Many parents that I help with toddlers, tell me that many of their friends accept bad toddler sleep. I know there are many parents out there struggling with toddler bedtimes and night waking. Can I tell you right here and now - NEVER accept that nothing can be done to help your child. There is always something that can be done to improve it. In my experience and the research backs this up, if you get to help the sleep problem before the age of 3 years, then there is a good chance of helping that child achieve good sleep for life.
What age is the best age to help children learn to sleep?
The optimum age for sleep training is 6-12 months old and in those babies they achieve near perfect results from sleep training and lifelong.
However should you ever give up and accept poor sleep for your child just because they're over 3 years old?
No, no and no, never accept that this is how it's going to be.
I help many children up to the age of 5 years old and I've seen great results in these older age groups. I'm often called in when nothing else has worked. Someone has heard that I performed a minor 'miracle', so on a leap of faith the parent has called me.
Obviously it's important to rule out organic causes of sleep disturbance. No matter how good my sleep training methods are, I'm never going to fix the sleep problem if they've got undiagnosed medical problems. These include conditions such as gastro-oesophageal reflux, food allergies, enlarged adenoids and tonsils, sleep apnoea and other ear, nose and throat issues. Have a read of this blog for more at this link here: https://nurtureparenting.com.au/medical-causes-of-baby-and-toddler-sleep-problems/
The main toddler sleep issues I come across and help with are:
- Bedtime delay - the toddler is an expert and probably could achieve a PhD in bedtime delay. I've seen some mighty fine oscar worthy performances in my 17 years of being a baby whisperer and sleep consultant. Toddlers are amazing at staying up late and getting that extra time from mum and dad. They ask for milk, water, another story, more Peppa Pig, basically anything that will string bedtime out!
- Frequent night waking - this can be anything from dummy issues to sleep association problems such as being patted off to sleep to other causes. Once I can see what is happening it's rare that I can't work it out. And believe me I've come across some really interesting ones.
- Milkaholics - i get a lot of these! Parents are exhausted so they give in to a demanding toddler and so it continues. I've had 2 and 3 year olds having 4 bottles of formula or a litre of full cream milk over a night. When you see them in action it's incredible. The pester power is full on. They just don't stop in the hope that you'll comply. I do a lot of overnight stays for these particular situations.
- Waterholics - in Australia it gets very hot in Summer and parents worry about dehydration, which I can totally understand. It's been such a relentlessly hot week this week. However anything that we give repeatedly through the night for more than a week is going to imprint a new learned behaviour and night waking. I had a toddler wake up at 3:30am for 4 months just for a bottle of water!! Parents often replace milk with water or dilute milk feeds with water thinking it will stop night waking. It rarely does unfortunately.
- Day nap issues - this can be anything from refusing to do day naps and being driven around the roads and tunnels of Sydney to having too much day naps and so impacting on night sleep. Day naps are much tougher to implement than night sleep. However poor quality day sleep has a big impact on getting to sleep and often results in frequent night waking. Cortisol rises as the day goes on and by bedtime you're literally peeling your toddler off the ceiling. I've seen so many messy bedtime tantrums.
These are all situations that can be helped. There is no shame in sleep problems. I help many parents that hold down exceptional day jobs yet struggle with the demands of a toddler.
If you're feeling too overwhelmed to deal with the sleep problem and your toddler has the upper hand it's time to call in help. I am literally only a phone call or email away.
For more help you can reach out to me via my free weekly Facebook live broadcasts OR contact me directly today 0413 054 578 or firstname.lastname@example.org or go to my contact page.