The Sleep Doula's Top Five Toddler Bedtime Antics and How to Get Them to Sleep
My friend Tracey Ruiz is the Sleep Doula. She goes and works one on one with families so everyone can sleep a little better. She will even sleep on the floor of the baby's room to help comfort a night-waker. I only wish I met her a few years ago, and maybe I wouldn't have lost so many brain cells to sleep deprivation. I asked her if she could do a guest post for me on some of the crazy toddler antics she has seen over the years. I found non-sleeping toddlers to be way more stressful than non-sleeping babies - babies are supposed to wake up all the time but toddlers are supposed to give mommy and daddy a break.
The Sleep Doula's Five Craziest Toddler Antics and How to Get Them to Sleep
I’ve been working in the trenches with parents of babies AND toddlers for years and I have seen it all. So often my clients feel ashamed or embarrassed when they first approach me to help with their non-sleeping toddler. They say it’s acceptable for babies not to sleep but not a two-year-old. The fact is, kids will be kids and they are much smarter then we ever give them credit for. To prove my point, here are my top five craziest toddler experiences AND tips on how to overcome troublesome, yet super adorable, little negotiators. Even in these extreme situations, you’ll be able to pick up a few tips to help you too!
1. The Nighttime Nomad
PROBLEM – Your little one has discovered a new level of independence. They can get out of bed.
The big boy/girl bed has arrived; no more crib. Let the night games begin. Literally. I was once in the home of delightful little twins who, after saying ‘night night’, decided to make their own little collage masterpiece using the Vaseline left on their nightstand. Floors, walls, sheets, hair and clothes were a slippery, shellacked mess. The clean up was beyond awful.
SOLUTION – I have one solution for this problem - put everything away; and I mean EVERYTHING. You’d be surprised what little ones can get into with their new, found freedom.
Remember, children like to get our attention in creative ways.
2. The Show Off
PROBLEM – Your child is developing new skills and wants to show off these new tricks to get a reaction.
I met one little boy who was still in his crib and loved turning the lights on after Mom and Dad left his room. The act would always get a parent coming back in.
The parents moved the crib away from the light so baby couldn’t reach it. Problem solved? Well, no. Instead he used his own body strength and pushed against the sides of the crib to move it across the room to the light.
SOLUTION - As babies get stronger and learn new talents, they like to use their developments to assert independence. Give the child some of the independence craved but don’t give in completely. I suggested repositioning the crib back where he could access the light switch but took the light bulb out. He had the power to play with the switch but would rest easily in a dark room.
Remember, cribs have breaks on them for a reason, don't forget to set them.
3. The Hide and Go Seeker
PROBLEM – A special toy/stuffie goes “missing” moments after you have left the room. You find the item, only to have another disappear.
During the daylight hours, this is always a fun game to play. Not when it’s being used to prolong bedtime and get you back in the room to help find special bunny, sippy cup, blankie or other object of desire. From my experience, it does not end with only one round of “hide and have mommy seek.” This is a classic negotiation tactic.
SOLUTION - To solve this problem, put everything in her crib or bed and review all the items before you leave. She now knows, you know, it’s all there. If she still hides it, you can assist verbally. If they can hide it, they can find it!
4. The Communications Pro
PROBLEM – Your toddler has discovered words and wants to talk all the time.
Toddlers come up with the most creative questions and reasons not to go to bed. I’ve heard it all… Mommy, I can’t stop crying. Mommy I need Tylenol. I need Daddy… Grandma… Sara from next door, Julie my sister, etc. I’ve even had one child ask for ME by yelling… ‘Doula… doula…’
SOLUTION - To help your toddler see you’re all on the same team, create a consistent bedtime routing. Consistency offers children reassurance. You can also alternate who puts them down at night so long as the routine stays the same and have everyone present offer reassurance.
Remember, they understand what we are telling them, even when it feels like a losing battle.
5. The Escape Artist
PROBLEM – Your child has learned a new-found freedom – they can get easily get in and out of their big-kid’s bed.
From refusing to go to bed and following the departing parent out of the room to middle of the night escapes into mommy and daddy’s bed, this freedom can be a parent’s nightmare.
SOLUTION - A common solution is to put a gate in the doorway. That keeps the door open, preventing the child from feeling shut-in and also keeps the parents less worried. The problem is that many kids can climb a gate which can lead to injury.
I suggest putting a bell on the gate. As soon as the gate is touched, the bell will ring. This will act as an alarm and it will demonstrate to your child, you now know they are up to something.
Tracey Ruiz AKA The Sleep Doula, specializes in helping your babies, toddlers and children sleep. Working in the trenches with thousands of families over the last nine years, Tracey has seen it all: co-sleepers, 15-minute nappers, babies who can sleep standing up, parents who don't like to hear their baby cry… You name it. She’s seen it and helped parents solve it. Tracey knows there’s never a ‘one size fits all’ solution and she can be reached at www.sleepdoula.com.
Want more chaos? Last year I questioned the wisdom of a teen climbing Mount Everest -- most people disagreed with me.