The transition from crib to toddler bed is one many toddlers make due to either necessity (parents need the crib from a new baby), hope for better sleep (child who is bed-sharing with parents or struggling to sleep in the crib), climbing out of the crib, or because they have simply outgrown their pack n play or sleeping space. While the transition goes smoothly for some toddlers, it's a huge adjustment for others.
After moving to a toddler bed, one of my kids never tried to get out of bed or thought to leave his room, and the other needed to be secured in her room with a lock because she always tried to escape. One night, when I forgot to secure her door, an hour after I put her to bed, she raided my nail polish and painted her nails, and proudly came to the living room to show me!
These eight tips will help you make the toddler bed transition smoothly.
1. Get the timing right. This is the first and most important point. If a child transitions to a toddler bed too early, they will likely not have the capability to understand staying put and staying safe. Many kids aren't ready until at least 3 years old (or older!), although some may be fine before 3. Also, try not to make the transition at the same time as other big changes in your toddler's life, such as a new sibling being born or starting at a new school.
2. If possible, sleep train before moving to the toddler bed. Sleep issues aren't likely to just go away once a child moves to a toddler bed. They may even get worse. If your child is not sleep trained yet, and is still in a crib, it is recommended to make sure your child can get to sleep independently and sleep all night before you transition to a toddler bed. While it is possible to sleep train in a toddler bed, it's more challenging, and sleep issues can become worse with the freedom of a toddler bed. Once your toddler is at the right age and is sleeping 10.5 - 12 hours a night and going to sleep independently, they will likely continue to sleep well after transitioning to a toddler bed.
3. Make it special. Choose special blankets and sheets for your child, to help build excitement about the toddler bed. You can let your child help pick out their new bedding. A new comfort item, such as a blankie or stuffed animal. Spend time playing in their room during the day, so they have positive associations with their bedroom.
4. Keep your schedule and bedtime routine the same. Don't make any big changes in the schedule (such as dropping a nap) when you transition to a toddler bed. Keep bedtime the same time each night, and keep your bedtime routine consistent.
5. Make sure the room is safe. You can use toddler safety rails on the sides of their bed to keep them from falling out of bed. Put straps or anchors on heavy furniture so it can't fall on them. Use outlet covers and safety locks on dresser drawers. These can be used on bi-fold closet doors, and these can be used on pull-down door handles. For regular door knobs, you can use a child safety lock such as this, or a Door Monkey to keep your child safely inside the room. You can use a light switch cover like as this to cover the light switch. Make sure cords, baby monitors, cords for the blinds or curtains, sound machines are out of reach.
6. Talk to them about it. Before the transition, tell them they're going to sleep in a big bed. Be very positive, but be careful not to be too dramatic about it, or it could actually cause more anxiety than they would have had otherwise. When I moved both of mine to their toddler beds, I told them what was going to happen, but didn't make it too big of an ordeal, and they both transitioned easily.
7. Start in the new bed at bedtime (not nap time). Do your regular bedtime routine, lay them down in their bed awake, tell them you love them, and tell them it's time to go to sleep and you'll see them in the morning. Then walk out of the room and secure the room so they can't get out. You can use a video baby monitor to make sure they're safe. Don't linger in their room, lay in bed with them, or stay until they are completely asleep. Your child may stay in the bed and go right to sleep, or may get curious with the newfound freedom and experiment with walking around the room. Don't go back in or engage with them too much unless they're unsafe.
8. Don't start any new habits or make too many changes. I don't recommend making too many changes to your child's room (other than extreme baby proofing). Some sources on the internet recommend adding new nightlights to the room when you switch to a toddler bed, but that can be too stimulating for your child. If your child is already sleeping well in their room, no need to add anything different, like new lights. If toys are too stimulating and your child wants to stay up and play with toys, you can remove the toys or hide them in the closet at night.
Your child may need a few days to adjust to the new bed, and may struggle with bedtime or nighttime wakes in the first few days. Be patient and stay consistent. Resist the urge to lay down with them or start new habits. It will get better!
I don't recommend attempting to do a very gradual transition, which is what some sources online recommend: where the parent lays with the child in bed, or pats their back to get them to sleep, or lets the child sleep in the toddler bed part of the night and the parent's bed the other part. Those things can be confusing for your child, and you'd just be setting them up for new habits you would have to break later. I would recommend starting the way you want them to go on. It's ok to do naps in the toddler bed right after they make the transition. It could be even more confusing if you try to do nighttime sleep in the toddler bed and naps still in the crib or a parent's bed. Toddlers need consistency, clear boundaries, and strong limits.
If your child has trouble staying in bed in the mornings, you can use a toddler alarm clock that is set to go off at a certain time each morning.
If your child goes through a major sleep regression or has a lot of trouble with getting to sleep at night, nighttime wake-ups, or early morning wake-ups after you make the transition to a toddler bed, I would love to talk with you and help you work through those issues.
Parents all want that magic pill to get our kids to instantly go to bed without whining or stalling, sleep 12 hours straight, and wake up happy in the morning. Or maybe a magic pill to make them eat all their food without complaining too . . . right? If you find one like that, tell me about it!
I've been the mom who has fought with her toddlers for hours to get them to go to bed, all while going over a list in my head of things I needed to get done as soon as they were asleep. I've been the mom, dreading bedtime because I knew it was going to be a battle. And I've also been the mom who gave her toddlers melatonin every night for months. And while it may have put a bandaid on the problem and solved it in the short-term, it didn't solve the root of their sleep issues. That's what sleep training does.
What is melatonin? Melatonin is a natural hormone our bodies make that tells us we're getting sleepy. It helps regulate our circadian clocks and our wake/sleep cycles. The over-the-counter form of melatonin you can buy in gummy or liquid form for your kids is a synthetic form of the hormone that mimics our natural melatonin.
Is it safe?
If you've already given your toddler or child melatonin or if you're considering it, here are a few things to consider about melatonin:
Is it necessary and beneficial?
Melatonin supplements (with you doctor's consent) can help kids fall asleep quickly, but the good news is - kids don't need melatonin supplements, because their bodies already make it naturally. You can help encourage their bodies to produce melatonin naturally and end their bedtime battles, so they can go to sleep easily and quickly, and stay asleep all night long, all without giving them supplements!
How to Get Your Kids to Sleep Without Melatonin
After the 2 year sleep regression, when my kids were struggling at bedtime and taking a long time to fall asleep, I did give them melatonin every night. But once I discovered the natural ways to help them get to sleep easily, I cut the melatonin cold turkey one night and applied bedtime sleep training methods (they were both already sleeping through the night). After a few nights of consistency and patience, they caught on quickly and began to go to sleep on their own, within minutes of being laid down, without a bedtime battle and stay asleep for 11-12 hours. It is possible! It just takes consistency and intentionality.
We do still have melatonin gummies for kids on hand, for situations where they may need extra help (such as traveling, days when their schedule is off track, etc.), but we honestly haven't used it in many months. They don't need it. They never did need it; I just didn't know how to help them get to sleep easily without it.
Things that will help your kids get to sleep without melatonin:
Many bedtime battles take place because a child relies on a parent to get to sleep. The child doesn't know how to get to sleep on their own, or may have regressed into an old habit of needing to be rocked to sleep, patted to sleep, or have a parent's presence to get to sleep. They may have gotten into the habit of asking for water five times before bed, needing more and more engagement from the parent, asking for snacks, or doing anything they can to manipulate or drag out the bedtime process. It's not only exhausting for parents, but it interferes with the child's sleep and can have many negative effects on them. I've worked with families who have kids who went from hours of bedtime battles and frustration every night, to falling asleep on their own, without crying, within minutes of being laid down. When you start sleep training, prepare to be consistent, committed, and intentional. Don't just wing it; go in with a plan. If you need help, I would love to help walk you through this process. Reach out if you want to know more about my services.
Unfortunately, I don't have a magic pill for getting kids to go to sleep quickly, quietly, and easily, all on their own, and stay asleep all night. But sleep training is the next best thing! It's almost like magic.
*NOTE: This is not medical advice; seek your doctor's recommendation before you give anything to your child.
Both of my babies loved being swaddled as newborns, and both of them transitioned out of the swaddle around 2-3 months old. My first was sleeping 11 hours straight at night around 10 weeks old, and my second was sleeping 11-12 hours straight before 10 weeks old. The transition out of the swaddle went great for both of them, because they already had good sleep habits and knew how to get themselves to sleep.
Starting your baby in a tight and cozy swaddle as a newborn will help them feel secure and will reduce their startle reflex, which will help them sleep better. When your baby is a newborn, work on independent sleep skills.
While many parents get nervous about this transition, it almost always goes more smoothly than imagined. Here are some tips about when and how to transition out of the swaddle.
If your baby has a hard time during the transition out of the swaddle, give them a night or two to adjust, and they'll usually get back on track quickly on their own. If you haven't sleep trained yet, this is a great time to start sleep training! If you need help, reach out, and I would love to help you!
Below are some of the swaddles, sleep sacks, and transitional swaddles I recommend.
Leave a comment and share below - when did you stop swaddling, and how did your baby do with the transition?
The first thing I want to say is this: if you enjoy nursing your baby to sleep, and are fine with doing it for bedtime and all wake-ups in the night and naps, and it's working for you - that is fine! There's no need to change anything.
I breastfed both of my babies for over a year, and both of my babies were sleeping completely through the night (11-12 hours straight) without night feedings before 12 weeks old. They did this all on their own- no crying or forced night weaning. This post is not about night weaning or completely weaning from breastfeeding. It's not about your decision to breastfeed, exclusively pump, formula feed, or a mixture or combo of any of those. Those are personal decisions, and the right choice for you is the one that works for you! I'm not advocating breastfeeding over any other type of feeding. I'm a fan of feeding babies, however you want to feed them.
This post is for those mamas who enjoy feeding their baby, but want to help their babies learn independent sleep skills.
Breastfeeding or bottle feeding babies to sleep is common, and it is also natural. Breastfeeding (especially at night) releases sleepy hormones to moms and babies, and it's a natural way to cuddle and comfort your baby. I've done it with my own babies! And I've used it as a "secret weapon" to get them back to sleep when nothing else worked or when my son had ear infections as an infant and couldn't be calmed any other way. I enjoyed the sleepy milk comas and cuddles with my babies as they nursed to sleep cuddled in my arms. It's sweet, I get it. But I also knew that for me, it was important for others (daycare workers, husband, babysitters) to be able to put my babies to sleep, and I didn't want nursing to sleep to be the only way they could get to sleep.
If you're ok with nursing to sleep and it's working for you - YOU GO! That's awesome. If it's NOT working for you, here are some tips to help:
Feeding to sleep can cause babies to not get full feedings, and wake up sooner because they're hungry. When they get full feedings, they're likely to sleep better and longer because they're full. It can cause them to wake up more in the night because when they transition from one sleep cycle to another, feeding to sleep is the only way they know how to get back to sleep, so instead of putting themselves back to sleep and connecting sleep cycles, they are crying until they get fed to sleep again.
I've worked with moms who nursed or bottle fed to sleep and thought their babies would grow out of it, and still at age 2-3 years old, the child needed the mom to nurse them to sleep for every nap and bedtime, and all throughout the night. Once a baby has developed a feed-to-sleep association, it's not likely the baby will give it up and learn independent sleep all on their own without being taught, which is what sleep training does.
To break your child's feed-to-sleep association, be intentional and consistent with sleep training, and your child can learn to go to sleep completely on their own. If you want to continue to breastfeed during the day (or even keep night feedings if your baby needs them), you can do that as long as you want to!
I've helped many moms who had been feeding their babies to sleep, and during our time together, we were able to teach their babies to go to sleep on their own. Imagine being able to cuddle your baby and then lay them down in their crib wide awake, walk out of the room, and watch on the monitor as your baby smiles and coos and falls asleep all on their own within a few minutes. The easiest way to not nurse to sleep is to not ever start that habit - to start from day one allowing your newborn to fall asleep without feeding (which is what I did). But if you missed that window and it's already become a habit, there's never a time when it's TOO LATE to break that habit. You can start today. As long as you have a plan and stay consistent, your child can learn independent sleep! And if you want help, I would love to help you with this! Click HERE to read about my sleep training packages.
I remember being an expectant first time mom, and pouring over my baby registry and shopping list. I looked at Amazon reviews, went into stores to look at products in person, asked all of my mom friends for advice, and thought we needed all of the things. Like many first time moms, I got way more of everything that I needed, and by the time I had my second baby, I realized, you don't really need that much for new babies. They don't take up much space, and their only needs are: someplace to sleep, food to eat, and diapers. Pretty simple. My biggest advice for new parents is not to stress about the things, or get too much stuff. You won't need half of the stuff you think you'll use.
Everyone has their own list of lifesaving products that made things easier, and things their baby didn't like at all. Another piece of advice I have is wait until you know your baby and see what your baby does or doesn't like, before you make all of your decisions about what your baby will want.
Here's my list of recommended products, but keep in mind: you don't need the most expensive stuff to help your baby sleep. Can you buy a $1300 Snoo to help your baby sleep? Yup. You can! But you don't need to. Your baby will be fine sleeping in a $40 pack-n-play or hand-me-down crib. I've heard of moms who literally spend over a thousand dollars on products to help their babies sleep, and good sleep is not about the products, it's about teaching your baby good habits.
With that in mind, here are a few things I love:
Ten Things to Get
1. Blackout Curtains - You can use shades, curtains, or even cardboard taped over your window! Anything that blocks out the sunlight will help your baby sleep.
2. Sound Machine - Choose one that can play regular white noise, and keep it running all night long. The exception is the Baby Shusher, which can be used in addition to a white noise machine, and can help new babies fall asleep independently.
3. Someplace safe for the baby to sleep - You can use a regular crib, and I have two mattresses listed above. You can use a basinet, such as the Halo Basinet or the Arms Reach Co-Sleeper, or a Pack-n-Play.
4. The only thing that's safe to be in the crib with the baby is a fitted crib sheet. No loose blankets. If you do use a swaddle blanket, make sure it is snug around the baby. The Aden + Anais muslin swaddle blankets are large, stretchy, and breathable, and are great for swaddles if used properly.
5. Swaddle Sack - If you're not confident with your swaddling skills (I'm not!!), a swaddle sack is amazing! You can use the Velcro kind, or the Nested Bean Zen Sack, which has a light weight to help the baby feel secure. The Love to Dream Swaddle Up is great because it zips up and keeps your baby secure, and allows hands up by their face for self-soothing.
6. Zip Up Sleepers - During those middle of the night diaper changes, when it's dark and you're tired, and your baby is wiggling, it's easier to zip up their pajamas instead of button 15 tiny buttons or snaps.
7. Cool Mist Humidifier - This will add moisture to the air and help your baby breathe and sleep easier, since babies are prone to congestion and they breathe through their noses.
8. Baby Monitor - A video baby monitor will allow you to see your baby when you're in another room. It doesn't have to be a fancy one, but there are monitors with options to see the temperature of the room, allow you to talk to your baby, and the Nanit Plus Baby Monitor even has sleep tracking and Alexa-enabled capabilities.
Ten things you don't need
1. Crib Bumpers - Even the mesh kind are not safe.
2. A Mobile - This can be too stimulating and keep the baby awake.
3. Blankets in the Crib - You shouldn't ever have baby blankets in the crib with your baby.
4. A Dock-a-Tot, Snuggle Me, or Any Other Lounger - These may be great for laying your baby down on when the baby is awake and you're supervising your baby, but they are not safe for sleep.
5. Lights or Projectors - Some people use projection lights, night lights, or starry sky lights in their baby's rooms (I did with my first!), but they are not necessary for babies, and they can actually disrupt sleep.
6. Swing, Mamaroo, Rock-n-Play - The Rock-n-Play has been recalled for safety, but baby swings and Mamaroos are still on the market. These are not safe for sleep, even if the baby is supervised.
7. Baby Positioners- You don't need anything in the crib to keep your baby in a specific position.
8. Breathing, Heart Rate, Oxygen Monitor - If your baby is full term and healthy, an Owlet or any other kind of breathing monitor. These have been known to have false alarms and cause anxiety in parents.
9. Medicine, Melatonin, or Sleep Aids - These are not safe for babies. If you're concerned about teething or gas pain, ask your doctor about using Tylenol, Motrin, or gripe water.
10. Stuffed Animals or Loveys - These are not safe for sleep.
I hear so many tired parents who are desperate for sleep tell me they've tried "everything" to get their baby or toddler to sleep. They rattle off the list of things they've tried. They say to me "I let him cry at bedtime to get to sleep... now what do I do when he wakes up at night?" or say "I let her cry for 15 minutes, then I went in to get her because it wasn't working." I hear parents say they have given up on sleep training after a few nights, because while it did seem to improve their child's sleep at first, it then got worse again, so they gave up or gave in. The reason it's not working for every one of those parents? There's one reason, and it's by far the biggest mistake I see in sleep training:
. . . Inconsistency. Trying too many techniques, or giving up after only a few wake-ups or a few nights, or responding differently to every wake-up - that will only make sleep training harder for your child and confuse your child.
If you're planning to do sleep training, don't just wing it. Come up with a plan. Study all of the sleep training methods and choose one you're confident with and can be committed to, and then stick with it. For every bedtime, every night waking, every early morning wakeup, and every nap.
If you start the night with a sleep training method, and then give in, all the progress and learning your child did was wasted, and it will likely lead to even worse sleep. This sounds harsh, but if you're not going to be consistent, don't start sleep training, because it will only confuse your child.
Before you start sleep training, here are five things to do:
If you're still not sure what to do, or want a baby/toddler sleep expert to walk you through the process with an easy step-by-step plan, reach out to me! I would love to help you walk through this process, and I offer free 15 minute phone consultations. I write personalized sleep plans for clients, based on your baby's needs and challenges, your sleep goals, and your personalities, and tell you exactly what to do.
The self-quarantine is giving lots of people extra time at home with their kids. As a work-from-home and stay-at-home mom full time with two preschool-aged kids, we have lots of time to get creative during our playtime.
While a little screen time isn't harmful to kids, and we do allow screen time during the day, it's important for their bodies and minds to get moving, and being active during the day also helps kids sleep better! If possible, cutting screen time within 2 hours of nap time or bedtime can help them sleep better. The blue lights emitted from screens can inhibit melatonin production and make it harder to fall asleep.
If you're home with your preschool-aged kids and looking for fun activities to do with your kids to get them moving and keep them engaged, here are a few fun ideas that have been kid-tested and approved by my own 2 year old and 3 year old.
*Optional Idea: Write a few options on pieces of paper and let the kids take turns drawing one out one at at time. Do that activity for 15-25 minutes, then switch to the next activity.
1. Hide and Seek - Take turns hiding while one person counts to 20, then they go find the people who are hiding.
2. Hot and Cold - Have your kids go into another room while you hide something, then tell them to find it as you say "hot" when they get close, and "cold" when they aren't close to finding it.
3. Simon Says - Tell your kids different silly things to do, saying "Simon says" before you give each command. If you don't say "Simon says" before a command, and they do it anyway, they're out (for young kids, nobody is out, we just keep playing).
4. Flashlight Dance Party - When it's dark out (or if you have a room that gets pretty dark, pull out flashlights and turn on dance party music and let the kids go crazy. You can also move the light all around the room and have them chase it and jump on it.
5. Freeze Dance - Play fun kid music and stop the music at various times. When the music stops, the kids have to freeze. You can tell them specific dances to do, to make it more silly, or have them copy you as you do silly dance moves.
6. Red Light, Green Light - Have the kids stand on one side of the room while you stand on the other. When you call out "green light" they should run or walk toward you. When you say "red light," they have to freeze.
7. Hot Potato - Optional: Use a real potato! Play kid music and sit in a circle (or just back-and-forth with the parent and the kid) and pass the potato back and forth until the music stops. Whoever is holding the potato when the music stops, has to stand up and do a silly dance.
8. Paper Plate Skating - You can use plastic kids plates or paper plates (or even construction paper). Let them stand on the paper plates on hardwood floors as you pull them around the room, or allow them to "skate" on the plates on their own. You can also pretend the plates are "stepping stones" to help get across a river.
9. Build a Fort - Use sheets, blankets, chairs, and couches to build a fort.
10. Sidewalk Chalk - If the weather is nice enough to go outside, lay down and trace each other on the ground with sidewalk chalk (or draw pretty pictures).
11. Blind Taste Test - Have your kids close their eyes and give them different foods, and have them guess what they're eating.
12. Snowball Fight - Make snowballs from crumpled scrap paper or socks, and have a snowball fight.
13. Go Noodle Dancing or Cosmic Kids Yoga - Play the Go Noodle songs or Cosmic Kids Yoga on your TV and dance with the kids!
14. Cooking Show - Choose something easy and fun to cook together, and make your own cooking show. Examples: pancakes, biscuits, muffins, mini pizzas.
15. Shark Bait - Have the kids stand on one side of the room or yard, while the parent pretends to be a shark and the kids are the fish. Tell them to swim across to the other side without getting caught (and eaten!) by the shark.
16. Scavenger Hunt - Tell the kids to find and bring you specific things. Set a time limit (such as 10 - 20 seconds) to find each item. You can use descriptions like: something... yellow, round, fluffy, shiny, you eat, that goes on your head, etc.
17. Bathtub Party - Getting a daytime bath just to play is extra special! Use shaving cream (optional: with food coloring!) for fun finger painting in the bathtub, or just fill up the bath and give your kids some goggles and/or cups and measuring cups to play with the water.
18. Rescue Mission - Hide a stuffed animal somewhere in the house and draw a map for the kids to find it and rescue it before the 5 minute timer runs out. Play several times and take turns hiding the stuffed animal.
19. Build a Town - Use magnet tiles or blocks (or cardboard boxes) to build a town and make up stories about the town and the people in it (ours always involve cars that are speeding and get sent to jail, or fires that a fire truck needs to put out).
20. Zoo Charades - Tell the kids to pretend to be each animal you call out, such as: elephant, bear, lion, seal, monkey, etc.
21. Pillow Sack Races - Let the kids race while hopping in pillow sacks.
22. Hot Lava Floor - Pretend the floor is covered in hot lava, and they can't touch it, but have to hope across pillows and cushions to get around the room.
23. Freeze Tag - Tell the kids to run around as you try to chase them, and tag them. If they get tagged, they have to freeze for 10 seconds.
24. Follow the Leader - Walk around the house or yard doing silly motions as the kids copy you. Then switch and let someone else be the leader.
25. Beanbag Toss - Have one person hold a bucket or a bowl while another tosses a ball or beanbag into it. Have them step back to make it harder.
After playing these games and fun activities, it's important to do a calming pre-nap and pre-bed routine (5-10 minutes for nap time and 30 minutes for bedtime) to help your kids wind down when it's time for bed. Getting enough exercise during the day and enough sleep at night will help boost their immune systems and help keep them healthy.
What are your kids' favorite games or activities to do at home?
If you had a baby in 2016, you might have tried the Cheerio Challenge at some point. I did, and you you can see my attempt in the pic. The idea was to stack as many Cheerios as possible on your sleeping baby. I remember as new mom, wondering how they all got their babies to sleep soundly enough to stack Cheerios on them! If I could get my son to take a nap, I would have done ANYTHING to preserve that nap. I mean, for new parents, naps are life.
I discovered how to help my baby get good naps, and we got into a rhythm. He became a champion napper, and I finally got a chance to try the Cheerio Challenge, even though I didn't do very well with it.
Are you struggling with getting good naps? Not sure how many naps your child should be taking each day, and how long each nap should be? I shared a blog about how many naps a day your child needs, and how long each nap should be. Today, we're talking about wake windows, and how to use them to get good naps.
Wake windows are the amount of time your child is awake before they need to be asleep again. The wake window starts when your child wakes up (not when you get them out of the crib). Every child is different, and their wake windows may vary slightly, so it can take some trial and error, but if you pay close attention, you can find your child's sweet spot, and put them down for naps without being overtired or under-tired.
How to Use Wake Windows for Naps
If your child is put down for a nap when overtired or under-tired, it could be harder for them to fall asleep or take longer, and could cause short naps. Instead of just winging it or laying your child down for a nap when they start to yawn or get fussy, use wake windows to determine when to start each nap.
For infants, the first wake window of the day is typically the shortest. For older toddlers with one nap a day, the first wake window of the day can be longer than the second wake window.
After they wake up from their nap, determine when the next nap should start, and lay them down just before their wake window is over.
If you've found your child's sweet spot, they should fall asleep within 5 minutes of being laid down. If you wait until your child is fussy and has droopy eyelids, you've missed the wake window, and they have become overtired, which causes it to be harder for them to fall asleep.
Here are the wake windows for each age:
To find your baby's sweet spot, start with the shortest wake window for their age and keep a log for three days, tracking how long it takes them to fall asleep. If it takes longer than five minutes, lengthen the wake time by ten minutes. Lay your baby down five minutes before the wake time ends, with he goal to be asleep by the time their wake window has elapsed.
When babies are between 5-12 months, their wake windows change frequently. When it's time to adjust wake windows, start by adjusting by 15 minutes at a time. If you see these signs for more than three days in a row, these are the signs your baby's wake windows are changing:
If your child has a nap shorter than 40 minutes, a rough night of sleep, or an extra-early morning wakeup, the next wake window may need to be adjusted and shortened. If you're on a set schedule, don't adjust your child's nap by more than 30-40 minutes based on early wake-ups, or you will reinforce the early wakeup, and confuse your child's internal clock, which was used to getting sleepy at a certain time.
When your baby starts nailing those wake windows and naps, give that Cheerio Challenge a try when they're in their deepest sleep (after they've been asleep for 20-30 minutes) and share your pics!
It can be tempting as parents to let our babies and toddlers dictate their own daytime schedule, and allow them to fall asleep whenever and wherever they starting yawning and getting fussy, and let them sleep as long as they want. You might be nervous that strict daytime schedules will be constricting and hard to plan around. But the truth is, babies and toddlers do better with consistency, routines, and set schedules. It's also easier to plan your life and outings around a predictable schedule than an inconsistent one. A new blog post is coming soon with more details about how to create and set up the right daytime schedule for your baby.
How do you know if your baby or toddler is napping too long or not long enough?
These are the guidelines - keep in mind some children may need slightly more or less daytime sleep, but in general, this is what to expect at each age:
(I define "day" as the 12 hours between morning wake-up time and bedtime)
How long should each nap be?
Before 4 months old, naps are typically between 30-45 minutes - 2.5 hours long, and can be unpredictable. After four months, it's typical to see more predictable schedules, and naps start to consolidate and lengthen, ranging anywhere from 1-2 hours each, with a cat nap (usually the last nap of the day; between 30-45 minutes) until they move to a two nap schedule between 6-9 months. The time between 3 months and 12 months is filled with almost constant transition with nap lengths, needs, and wake windows. With two naps a day between 8-18 months, each nap can be between 45 minutes - 2 hours long. Once you transition to one nap a day, it should be between 1-2.5 hours long (a 3 hour nap may be needed for some kids, especially toward the beginning of the transitional time).
Should I ever cap a nap (wake my child up early?)
If your child is napping longer than 2 - 2.5 hours at once, you should wake them up. For infants, this will help ensure they eat every 3 hours during the day, and help them get their long stretches at night. For toddlers, this ensures naps don't interfere with bedtime (*a toddler who is transitioning to 1 nap a day may need a 3 hour nap, as long as it's not interfering with bedtime).
Why are naps important?
Helping your child get good naps is important, because daytime sleep affects nighttime sleep. You may have noticed that on days when your child doesn't get good naps, they usually sleep worse at night. We might think it would be the opposite, but for little ones, sleep begets sleep. Instead of just winging it when it comes to naps, make a plan for you child's naps, help guide them into the schedule, and stick with it as much as possible, while still allowing for flexibility at times, because life happens.
Want to know more about how to set up a daytime schedule, when and how to drop naps or make nap transitions, how to get your child to take longer naps, what to do during a nap regression or a child resisting naps, or how to do naps on-the-go? Stick around for more posts about naps, a LIVE Question/Answer session all about naps in the We Love Sleep Group on Facebook, and a new downloadable guide, the all-inclusive Baby and Toddler Nap Guide, coming out this week!
Do babies get scared of the dark? Should you use a nightlight projector with images of the stars and night sky? Will it help them sleep?
Sleep-deprived parents are often willing to buy whatever new product or device promises better sleep for their kids. But in reality, a nightlight isn't likely to help your baby or toddler sleep better. If they are having trouble falling asleep, or are waking up in the night, sleep training is the best option to help them sleep. Kids don't develop a fear of the dark until a minimum of 2.5 years old; typically not until they're old enough to articulate that they're scared of the dark.
Before that, they don't need a nightlight, or any light, at all. In fact, babies and toddlers will sleep better if their room is as dark as possible, for naps and bedtime. I recommend completely dark bedrooms, using black-out shades, such as these, or curtains like these. Complete darkness stimulates melatonin production (the natural sleepy hormone). Even a little light can suppress melatonin production, and the blue light emitted from screens (TV, phones, tablets) can disrupt sleep even more than light from lightbulbs.
If your child is struggling to get to sleep at night, cut off all screens two hours before bedtime, and make sure their bedroom is completely dark.
If your child is at least 2.5 years old, and has said they're afraid of the dark, you can introduce a night light. Make sure it's not too bright. We often think of blue as a calming color for sleep, but blue light is the most disruptive color for sleep because it stimulates the body and inhibits the body's production of melatonin. The colors that are best for sleep are red and orange (interestingly, the same colors in a sunset).
Choose a nightlight that is ...
Here are a few I like . . .