How have you been these days? Have you felt refreshed after waking up recently? As parents, our physical and mental well-being directly affects our capability to respond well to the needs of our fully-dependent children. To keep our sanity, it might help to sleep train your toddler.
Sleep training refers to a set of strategies created by sleep training experts and parents to deliberately adjust their children’s sleep behaviors. The goal of sleep training is to 1) help your child receive the right amount of sleep they need to develop their bodies, and 2) foster a harmonious atmosphere at home where everyone (parents included) are able to wake up the next day feeling refreshed from a good night’s sleep.
Does this sound like a dream to you? Let me tell you the truth: IT IS POSSIBLE. Take a look at our tips below to help you start the process to sleep train your toddler.
Start a relaxing bedtime routine
A predictable and consistent bedtime routine gives a lot of benefits such as having your child ease into sleep faster, sleeping longer stretches at night, and overall better mood for parents and your helpers, which translates to a more harmonious life at home. Having a relaxing bedtime routine will help your kid sleep better at home, when travelling, when he or she is sick, when your child is in a particularly noticeable stage of physiological development such as teething, and even when he or she is having tantrums. A relaxing bedtime routine is a calming ritual that helps their body relax so that they can welcome sleep.
How does this look like? Different parents have different methods for establishing a bedtime routine. Remember that it is not a one-size-fits-all method because there is a lot of room for improvisation.
To jumpstart your brainstorming of what strategy would work for your child, try asking this question: Aside from physical touch with us (hugs, kisses, cuddles), what comforts my child? Is there a toy plushie that he or she has a lot of attachment to? It might help your toddler be comfortable and feel less lonely in their own crib if their favorite plushie keeps them company at night. Acting out a skit with your kid as if their favorite plushie also needs sleep can help them be less resistant to sleeping.
This can also teach them to be considerate of the people around them when they are resting. Just remember that you must bring your child’s sleep company when you travel long distances or even when they have to go to the hospital for admission. Having a familiar physical reminder of their relaxing bedtime routine can help them become comfortable faster in unfamiliar places.
Some activities that you may consider adding to your toddler’s bedtime routine are the following:
- Take a short warm bath. This helps relax and prepare their mind and body for sleep. If they need to go to the bathroom, you can also add that here.
- After the bath, help them into their comfortable pajamas and guide them in gently brushing their teeth.
- After “bath time”, it’s time for “quiet time”. Play is not an option anymore because running around or energetic play will only stimulate your toddler and will make it harder for them to fall asleep. Instead, we encourage calm activities like reading a book, arranging their dolls and putting them to their beds.
- Dim the lights to aid in melatonin production their bodies. This is the hormone produced by the body that induces sleep.
- Remember to do only what you can do consistently. Activities that require a lot of preparation ahead of time will not be carried out in the long run. It’s best to keep their bedtime routine simple to help us be consistent.
Stick to a consistent daily schedule
A sense of predictability in your child’s daily schedule helps him or her to have a subtle sense of structure of time. In the long run, our goal is for them to stick to their daily schedule even without us prompting them to. A consistent daily schedule helps your toddler sleep well because their body clock prompts them to sleep at predictable times daily. When his or her naps and bedtime happen at the same time every day, you will observe that they ease in to sleep faster and they stay sound asleep for longer stretches of time.
Remember that simple daily schedule for toddlers is best. As much as possible, wake them up precisely at the same time every morning. Tuck them in at the same time at night. And follow the recommended awake time by sleep training experts. If your see that your toddler still sleeps twice a day, the recommended awake time for him or her is 3 to 4 hours. If your child naps only once a day, follow the recommended awake time of 4.5 to 5.5 hours.
To help you stick to the kids’ daily schedule, you can set several alarm on your phone with a soothing and pleasant sound. Try to avoid disturbing loud sounds as these will not help in soothing you or your child’s mood. When you are disturbed, you get cranky. Same with your child. Help them settle into a peaceful and soothing atmosphere by starting with a pleasant alarm sound, and keep it consistent. Having a sound prompt like this reinforces the structure of their routine until one day, just hearing the soothing alarm is enough to make them remember what’s next in their day.
Consistency is key so you have to make sure that you do this every day. However, we must recognize that all routines have a sharp learning curve at the beginning – both for us parents and for our kids. When they don’t know what to do next, let’s be patient in reminding them. For most kids, it takes at least a week up to a whole month to help them get acquainted and stick to their routines. While they are learning, our goal is to patiently guide them through the process. In the long run, sleep training will also be for the benefit of our parental mood and sanity.
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