Toddler Sleep and Bedtime Routines – why they work for me

We are the proud parents now of a fully grown (with opinions of his own) toddler and so far things aren’t so bad…..she says as she runs and hides.

Our little one from about 6 months has had a flexible but rough routine for each day in terms of naps, eating and bedtime – and it appears to have worked out for us.  We have a 26 month old toddler running around who I can hand on heart say doesn’t have any emotion issues when separated from us; is dummy/pacifier free; sleeps in his own bed from 7pm to 7am; sleeps in a toddler bed; has dropped his naps and generally seems quite predictable and happy with life.

From day one, we have followed the 7pm bedtime with a wind-down routine of bath, books, milk and bed but up until 6 months definitely were using a wide range of things to try and encourage sleep.  We had holding/cradling to sleep, rocking to sleep, dummy, you name it!  And up and down during the night because of that….

Then at 7 months, I had enough.  It was time for a full night’s sleep or just a bedtime that didn’t need so much efforts.  We wanted to be able to put him to bed at 7pm and him to be happy to fall asleep by himself.  As ultimately that is the goal for his life really, he needs to learn to sleep by himself to help with staying asleep till morning.

We choose and put into practice the “cry it out” method – and I’m not going to lie and say it was easy for any of us.  HOWEVER, I strongly recommend you keep note of how long it takes little ones to get to sleep each night so you can track progress.  You seeing them progress is the key to all of this and motivates you.  First night we had crying for 3hrs, and waking up during  the night crying BUT by Day 5 we had no noise and straight to sleep within 30 mins AND a solid sleep for everyone.

In the past week, we have moved our toddler to a Toddler bed for the first time and he loves it.  He was ready for it, even though I worried about him falling out/banging his head/running about all night playing with toys.  None of that happened.  Instead he wanted to be read books in bed, final drink of milk, and then singing “Twinkle Twinkle” a few times before saying Night night to us.  No crying, no movement, just happy in his bed as he has been for the past nearly two years.  I was so proud.

First few nights though he did move about and fall out, but now all I do is check him before we go to bed at 10pm, and move him right way round if need be.  We have had solid sleep with a happy face when I open the door at 7am as a result.  What more could a parent ask for?

Plus we saw that he was coping ok without his only lunchtime nap now, so that has gone.  No more nap luxury for this Mama :O( But I do have a little boy who is ready for the world and tired each night to sleep.  At the same time as the new bed, we also took the Dummies away to the “New Babies” fairy, and so they have left our world now too.

I knew that I was relying on those dummies as a get out clause myself when he was too tired or upset or simply to keep him asleep for longer.  He didn’t really need them, he was able to settle himself if we gave him the opportunity to learn.

Sleep-training and night time routines for babies and toddlers is something that I am glad I have been able to learn myself and teach him how to deal with life.  After all, ultimately I want him to be able to happy and not let life get the better of him, or rely on things/others to cope.  It starts from a young age, and the more you can teach them from the start – the better and happier family life will be for sure.

Here is our basic routine now with rough timings (if we have a later night, the same structure exists)

Short play time after dinner approximately 30mins to 1hr

Bath time together

Watch a short TV programme (such as In the Night Garden, Clangers) with Milk and snack

Up to bedroom for Books and songs

Good byes till morning

I’m not an expert in anything, but having a bedtime routine has meant that in all of the two years of his life, I can count the first 6 months really as being the only “sleep less” ones with night time help from me.   I love my sleep too much to risk ruining that!

Love MFF xx

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