need grown up time now, just go to sleep!!!
    she used to go to bed so easily (after doin cio when she was 7 mt old) but thing got outta have after a long trip abroud half a year ago.
    maybe you have tipps for me? how do i get my sanity back and save my marriage 😉
    greetz from switzerland

    • I have the same problem and would love some ideas. My daughter is 2 and a half, takes the longest time to get her to stay in her room. She comes out up to 35 times every night until I get so angry I scream and then feel terrible! It drives me nuts!!! Sometimes I think I’m not a good mom… The only thing I’ve heard from people around me is “that’s the way it is, you just have to deal” … Is there really nothing we can do?

    • I know that this was posted a while ago, but I’m in the same boat right now! My daughter will be 3 this summer, and some days she falls asleep no problem. Other days, it’s a complete battle–water, potty, wants to tell us something or wants us to sing another song, and on and on and on. Similar to Pascale, I start getting really frustrated and and impatient with her, especially when she subsequently wakes her baby brother because the frustration has resulted in her screaming or crying. I’m not sure what we’re supposed to do from here!

  6. I’m sleep training my 13 month old at bedtime (naps will come later). Everytime I so much as begin to put him in the crib he begins screaming and clings to my arms, clothes, etc. I have to pry him off of me to even get him in the crib. Is this normal? What can I do about it? I feel terrible putting him in his crib when he’s Already crying. Will this go away on it’s own after a few more nights? Any advice would be helpful! Thanks!

  7. Hello – my 23 month old/almost 2 year daughter has been waking up at 1a screaming bloody murder and refuses to go back to sleep unless I go in & take her out of her crib and to the living room for a slumber party on the floor. I’ve attempted to let her CIO in the middle of the night only for the screaming to get worse. We have a video monitor so I know she’s not injured. Any suggestions is greatly appreciated 🙂 OH! And I think her 2 year molars are in the process of coming in.

  8. Hi- I have 3.5 yr old son at home that continues to wake up in the middle of the night saying “he needs me” and then he wakes up between 4:30-5:30 am. He has a good bedtime routine- bath around 7 and then goes to bed around 8:20. Last night he woke up 4 different times and I just take him back to bed. Any ideas would be fantastic.

    • Well that could be LOADS of stuff. But my first guess would be it’s time to stop napping. Also regardless of what the root cause is – a light cue (nightlight on a timer) to indicate “it’s sleep time” won’t hurt and may help!

  9. Well taking out nap time prob won’t happen due to daycare. He takes a nap around noon for an hour or hour 1/2. Would you put him to bed earlier? I will look for the night light. I get up at 530 to get ready for work and there are mornings he is up before than if not shortly after and he has bags under his eyes.

  10. Hi Alexis,
    I am feeling rather desperate for sone help. My daughter is 13 months old and has recently begun night wakings and she is awake for anywhere up to 4 hours. She is in bed at 7pm ever night and has always slept well. She used to wake for a bottle around 11pm and go straight off to sleep. Now she will cry if I don’t go into her room. I will sit next to her cot but I am finding this very hard for such a long period if time. I think she has teeth coming and ahe has recently started walking and trying to talk but can this cause such long night wakings? She naps every day for an hour and a half 11 until 1.40ish. I would be so grateful for any advice thank you

    • Emma,
      You don’t say specifically but I’m guessing from your sleep challenges that she gets a bottle near to bedtime and that perhaps you hang out while she’s falling asleep. Because this sounds like a classic sleep association issue. The key to fixing night waking is to fix what’s happening at bedtime. The nap sounds perfect so it’s not a scheduling or nap related problem. Change bedtime see what happens.

      Good luck!

      • Thank you so much for replying to me. She has a bottle then I take her up and sit there for 5 minutes or so whilst she falls off to sleep. By changing bedtime do you mean not staying with her? What are your suggestions? Thank you once again

      • Hi Alexis
        I am just deciding on my options. My daughter has been waking at around 3.30 for a couple of hours….. she doesn’t wake continuously just once but I am exhausted. I know she is teething and she does sometimes go 7 til 7. I am considering CIO but don’t want this to set us back. She usually goes off to sleep ok with me sitting there. She must wake on the nights she sleeps straight through and just go off again without me there so am confused what it may be. Am going to try something tonight but am just looking online and CIO seems to be for people who are up all the time not just once…. anyway I am kind of desperate now so just wondered what you thought? Thank you very much

  11. Madam Alexis,
    You’ve helped us through so many transitions with our second son (THANK YOU for being funny, smart and not dogmatic. I recommend your blog to EVERYONE) and for the first time, you don’t specifically address the problem we’ve been having: He’s 2.5 and we just (thanks to you!) stopped giving him a bottle for bedtime and nap last week. He was upset about the bottle specifically just for the first day of this new routine and has accepted it and is sleeping THROUGH THE NIGHT. Amen. I put him down around 730 every night and he sleeps till 630ish. Then nap at 1 and he’ll sleep for an hour or two. Before now, he went down quite gently, some periods of crying for a minute or two but mostly pretty mellow. Just before we did the bottle transition, he started protesting getting his diaper and pajamas on. Most of the time I have to force them onto him which is awful, but I have my limits. Then I take him into bed and he’ll lay down while I sing him his song and when I walk towards the door he pops up and starts screaming for me. I tell him its time to lay down, close his eyes, relax and think of something happy and I leave. He will cry for 5-10 mins, then yell for me from his crib that he needs any one of 10,000 things and then finally go to sleep after a half hour or so. Same thing happened for nap today, but this time he took off his sleepsack (zipper in the back!) and took off his diaper. I went in, put them back on, much to his chagrin and then left. He screamed like a banshee for 30 minutes and is finally sleeping, 1.5 hours after I put him in for the first time. Any tips here? Is there a typical separation thing at 2.5? Is there anything I’m not doing that I should be? All I know to do is keep being firm and not go back in unless I’m really concerned. Will this get better?!?!?!

  12. Hi Alexis,
    Thank you so much for this site! I’ve been obsessively reading your sleep advice since my son was born. He’s been a good napper and falling asleep at bedtime on his own (with no paci or bottle) and through the night for well over a year. All thanks to you!
    Now that he’s almost 2, we may be dealing with a sleep regression. For a little over a month, out of nowhere, I can no longer put him down at night awake. He screams until I rock him to sleep. I tried CIO (it worked in the past) but now that he can call out “mommy” and has the stamina to go for over an hour I am having a hard time. The rocking to sleep takes hours. I used to be able to put him down at 7:30 and he would go right to sleep; now me or husband is rocking and shushing him until 10pm. I guess he’s not tired until then. This sucks.
    The last couple of days we skipped his nap, and that worked like a charm. Well, he’s still insisting I rock him, but at least he’s out by 7:30-8pm. I’m sure he’s still too young to skip naps altogether, but this is kind of working! I’m just wondering, WWAD?

  13. So to bother you again…since our newborn had arrived, my 4yr old can no longer sleep through the night on her own. She has always been a wonderful sleeper until her baby brother arrived. She runs into our room complaining she has had a bad dream. She has become afraid of monsters, although I don’t think she really believes in them. Our newborn is now 4 months and it’s time for ALL of us to sleep in our own room on our own. Any advice much appreciated:)


  14. Hi Alexis,
    I have just found your website and read through most of it to start my 9 mo on a cio routine and get him sleeping through the night and will be starting tonight! But, that’s not why I’m commenting. My oldest son will be 3 in March and used to sleep wonderfully! I could lay him down at 8 and he would sleep through the night and come get in our bed usually around 6, which I was fine with. Then, in December of 2014, after finding out I was pregnant with our 2nd and we got him into a big boy bed, everything went down the drain! He would still go to bed ok but started coming to our bed earlier and earlier. He then got to where he wouldn’t sleep in his bed at all and would just sleep in our bed. We finally got him to fall asleep in his bed again but only if he doesn’t take a nap, he also has to have my ipad to watch shows on to fall asleep to (probably shouldn’t have started that but we were desperate). He only sleeps in his bed for about an hour now and comes running to our bed (we leave his door open or else he screams bloody murder)!! What can we do to get him to sleep in his bed all night again and not come to our bed? Do we need to just leave his door shut and let him scream? I’m worried he will wake baby brother but it seems like the best choice right now.

    Thank you!!
    Tiffany and our sleepy family!

  15. Alexis,
    My 18 mo. old son has always fussed or cried in his sleep, but it’s gotten really bad lately! Every two or three hours, my husband or I have to go in and jiggle him awake in his crib, and then he is happy to go quietly back to sleep. We don’t even pick him up or talk, just jiggle him enough to wake him up, a few pats, and then he is fine. I’m fairly certain my son isn’t even aware he’s crying or fussing. He wakes up in the mornings like this too, about half the time. I have to go in and wake him up all the way, then he goes from crying to happy. What to do about this? So confused!

  16. Hi Alexis,

    I’m desperate to get my 2 1/2 year old to go to sleep and stay asleep! Even with a bedtime routine, it’s always a complete meltdown with the mention of the words bath, pj’s or bed. Last night she went to her bed at 8 and awake until 10:30, woke again at 3am till 4am (she came to my bed), the was up for the day at 7:30. She used to go to bed just fine on her own up until 6 months ago, but now we have to sit in her room until she falls asleep.

    I have tried everything I can think of without success. Moving her to a “big girl bed worked for about a week. Then we tried CIO method, but then abandoned that after she got so upset and within 15 mins threw up all over the bed…she was so worked uo and count calm down for over an hr. Following the CIO night, she has started the meltdowns with anything associated with bed time. We tried an earlier bedtime, but she was still awake until after 10pm. Shortening her naps to 45 mins, have seemed to help without waking in the middle of night…..but she isn’t a pleasant person to be around and will still be awake until 9:30 or later. Spending an hour + sitting in her room is wearing on my husband and I.

    Even though I have to sit in her room, naps are fairly decent. She will fall asleep within 20 mins and can sleep 2+ hrs if I dont wake her up. It seems anything over 90 mins, makes bedtime even worse. I put her down around 1pm (she goes to a preschool 2 days a week till 12:30, so I try to keep her on that schedule).

    I am expecting my 2nd child, my husband travels alot…. so Im REALLY tired and only get 2 cups of coffee a day! Her sleep schedule wont be sustainable once we have a newborn in the house and im home alone…. Please help!

  17. My third son slept through the night our first night home, and was straightforward from there all night. Rarely ever more than one night nursing, naps were garbage, but we took what we could get. Now at 20 months he takes his nap and sleeps past 5AM and BOOM! He’s screaming bloody murder every night at bedtime and waking up once or twice a night screaming. We pick up and soothe til he’s calm, then put down and let him fall asleep on his own. It works, but I’m totally baffled by the sudden behaviour and the half hour (and sometimes as much as 2 hour) scream it out sessions.

    Is this some sick cruel payback for all that good off the bat sleep? Anyone else having the same struggle?

  18. I have a 2y3m old kiddo that has been on major nap boycotts lately. She usually gets up at 8 am, bedtime 9 pm (thank you work schedule) and has traditionally napped from 1-3. She never really has liked going to sleep, but it’s not really optional in our house. Still in her crib. So now at least half of the days over the past 3 weeks, she has been playing in her crib for 2 hours instead of napping. Is this a phase?! Just stick to the routine? I usually put her down at 8 (when possible) if she skipped a nap all together. Always makes for a frustrating evening for her and us! What to do??

  19. i have a “spirited” 2 year old daughter. don’t you just love that technical doctor term!?!? um, no. anyway, her “spirit” equates to a lot of outrageous incurable tantrums…. these manipulative tantrums involve vomit when she’s really mad. so when she fights bedtime, bath time, or acting like a functioning human, she will get so much air in her stomach and make herself vomit or use her fingers and make herself vomit… so here is my trouble, crying it out, isn’t possible for her or for me, I’m too tired to change the sheets more than once per middle night. she used to be a decent sleeper. slept on her belly and through the night all of year one. now she gets up around 11 after going to sleep without much fight (often) and wants in my bed. she will even take a nap without much fight (about an hour), she self soothes and chooses an animal to sleep with. my brilliant solution is just to put her in bed with her brother at night, but he’s getting to the age of 7 where having a 2 year old girl in bed, isn’t the best idea… she seems like she just wants to be around people, during the day she’s always worried about where people are. wheres dad? wheres brother? wheres the dog? when i go potty, wheres mom? i never let her sleep in bed with me till about a month ago, when the whole family was extremely ill for about 3 weeks. now its a monster. what do i do to get her back into her bed through the night!? she has a dark room, a sound machine, and her animals…

  20. Desperate. Had a good sleeper until a couple of weeks ago. We never out her down awake so I think that is our primary problem now. Question: should I start trying to put her down awake at nap and bedtime or just try one at a time? If just one, which to start with? Appreciate any thoughts (I’m all out since I’ve been up all night)!

  21. Hi- first things first! Thank you for this website we have referenced it again and again for 21 months! Sadly, our daycare provider is closing and we are moving our little guy to a daycare center, we have gone for three visits, last one yesterday and he officially starts Monday. So last time we visited ( wed) he was up at 3:00 in the morn took him a while to go back to sleep. Last night we was up from 130-300 chatting , asking for his friends from old daycare again and again. He shares a room with older brother so brought him into our room (I know) and into bed ( I know, I know) so my question is if this is a little separation anxiety or adjustment to new place ( which he.hasn’t .even.officially. started) and what can we do to not let it undermine his sleep ( that we’ve worked so hard on). Any advice would be appreciated.

  22. Hi Alexis!

    I am so desperate, I’m praying you can give me any suggestions. I’m a mommy to two boys, a 20 month old and a 1 month old. My 1 month old currently sleeps fantastic, no issues there . My oldest, well let’s just say God knew that giving me two kids with his sleep issues would have driven me batty. He slept in bed with me til 10 months old, then went to his crib with no issues sleeping all night til around 15 months. At that point I quit my job to become a stay at home mommy. And then, BOOM. Sleep? What’s that? Falling asleep solo? HA. He stopped sleeping solo. I’ve battled him for 5 months, doing everything but CIO. I even moved him into a big bed hoping he just hated the crib (he slept through the night for 4 nights then stopped). It’s come to the point I lay with him at night until he falls asleep. We do dinner, bath time, books while he drinks a cup of milk, then bed. It takes anywhere from 20-30 mins for him to fall asleep. If I try to get up before he’s out he is screaming hysterically and starts holding his breath. However if I wait and sneak out. He’s up anywhere from 1-4 hours later a hot mess and won’t go to sleep without laying down with him again. I’ve tried gradually moving further and further away (laying beside him to gradually just sitting on end of bed over a course of a week), he wakes up quicker and quicker. Obviously with a newborn this has become absolutely impossible. Any suggestions would be so welcome, I’m at the end of my patience! Thanks so much, your blog is helping me so much!


  23. We need help. My 2 1/2 can fall asleep independently but won’t stay asleep all night. He may protest when we leave the room at bedtime but eventually we leave and he puts himself to sleep. THEN…inevitably at 2, 3, 4 or all of the above he will wake up and scream until we go in to “put his blanket back on”. He’ll scream bloody murder for either mama or dada and may go on sometimes for over an hour, whoever breaks first. I’m at my wits end and cannot see a way out. We never sleep trained when he was younger and he’s always been a horrible sleeper. We’ve tried all the gadgets – sounds waves, turtle stars, night light – nothing helps. He. Just. Never. Sleeps. Please help. We’re expecting no. 2 in August and I don’t think I can survive the idea that I’ll get LESS sleep than I already do.

    • If he’s REALLY falling asleep alone (you aren’t rocking till he’s super drowsy or some such) then my guess is that it’s a scheduling issue – either bedtime is too early or (yes I’m saying it) he’s ready to stop napping. IF putting the blanket back on actually solves it then I would look at what’s happening AT bedtime and make a change there. The issue with gadgets are that they turn off so THAT could be the issue. If however the blanket is just a red herring for “I can’t fall asleep” then the issue is that it’s time to stop napping.

      • Thank you for responding! I promise he is REALLY falling asleep on his own as I’m usually speaking to him on my way out the door saying No to his requests for more belly or back rubs. It has always sort of felt like an attachment issue – like he misses us and is using any excuse to have us come in when he wakes up at 2am…and 5:30. That’s where/when it feels like he can’t put himself to sleep. I do want to remove the timed gadgets that shut off but he’s protesting, so we got a nightlight that stays on all night – to no avail. Oof. Do 2 1/2 year olds drops naps (he’s our first so I’m clueless!)? We’ve had this same routine since he was mini, in wondering what to change. Thanks for the input.

  24. Hi Alexis,

    I could really use some assistance. My 13 month old is great at putting herself to sleep(most of the time) but always wakes up during the night. This has not always been an issue and has stopped at times but this has been going on for the past couple months. She was once fantastic at getting herself back to sleep but lately she can’t/won’t. She will not settle back down if I just go in and rub her back and try to get her to settle so in order for everyone to get some sleep I end up taking her to the spare room for the rest of the night, which I know is a terrible habit but I’m not sure how to break it and get her back to sleeping through the night. Any advice would be appreciated!

  25. Hello,

    My SO and I do not agree about our 19mo sleeping habits which have begun to change. He thinks there is a medical sleeping problem and I believe that it is a age development schedule change issue. Our son had never had any medical issues that have effected sleep other than a chronic running nose which causes a cough that wakes him up during colder months. He does not have that cough at this time. I’ve done some reading and he has not done any. But I could use some guidance because now I’m confused. Our son began going to day care 4 days per week. On those days he gets only one nap which is between 60-120 minutes. Before he began daycare he was a 2 nap a day kid each being 2 hours. Now he really does not want two naps and just takes one which we moved to match the time of day he gets it at day care and is usually between 90-120 minutes. Thinking that it was the dropped nap which was making him tired we moved his bed time up from 7pm to 6pm. He sleeps straight through the night without waking up and falls asleep quickly once in his crib with no fussing. He wakes up every morning at 5:30am (but we don’t get him out of his crib until 6 am, because during the week we are still getting ourselves ready and on the weekend we want to try and keep things for him consistent). He still wakes up with bags under his eyes, yawning and even though he is in good spirits in the morning by 5pm he is and often breaks out in huge fussy crying fits. This has been going on for 6 weeks now and I don’t know what else I can do to help him get more sleep and be less tired. I just don’t think this is a medical thing but if my husband does it will then fall on me to do all the work to figure it out but I also dont want to do something that would be detrimental to my kid. This is our first child so I’ve never experienced any 18mo sleep issues before for comparison. Any insights or direction to other information that could be useful would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance for your time and attention to my message.

    • If you think he has a sleep medical problem I would encourage you to be evaluated by a sleep medicine MD. However nothing in your comment SOUNDS like a medical sleep problem (apnea, restless leg syndrome, etc.).

      IT SOUNDS like a normal 19 month old who is ready to drop to 1 nap a day. MOST are down to 1 nap a day by this age so he’s totally in the zone for that. Also as kids get older they NEED less sleep. He’s sleeping 12 hours at night and 1-2 hours during the day. 14 hours/day is totally normal at that age. So honestly nothing that you’re describing here sounds like a problem to me.

      If you feel it is however, a sleep medicine MD would be the place to go next.

  26. My 4 year old daughter puts herself to sleep at night. The problem is she wakes up at some point in the night and crawls in bed with us. Instead of taking her back to bed, we let her sleep with us. I’m assuming to get her sleeping in her bed all night, we need to put her back in bed every time she wakes up. Or, is this a phase she will grow out of on her own?

  27. My 3 year-old son seems to be dropping his one and only nap of the day. He hasn’t slept in the afternoon in almost two weeks and the only time he did actually sleep my husband sat in his room and forced him to sleep. Although I’m mourning the potential loss of his nap, I’m not convinced that he doesn’t still need it. He acts very sleepy when I pick him up from preschool at 12:00, he is frequently acting out, or crying for what seem like small things to me (I realize he is three!) But most of all, since he has stopped taking naps all together, he has started waking up in the middle of the night and coming into our room. My husband will occasionally let him sleep with us, but we always bring him back to his bed eventually. This is new. He has been sleep trained since 4 months and outside of illness or teething he has been an amazing sleeper. I’m exhausted! Not to mention we have an eight month old too (who still wakes up for one night feeding per night.) Any advice?

  28. I’m in desperate need of nap help for my 26 month old. He has always napped (3 hrs in the afternoon!) and slept beautifully…..until he started preschool. On the two days a week that he goes to preschool, he refuses naps and is a huge grump for the rest of the day. I’veried everything – mimicking the bedtime routine, dimming the lights and putting on a noise machine, quiet books, even an extra bath – but nothing works. He just lays in his bed and chatters. I’m at the end of my rope and so close to pulling him out of preschool so I can have my sweet boy back!

  29. I know I commented on phase 2 as well but I not only have 1 but two bad sleeers. A 9 month old and a 23 month old. My 2 year old has to be rocked to sleep! And normally stays asleep all night long. but latley he has been waking up crying and needing to be rocked again! So now I’m up all night with not one but 2 kids!

  30. Hi Alexis,
    My 18 mo has always been a very bad sleeper. It was first the cholics, then his teething and all along, he had a fobia of his crib. He never ever would fall asleep in it or even in bed with us, and when dropped into the crib he would wake up immediately. This meant we got him used to sleeping in our arms, the car chair (maxi cosi, by rocking him in it) or a baby hammock until he was around 6 m. Some times he has slept 20min in 48h.
    Luckily, once he started crawling and moving around a bit, we were able to get him to sleep in our arms or his car chair and then pass him onto his crib, and we even got a full week of 20:00-8:00 nights last month. However, I’m 8 months pregnant, and I’m not sure whether he feels the baby is coming or he has simply outgrown the car chair, but he fights and screams for over an hour when being rocked or in our arms before falling asleep and he is starting to wake up at night every 30min.
    We have tried sleep training but he gets so upset he would vomit in the crib every night we tried until we decided to stop trying.
    We need to sleep, please help us.

  31. Hi! My daughter is now 26 months. She has NEVER been a good sleeper. As an infant she had colic and would rise at all hours of the nights for nursing/bottles. I just assumed this would end the older she got. Here we are 2 years later and she still gets up almost every 2 hours, crying out, demanding a bottle.. it’s awful. She doesn’t get rocked or held until she’s asleep, she would usually drink her bottle and fall asleep (awful I know). It concerns me that she’s SO restless and seemingly uncomfortable to wake up like she does, but I can’t keep functioning on no sleep! Come morning time she could sleep through a hurricane… typical! Thanks in advance 🙂

  32. Your site and advice were huge in helping my amazing kiddo be the champ sleeper he is today (seriously he’s 26 months and easily sleeps 10 hours a night, 15 max, no wake ups) so I’m bringing you another question.

    He’s gotten into the habit of crying himself to sleep. After we finished sleep training he would cry usually until we got downstairs (30 seconds) and then talk to himself until he fell asleep (5-10 minutes). For the last 6+ months, though, he cries full volume until he’s asleep (anywhere from 5-45 minutes). Ive tried a bunch of different things including staying in his room for a bit (very bad idea) and nothing helps. How can I help him go back to his old habit of telling himself stories? Thank you!!

  33. Hi all! This post is great and has tons of great references. My daughter is 2 yrs and 9 months and has always been a fantastic sleeper, largely because of this site. For the past week, she’s been waking up many times over night and also having a hard time going down at night. (She goes down at 8:15pm, wakes at 6:30am, with a 2 hr nap during the day.) I suspect she’s getting a bit too much day sleep, so we’re going to try capping the nap. I also suspect that it has to do with a new baby brother coming soon, as I am due any day now. It may also have to do with the transition to the big bed. So, ALL the links above will be helpful.

    HOWEVER, I don’t see anything about going potty overnight in any of the links above. Am I missing a blog post???

    I think this is the root of the problem… She’s potty trained during the day, but wears a diaper overnight. Until recently she just would go overnight in the diaper and sleep straight through. Now, she’s waking up asking to go potty, but also having a hard time going back to sleep after the whole potty process overnight. Is there any guidance anywhere on how best to deal with the overnight potty trips?

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