Toddler sleep training
Most toddlers will sleep an average of about 11 hours through the night, and will make up any extra sleep that they need in naps. If your baby needed a lot of sleep in the first year he’ll probably continue to do so เท the second; if he needed little sleep, then this trend will continue, too.
Although he sleeps through the night he’ll still need two naps a day. How long these naps last will depend, as before, on your baby. What may change this year will be the times at which he wants to take the nap. For example, you may find that the nap that he used to take at around 9-9.30 am gets later and later. This means he’ll want to sleep immediately after lunch, at around 30 or 2 pm. On other days, however, he may take a nap late in the morning but then not want another one until the middle of the afternoon.
As far as these changes are concerned, you have to take the lead from your baby; there’s no point in trying to make him sleep to order and you’ll have to accept that the napping pattern varies from day to day. Fit into the baby’s routine so that if he establishes a pattern whereby he gets sleepy towards 11.30 am and wants to have a nap around noon, you start having lunch around 11.30. He’ll then be able to have a satisfying nap after lunch, and you’ll have a much less grumpy baby. Alternatively, you could wait until he wakes up before having lunch – it depends on your baby.
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Around the age of 15 months your toddler will reach a period where two naps a day are too many and one nap a day is not quite enough. He’ll happily play through the first nap, but because he can’t last without sleep until the second one he has to have a later nap than usual. This inevitably means that he’s alert enough to go through the usual afternoon one, but then because he’s too tired to last out until bedtime he has to go to bed early. As with everything else in childcare, you have to be flexible. The period where he has to drop one nap will be brief and he’ll soon sort out his own napping routine. By the end of the second year he’ll probably take a single nap at the end of the morning, or in the afternoon.
Until he settles into a napping routine do make sure that he is having adequate rest during the day. Even if he doesn’t seem to be all that tired and is rushing around, eager to learn new games or play with exciting toys, it’s quite easy for him to become over-tired. Keep an eye on your child and if he becomes bad-tempered or fretful, or shows a sudden lack of co-ordination then make sure he rests or plays a quiet game.
Whenever your toddler takes a nap, give him a chance to wake up gently from it. It may be a restorative sleep, but he’s unlikely to wake up perfectly refreshed and active. He’ll need a quarter of an hour or so of being cuddled and talked to gently and quietly before he’s ready to be active again. If you have to go out immediately after your toddler’s nap, make sure that you leave enough time for the recovery of his good humour.
HELPING YOUR TODDLER TO SLEEP
Toddler sleep training : During the day
- Make up a nap time box for your child with favourite toys and books that he can look at as he gets sleepy before a nap. Don’t leave good or expensive books – they may get ripped up. Leave board books or old books. A good alternative is to make up your own books by pasting interesting pictures from magazines on to board and then covering them with clear acetate.
- Give your child a occasional treat by letting him take a nap in your bed, or somewhere near you.
- If your child won’t take a nap, make sure that he has a rest time where he is calm and quiet.
- If your toddler won’t go to sleep, put on a long- playing tape. Teach your child that the rest time is not over until the music stops.
Toddler sleep training : In the evening
- Don’t put your child to bed immediately after an exciting game or rough-and-tumble – he will have great difficulty settling down, which will be frustrating for you. Give him 10-15 minutes to quieten down, sitting with you watching TV or looking at a book.
- Even a small child likes looking at a book in bed so, if your baby is quite happy, leave him with a favourite, non-scary book.
- Put a dab of your perfume or aftershave on to your child’s pillow and suggest that he breathes it in deeply. Deep breathing is relaxing and calming and will help your child go off to sleep.
- Give your toddler a bath before bedtime and follow this with a warm drink and a story in bed.
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