My toddler won’t fall asleep without me in the room.
Having a baby is an obvious life-changing event. With every phase comes new challenges and new adjustments. The toddler phase is no exception. If you’re experiencing not having your kiddo fall asleep without you having to STAY in the room, no worries! Here are some solid tips to help transition into an easier bedtime routine!
1. Leave room for robust activity during the day.
This part can be a little tricky at times! The right time of the day is important, depending on what you have already seen in your child. For instance, some “wear yourself out” activity an hour before bedtime, might tire out one child, but energize another! However, for the energized toddler, it might be better to do it maybe two hours before bedtime. That will give time for that “natural high” to come down and let the sleepiness factor kick in. As that sleepiness factor starts to kick in, some warm milk can help further relax your baby.
2. Make sure your toddler’s bed is associated with only sleep time.
It can be an easy habit to allow your kiddo to play in their bed with toys, games, or books. However, there needs to be a distinct separation between play areas and sleep areas. Do your best not to have their bed associated with toys or anything fun. Allow the bed only to be synonymous with sleep time. If extra measures need to be taken, hide all toys lingering in the room. That way, your toddler is not distracted by any toy that could potentially keep you in the room longer than needed.
3. Set more relaxing conditions around an hour before bed.
This could be specific to setting more relaxing conditions in their bedroom. Or, the overall home environment if that is possible. For this tip, I will focus more on the room. In the hour before bedtime, try to minimize or eliminate stimulation in the form of shows, songs, sound-making toys, and active games. You want to introduce calm and soothing sounds, a warm bath, and baby massages.
4. Make the bedroom feel safe and warm.
Create a sense of warmth and coziness. Remember, while your toddler was still in your belly, he/she got used to a feeling of closeness, warmth, and safety. Does your child need something to cuddle? Does the room need to be darker? Or, do you need a nightlight that creates a warm, comfortable light? Maybe the bedding could be a little more fluffy or solid. That when they sink into the bed, it almost feels like they are being cuddled.
5. Fill up the belly.
Some kiddos need a super full belly before they can go to sleep. So, if you are still nursing, it would be a good idea to do one more good “fill up” or “cap-off” before bedtime. If possible, do it in his or her bedroom and have the conditions previously set for a warm and safe atmosphere.
One recommendation I would like to make is “Cream of Wheat.” It is a wonderful cereal that is healthy and solid enough. It is best eaten warm, which also adds to relaxing your baby into sleep time.
6. Make sure you’re allowing enough cry time.
It can emotionally pull at your heartstrings to hear your baby cry. It can be tempting to want to go to the rescue, but don’t do it too soon! See if your child’s cry gets into the self-soothing mode, which is the goal for most parents. There is no set time frame to monitor this so that it might take a little bit of patience, but well worth it!
7. Ease away.
If there are too much trauma and drama in putting your child down and then walking away, ease away. Lay your baby down and massage their back or belly till they drift off. Then keep your hand on them without any motion. Remove your hand and stay seated for a few more minutes. Then slowly walk out of the room. You might want to try this method for three days in a row. You are looking for acclimation. If your child gets to a point where he/she is going to sleep and staying asleep three days in a row, you can consider your baby acclimated and can ease up off the routine.
8. The big girl, big boy talk.
Even at the toddler stage, children can begin to understand “big boy,” “big girl.” You can center your conversations with them about being able to sleep without your presence, as a very positive “big boy” or big girl” activity. When you feel the time is right, you can even implement a reward system for them sleeping on their own. It may take a few good tries. However, children are so smart. They can begin to make the connection between reward systems, and the action needed to obtain the award.
9. Use the right light source.
Unfortunately, white, blue, and green lights interrupt our deep sleep rhythms (especially for little ones). If a night is necessary, you want to get one that is pink or amber in tone. It has the very least amount of blue light and sets the warm and safe feelings. That enables kids to fall asleep with more ease. That way, when you leave the room, there is still something in the room that feels safe and warm.
10. Gradual changes might be necessary.
We have covered a good amount of tips here. You never know which ones will be most favorable to your little one. Frankly, you might have to start slow. If you have had a very different routine with your toddler, changing everything all at once might cause some hiccups. My recommendation to try first is getting all that extra energy out about two hours before bedtime. A warm bath, fill up on some and warm lighting in the room. Then, feel free to add techniques as you feel led.