The term "sleep training" may turn some parents off immediately because it's often associated with letting your child cry for extended periods. Although these methods work well for some families, sleep training actually just means giving your child the tools to fall asleep independently and sleep better throughout the night - this can be as gentle of a process as you’d like it to be. It's important to find what works for your child, and follow practices that make you comfortable.
Being a tiny human is hard sometimes, and with that comes difficulty falling asleep with little assistance. As parents, we’re tired too, right? It’s natural to feel the rush to sleep train so you both can catch some needed Zs. Whether you follow a sleep training method that involves “cry-it-out,” or try a more relaxed and gentle approach, it’s important to go into it with realistic expectations.
Independent sleep is a developmental milestone and just like it took time for them to learn to crawl and walk, drifting to sleep peacefully (and staying asleep throughout the night) will take time for them to master too. A toddler’s circadian rhythm develops over time, and sleep hormones like melatonin aren't necessarily produced in the same way they are in adults. That said, there is hope in reducing the struggles and stress of bedtime. One of those is helping your baby self soothe using a Dreamland Weighted Sleep Sack or Swaddle. Our weighted sleep products for babies feature CoverCalm® technology that evenly distributes weight from your baby’s shoulders to toes to naturally reduce stress and give your baby the feeling of security and comfort. Remember, your baby is still adjusting to life outside the noisy and small womb where they felt so secure. Weighted sleep products can not only help your baby fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer, but as your baby gets familiar with them they can signal that it’s time for rest. When you start to sleep train, this can help the process go much smoother.
Read on for tips and tricks on how to sleep train your toddler and promote a peaceful, stress free bed time.
Our Top 5 Tips for Sleep Training Toddlers
Because we at Dreamland know the importance of sleep, we strongly encourage you to try our weighted sleep aid products. But, we also know babies can be difficult so you’ll need to have plenty of tricks up your sleeve. Here are our top 5 toddler sleep training tips.
#1. Bedtime Boundaries
When establishing a bedtime routine, it’s important to decide what your personal boundaries are - and stick with them. Toddlers learn their boundaries by testing them, so decide ahead of time how you will handle middle of the night waking, or refusal to nap and try not to veer from your plan.
#2. Full Belly
Being a toddler is physically exhausting, and all that running around makes them hungry - and going to bed hungry is hard, even as adults. Whether you offer a healthy snack, breastfeed, or a bottle, having a little extra in their belly may help them fall asleep easier. Just remember to brush their teeth before laying them down.
#3. Sleep Cues
Establishing certain cues that let your toddler know it’s bedtime can help make the process easier. After brushing their teeth, you can put them in their weighted sleep sack, or tuck older toddlers in with a weighted blanket, sing a song, read a book, say a prayer … whatever works for your family. The gentle weight of the sleep sack, swaddle, or blanket is a calming mechanism that’s proven to help your baby fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. With time your baby will begin to recognize the weighted swaddle, sleep sack, or blanket, thus allowing them to self soothe for rest. If you can, start using weighted products from an early age. Dreamland offers a variety of products to help your baby sleep from the newborn stage to the toddler stage.
#4. Provide Incentives
Something simple, like stickers, works perfectly. Young children are fairly easily motivated with verbal praise and a small reward. Making a sleep training chart for them to add their stickers to will be a fun, and motivating experience for them.
#5. Remain Consistent
Most importantly, do not waver from your plans or let your toddler redraw your boundaries. Boundaries help toddlers learn, and with consistency, your toddler will learn to fall asleep in a way that works for your family.
It’s also important to remember to help your toddler regulate their emotions during this process. It may not be easy, but keeping your cool as your toddler fights bedtime will give them the external structure they need to help regulate their own feelings.
Is it too late to sleep train a toddler?
It’s never too late to learn good sleeping habits. Sleep training your toddler can begin as early or late as you want it to. When deciding where to begin, keep in mind that just as it is important to sleep train when your child is ready, be sure you are ready as well. Sleep training is a commitment and you’ll want to be mentally, and logistically ready for it. Upcoming vacations, visitors or other disruptions can make the process more difficult.
What time should a toddler go to bed?
When deciding on a bedtime for your toddler, take into consideration their nap patterns and aim for a bedtime that gives them the recommended total amount of sleep for their age. Generally speaking, toddlers between the age of 1 and 2 should get 11-14 hours of sleep per day while that number reduces to 10-13 hours a day by the time your child is 3 (this should include naps). With that in mind, your toddler’s bedtime may fall somewhere between 7:00 -9:00 PM. Many parents opt to try a method called “bedtime fading,” where your toddler’s bedtime is gradually pushed back by 15-20 minutes until you reach a time that seems manageable and conducive to easy sleep.
How long should you let a toddler cry it out?
Another sleep training method, “crying it out,” refers to a practice in which parents allow their child to cry for a set amount of time before intervening. There is no definitive answer to how long you should let a toddler cry it out because every child is different and has unique needs. However, it's generally recommended that parents should not let their toddler cry for extended periods of time without providing comfort and reassurance. This method is controversial and not recommended for all families. It's important to consider your child's temperament, sleep habits, and your own comfort level with the approach before deciding whether or not to use it.
If you do decide to use the cry-it-out method, it's recommended to start with short intervals and gradually increase the length of time between check-ins. For example, you could start by waiting five minutes before going in to soothe your child, and then gradually increase the time to ten or fifteen minutes, this is often referred to as the gradual extinction method.
How many nights does it take to sleep train a toddler?
While some toddlers may learn to sleep through the night after just a few nights of sleep training, others may require several weeks or even months to fully adjust to a new sleep routine.
Some sleep training methods, such as the "gradual extinction" method or the "bedtime fading" method, may take longer to see results but are generally considered gentler and less stressful. Other methods, such as the "cry it out" method, may produce results more quickly but can be more challenging and distressing for some families.
Whatever method you choose, Dreamland Baby has your back - let our CoverCalm® Technology be another tool in your journey to peaceful sleep.