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Encouraging Bedtime in Your Toddler

Posted by Karen Faulkner on
Encouraging Bedtime in Your Toddler

This blog is especially for Martina. She has a two year old toddler who apparently is none too keen on his bed! A not too uncommon story. I've had many of these over the past little while.

How many of you parents out there have the same problem? I bet quite a few. Just imagine you are a toddler/young child and you've just had the most amazing stimulating day full of FUN! Now why exactly would you want to go to bed?!?

It's often not just a bedtime problem. It's really important to think about the structure of your day. 

Cute little children, adorable toddler girl and a funny baby boy, brother and sister, playing in a sunny autumn park with a wheel barrow and colorful leaves

A daily hour of playtime in the park and a walk is a great idea to get rid of boundless energy. Try a mid-morning walk before lunch and if you've got a real pocket rocket a small afternoon walk or play outside may help. But too much stimulation in the afternoon may work against your bedtime wind down.

Also, think about how much sleep your toddler is having in the day. Too much and too late in the day (after 4pm) will delay a 7 or 7:30pm bedtime.

So we have to make bedtime a bit more enticing.

Technology works against bedtime as does our modern lifestyle

We often work late, collect toddler from daycare, rush home and then have to fit in a meal/cooking, bath time, story time and bed as well as lots of other things.

We're under time pressure and so we rush, put TV on, takeaway, freezer meal, whatever's in the fridge/cupboards to eat. Then we feel we should bath our child and then finally bed. By then our toddler is probably overtired, cranky and bed and sleep is not coming easily.

OK, so rewind the situation

Bed time should be a gentle wind down. Toddlers/children need about two hours to start the bedtime routine. The hour before bed should have very simple games/stories, dimmer lighting. Try and avoid TV, iPad, etc as the blue light emitted can interfere with melatonin, the neurotransmitter the brain needs to promote sleep and stay asleep.

Evening meals should be low glycemic such as pasta, pumpkin, sweet potato, quinoa etc to help promote slow release of energy through the night and a feeling of satiety promotes sleep. Empty bellies are never helpful for a good nights sleep. Protein is also very important as well as that amino acid Tryptophan.

If breastfeeding try and breastfeed before story time to reduce the risk of falling asleep on the breast and so creating a strong sleep association. Breastfeeding directly before bed often causes 20-40 minute wake-ups and these last all night long! Not good for child or parent.

It's important to create a feeling of security at bedtime. It's all about attachment and reducing anxiety in the child.

You may want to think about a cuddly soft toy to create a nice new sleep association. We all love something to cuddle!

Little bookworm. Young mother holding baby and reading a book

Have a couple of story books each night. Try and have the same books or one book the same and a new one each week. Check out your local library. Remember that routines create security and so reduce cortisol (the stress hormone).

If your child/toddler starts to play up and protest you may want to think about using a technique known as parental presence to help your child feel safe and secure.

It's better to have a happy child than one stressed up by bedtime. It follows that if they're happy going to bed then they're more likely to sleep well through the night and wake rested. Battles are not worth it.

And if you live in Sydney and you're 25KM from the CBD just give me a call. It's a technique I use a lot and I can show you how to implement it effectively. After all, not many people try and fix their cars with a DIY manual yet many parents resort to a sleep book and hope for the best.

I also do consults by Skype and by phone. And yes I can fix things by Skype. So if you're interstate or overseas give me a contact. I can still help you!

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