Tackling Toddler Sleep Training: Why It Is Never Too Late!

I want to start this out very clearly… It is NEVER too late to start teaching your toddler healthy sleep habits! I know firsthand (I’ve had two toddlers!) that few things can be as challenging and exhausting as dealing with a toddler who struggles with sleep, especially if they have been struggling since infancy. The constant waking up during the night and  the bedtime battles can leave any parent feeling overwhelmed and desperate for a solution. This is where toddler sleep training comes into play. In this article, we will explore the importance of toddler sleep training and the benefits of starting at any age, plus tips for successful sleep training. So, let’s dive in and tackle toddler sleep training head-on!

Why Does My Toddler Need Sleep

Sleep is crucial for the overall well-being and development of toddlers. It plays a vital role in their physical growth, cognitive function, emotional regulation, and behavior. However, many toddlers struggle with sleep and have struggles with sleep since infancy, which can have significant consequences on their health and daily functioning.  According to the the Sleep Foundation, ” sleep is an essential building block for your child’s mental and physical health. (Children and Sleep | Sleep Foundation. (2020). Retrieved 8 August 2023, from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/children-and-sleep).

One of the key reasons why toddler sleep training is important is that it helps establish healthy sleep habits. By teaching your toddler to fall asleep independently and stay asleep through the night, you are setting the foundation for a lifetime of good sleep hygiene. Additionally, a well-rested toddler is more likely to be alert, happy, and better able to learn and explore their environment.  The great news is… it is never too late to start establishing healthy sleep habits for your child.  

The Benefits of Starting Toddler Sleep Training at Any Age

Whether your child is a newborn or a few years old, there are benefits to be gained from implementing a structured sleep routine. Helping your child develop healthy sleep habits, you are sending a clear message to your toddler that sleep is important and that they are capable of falling asleep on their own.

One of the biggest benefits of sleep training  is the improvement in sleep quality for both the child and the parent. When a toddler learns to self-soothe and fall asleep independently, they are less likely to wake up frequently during the night. This means more uninterrupted sleep for everyone involved, leading to increased energy levels and improved overall well-being for the entire family.

Tips for Success

It is important to approach sleep training with consistency, patience, and empathy.  Toddlers are in a phase of learning and navigating their new found independence and as parents, it is up to us to foster that independence while also establishing boundaries. Here are some tips to help you along the way:

  1. Establish a bedtime routine: A consistent bedtime routine signals to your toddler’s brain and body, that it is time to wind down and prepare for sleep. This routine can include activities such as a bath, getting into pjs, brushing teeth, going potty, reading a bedtime story, and cuddles before lights out. Keep the routine calm and the same every night to help your child associate these activities with sleep.  Children thrive on predictably, so keeping it the same every night will help ease many bedtime battles.
  2. Create a sleep-friendly environment: A dark, quiet, and comfortable sleep environment can greatly enhance your toddler’s sleep quality. Use blackout curtains, a white noise machine and keep the room cool and comfortable. Remove any distractions or stimulating toys from the bedroom to minimize disruptions.
  3. Introduce positive sleep associations: Positive sleep associations can help your toddler feel secure and relaxed when it’s time to sleep. This can include a favorite blanket or a a stuffed animal. Encourage your child to use these sleep associations when they are settling themselves to sleep.
  4. Set a nightly bedtime and morning wake time:  Children should go to sleep and wake up close to the same time every day.  This helps set their :”body clock” or circadian rhythm.  Choose a bedtime between 7-8 pm to ensure that they are getting the proper hours of sleep each night.

Dealing with Toddler Pushback

Pushback is going to happen from your toddler, and it’s important to be prepared for it during the sleep training process. It is up to you as the parent to remain consistent.  Here are a few tips to keep you both on track:

  1. Stick to the routine: It is crucial to maintain consistency with your toddler’s sleep routine. Even if they are experiencing more night waking or resistance, stick to the established bedtime routine to provide a sense of security and stability.
  2. Offer comfort and reassurance: Offer support with a check in every so often to remind them that you are there to support them.  Be careful to not fall back into old routines, such as laying in the bed with them or bringing them back to your bed.
  3. Be patient and consistent:  It is important to remain patient and consistent with your sleep training approach. Stay committed to your sleep training methods, even if there are setbacks along the way. Consistency will  pay off !
  4. Explain to them the importance of sleep and how it helps them at school, with daily activities and even playing outside.  Sleep should be a positive thing!

The Long-Term Benefits of Sleep for Your Toddler

Investing time and effort into your toddlers sleep can yield long-term benefits for both your child and your family as a whole. By teaching your toddler healthy sleep habits early on, you are setting them up for a lifetime of good sleep hygiene. Some of the long-term effects of teaching your child healthy sleep habits are:

  1. Improved cognitive function: A well-rested toddler has better cognitive function, which can positively impact their learning, memory, and attention span.
  2. Enhanced emotional well-being: Quality sleep contributes to emotional regulation, reducing the likelihood of tantrums, mood swings, and irritability.
  3. Better behavior and social skills: A well-rested toddler is more likely to exhibit positive behavior and develop healthy social skills, making interactions with peers and adults more enjoyable.

Sleep training your toddler is a journey that requires patience, consistency, and understanding. By prioritizing your child’s sleep and implementing a structured sleep routine, you can help them develop healthy sleep habits that will benefit them throughout their lives. It is never too late to start sleep training, and sometimes seeking professional help when needed can make a world of difference. If you are struggling with sleep training your toddler, if your toddler is dealing with anxieties or fears, or would like guidance and support to start the process it may be beneficial to reach out to a Pediatric sleep consultant or expert such as myself who can provide personalized guidance and support tailored to your child’s specific sleep needs.   I can help identify many underlying issues that may be affecting your toddler’s sleep and develop a customized sleep plan to address them. Book a complimentary call with me today to learn more.

Making sure that your toddler gets the adequate sleep that they need each night is so important for their growth and development.  Now is as good a time as ever to get started, and just think, soon you will be getting some much needed sleep too!

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