My two-year-old has never been a big sleeper. She goes to bed between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m. depending on how much of a fight she puts up. We have tried everything – bedtime routines, bath, snacks, naps during the day to no naps. Once she does fall asleep, she sleeps six to seven hours and that’s it. Any advice?
This is my where my real expertise comes in! I have slept with many babies as a night nanny and know from experience that most babies will sleep through the night and without fuss. At the age of two your daughter probably still needs an hour daytime nap. I suggest after lunch and no later than 1:30 p.m. She also needs to be put in her bed by 7 p.m. sharp. Toddlers are going to bed far too late. What ever happened to adult time? She may need sleep “coaching” – teaching her to sleep unassisted without too much hands-on from you, but being there for assurance.
Try this step-by-step plan:
- Place your daughter in her bed or crib, then sit in a corner of the room out of sight. Do not make eye contact with her. Each time she fusses just head her off with a firm ‘shh’. Don’t speak at all, just say ‘shh’. Stay in the room and continue to do this.
- If she fusses to the point of hard sobs, by all means, pick up her up, calm her down and start again. Yes, start again. You have to send her the message that her bedtime is not playtime. This is her bed and it’s time to sleep.
- After you put your daughter to bed, do not re-enter her room for at least 10 minutes. If she fusses again, sit in the centre of the room near her and start the ‘shh’.
- Once in a while touch her but do not make eye contact. Sit beside the bed or crib where she can take comfort from seeing you there.
Many toddlers are not able to get themselves to sleep because they have never been given the chance, making it harder when the time comes to switch to a proper bed. Stay consistent and don’t give up if you don’t see results soon enough. They will come, it just may take a bit more time.
Published in November 2010.