Child Sleep Articles
Dealing With Toddler Sleep Problems
When parents welcome a new baby into the world, they usually understand that they can expect a few months of disrupted sleep. But what happens when your child is 12 months… 18 months… or ever 2 years of age (or older!) and STILL not sleeping through the night?
In almost all cases, a toddler who is not sleeping through the night (or who insists on sleeping in the parents' bed) is simply reliant on what I call a "sleep crutch." For example, if your toddler wakes up in the middle of the night and refuses to go back to sleep unless you let him crawl into bed with you, then you and your bed are your toddler's "sleep crutches."
The reason your toddler won't go to sleep unless he gets into your bed is simply because he's never been required to do so. Let's face it: When it's the middle of the night and all you want is to go back to sleep, it's hard to muster up the energy for a showdown with a stubborn toddler! And so most parents take the "easy way out" and let their toddler come into bed with them.
So the first thing you'll need to do is decide on a gently way to eliminate the "sleep crutch" from your child's sleep strategy. If your child is used to sleeping in your bed, you could start by moving your child's crib into your room and letting them sleep in the same room as you, but in their own crib. Every night, move the crib a little further from your bed, and eventually move the crib into the child's room.
Within about a week, you should be able to get your toddler out of your bed, out of your room, and sleeping through the night!
How Much Sleep Does My Child Need?
As a professional child sleep consultant, one of the most common questions I hear from parents is, "How much sleep SHOULD my child be getting?" And the answer is, "It depends!"
If you are the parent of newborn baby (1 – 3 months of age), then your little one may be sleeping as much as 20 hours a day, although you probably shouldn't expect your child to go for long stretches of sleep at any one time. (Their tiny stomachs can't hold much food, so they'll wake to feed quite frequently.)
If your newborn is getting less than about 15 hours of sleep per day, it's probably not enough. You may notice your child getting agitated easily, and displaying "tired" behaviors such as arching the back, rubbing eyes, and crying.
Between 3 and 6 months of age, your child will start needing a little less sleep – especially during the daytime. At this age, two naps during the day (each lasting 1 to 3 hours), and a solid 11 – 13 hours during the night is ideal. This is a good amount of sleep for a child up until the age of about 1 year.
Sometime around your child's 1st birthday (14 months is typical in my experience), they'll probably drop down to just one nap per day, ideally lasting somewhere between 1.5 and 3 hours. Your toddler should be sleeping between 11 and 13 hours (uninterrupted) during the night.
Between the ages of about 2½ and 3½ years, your toddler will probably stop napping altogether, but should still be getting between 11 and 13 hours of sleep at night.
Teaching Your Baby How To Sleep Through The Night
For many new parents, one of the biggest challenges of life with their new baby is the sudden reality of sleep deprivation. The main reason why new babies wake up so much during the night is simple biology – their little stomachs can only hold a very small amount of breast milk or formula. In other words, they wake up because they are hungry!
This is perfectly normal, of course, and you should expect to be up with your baby at least once during the night from birth until the age of about 3 months. But once a baby reaches about XX lbs., they should be able to sleep through the night without waking for a feed.
Unfortunately for many parents, it is often the case that children will continue to wake once… twice… even three or more times during the night to feed – and this habit can continue for months or even years!
If this sounds familiar, the good news is that your child is almost certainly NOT waking up because of hunger. The fact that your child insists on nursing, bottle feeding, or rocking before they go back to sleep actually has to do with their "sleep associations."
Think of it this way: If your child has been nursed to sleep at bedtime ever since birth, then this is the ONLY way your child knows how to fall asleep. When he or she wakes up in the night, the thought isn't "I'm hungry," but rather, "I want to go back to sleep." Since the only way your child knows how to fall asleep is by nursing, he or she cries out to you to come in and nurse.
The key to reversing this behavior is to eliminate the "sleep association" between nursing (or bottle feeding, or rocking, or singing, etc.) and falling asleep. Once your little one has learned how to fall asleep on their own, they'll be able to do it WITHOUT your help during the night.