Toddler Talks: Sleep Habits

July 8, 2014

Last Friday was a 5am wakeup for Liam. I mentioned this when I dropped him off at the day home. Our provider is really good about making sure he gets good naps in when he needs them and will nap him twice a day if needed. This particular day, she was leaving early and her daughter would watch Liam which was just fine with me since she’s my babysitter for nights I need someone anyways. When I picked him up mid-afternoon I was surprised to see him playing in the hallway. I thought for sure he’d still be snoozing since it was only 2:30. He apparently had been happy as a clam all day and hadn’t napped at all. I knew this wasn’t going to be good. After a quick stop at my office, he was fast asleep when we got home. I transferred him up to his bed and figured I’d let him sleep until 5 so he would still go to bed on time. When I woke him up we had a good snuggle session for about 15 minutes. It was so sweet and peaceful and I soaked it all up since it’s a very rare occurrence. Then all hell broke loose. Liam threw himself on his bedroom floor crying at the top of his lunges and nothing would make him stop. Despite my best efforts, he continue to scream until I decided I’d had enough and he was going to go to bed early. I wrestled him into a fresh diaper and after a hearty kick to the nose, gave up on putting pajamas on him. With both of us now crying, and me with blood dripping down my face, Liam went to bed in a diaper and fell asleep minutes later.

This is the story I’ll be telling when people ask why I’m so diligent with Liam’s nap and bed time routine. In our world, sleep begets sleep and it’s no fun for anyone when Liam doesn’t sleep well. I have been fortunate that Liam has always been a pretty good sleeper. He has been going to bed around 7pm every night for the last year, waking anywhere from 5am-8am. The normal is around 6:30-7 but with summer he’s been waking earlier. I thought I would share some of my tips for having a good sleeping toddler for anyone who might be struggling.


Sleep Habits That Work For Us:
– be consistent with bed time and nap times, but be flexible if he needs to nap or go to bed earlier. Most of the time, if Liam is up past his bed time, he wakes up earlier. It’s not fair, but that’s life.
– come up with a good bed time routine and stick to it. Ours is bath, pyjamas, brush teeth, two stories, hugs and kisses and tucked under the blankets. For naps we just read two stories, hugs and kisses and tucked under the blankets.
– don’t be afraid to let them cry. We never let Liam cry if it was serious, but letting him cry a little and settle himself taught him how to put himself to sleep rather than relying on us to hold him, rock him, etc. I only go in when I know his cry is serious, I’ve learned to tell the difference between his ‘I’m putting myself to sleep’ cry and ‘I want something’ cry. If he’s having a bit of a meltdown and doesn’t settle, I will leave him for 5-10 minutes and then go in to see what I can do to help. Sometimes he just wants more milk, he can’t find his cow, wants the blankets on him, or he’s just being a jerk in which case I leave him alone.
– black out curtains. I’ve been against these up until recently because I was afraid he wouldn’t fall asleep anywhere else if it wasn’t pitch black. However, suddenly in the last month, Liam’s been waking at 5am and after putting up black out curtains, he’s back to sleeping until 6:30-7ish. His room faces East and it gets very bright and hot in the mornings.

Of course, every kid is different so what works for Liam may not work for your kid. I’m very thankful that our sleep struggles have been minimal for the most part.

What are your tips for good sleep habits? 
Any toddler topic requests?

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  • Reply
    July 8, 2014 at 5:14 pm

    I know a good routine is important, but it seems hard lately. Kailey is 5 months and was in a good eat, play, nap routine. Lately the naps r less often and she fights them really hard. Have had to nurse her to sleep way more often. At 5 months did u have a routine to put him down for naps?

  • Reply
    July 8, 2014 at 6:21 pm

    Great tips! We have had a sleep schedule since 6 weeks and we LOVE it. I would say 85% of the time we stick to it. However, lately with summer happenings A has been up past her bedtime of 7:30pm more often but it has not affected her at all. For us missed naps only mean a grumpy baby till she gets her next nap but it never affects night time sleep – but this is ODD!
    I love black out blinds, it also did not change where/how she can sleep for us, just meant she’d settle herself in half the time at naps and night.
    I agree that a little crying will not hurt anyone, if anything it helps!
    Consistency is the key really. I never nursed to sleep after 6 weeks which I think helped A a ton with self soothing and getting herself to sleep. We quit rocking her to sleep at 4 months and never looked back. I say this but who knows if it was we did or we just got lucky with a great sleeper!

    • Reply
      July 8, 2014 at 9:37 pm

      Yeah I think the more people give in to crying, the more the child will learn that crying will get them what they want. Vicious cycle. It’s never fun listening to them cry, but I know when he really needs me and when he’s just playing me to get what he wants.

      I also am not sure if what we did helped or if we are also lucky with a great sleeper. Either way, I’m thankful!

  • Reply
    Tawnya Faust
    July 8, 2014 at 9:03 pm

    All of your tips are my tips 🙂 We had some pretty rough sleep struggles with Scarlett but they all ended when we started letting her cry a bit (we did it the same way you did). She learned how to put herself to sleep and as soon as she did I missed those late night wake up calls (sort-of).

    We’ve always had a pretty strict schedule with Scarlett and modified it as she showed signs of needing changes. One thing that has stayed consistent is her bedtime though, I’m a little hyper about it (maybe too much) haha!

  • Reply
    July 8, 2014 at 11:23 pm

    Ha, I have no tips! At what age did you start a routine with Liam? I find it soooo hard not to nurse Sully to sleep at night. I’m also finding it really difficult for anyone else (i.e. my husband) to put Sully to bed at night as he just wants his mommy. I’m wondering if he was on more of a routine if this would improve or if it’s a nursing baby thing (i.e. comfort thing)?

  • Reply
    July 9, 2014 at 6:34 am

    Great tips! I think I need black out blinds especially for naps!

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