How To Help Your Toddler Go To Sleep

At Westchester Health, we feel strongly that sleep is an essential component of healthy living, yet something that’s sometimes hard to come by (especially for exhausted parents of toddlers). Since we often get questions from bleary-eyed moms and dads wanting advice for getting their 2- or 3-year-old to go to sleep, we thought we’d share some guidelines that really seem to work, gleaned from our many years of helping parents of toddlers master the art of bedtime. Here’s a great blog on the subject by Lauren Adler, MD, FAAP, a pediatrician with our Westchester Health Pediatrics group (excerpted below).

How much sleep toddlers should get

Toddlers need different amounts of sleep at various stages of development. According to Healthy Families BC, most, but not all, follow this pattern:

  • 12 months: Sleeps about 14 hours per day, partly during morning and afternoon naps.
  • 12-18 months: the morning nap disappears and is replaced with one longer afternoon nap.
  • 24 months: Sleeps 11-12 hours at night with a nap in the afternoon lasting 1-2 hours.
  • 36 months: Sleeps about 12 hours at night and may or may not take a short nap.
Lauren Adler, MD, FAAP

10 best ways to help your toddler fall asleep

The following suggestions from the Cleveland Clinic will hopefully (fingers crossed) help your little one fall asleep, stay asleep and establish good sleep habits:

  1. Adopt a nightly routine so your child has a quiet, calm time before bedtime and understands that it will soon be time to go to sleep.
  2. Maintain a consistent sleep schedule. Your child’s bedtime and wake up time should be the same every day, whenever possible, whether it is a school day or not.
  3. Avoid caffeinated drinks or foods. Incidentally, at Westchester Health we don’t believe that children should be consuming much caffeine, in general.
  4. Give your child a bath, read him/her a story, followed by a cuddle and soft music. Avoid active play which will only excite your child and make sleep more difficult.
  5. Give your child some choices at bedtime. Let him/her pick the bedtime story or which pajamas to wear.
  6. Let your child take a favorite object to bed at night: a teddy bear, special blanket or favorite toy. It can help him/her fall asleep, and fall back asleep if he/she awakens during the night.
  7. Avoid watching TV before bedtime. TV is stimulating for your toddler, not relaxing.
  8. Make sure your child is comfortable. If he/she wants a drink of water or the night-light turned on, do these but then tell him/her it’s time to go to sleep.
  9. Make exercise part of your child’s daily routine. Not only does exercise help make your child tired and ready for sleep, it’s a healthy routine that will benefit your child throughout life.
  10. Do not let your child sleep in your bed. Even though some parents like to have their child sleep in bed with them, this makes it harder for him/her to fall asleep when alone. Also, studies show that letting your young child sleep in your bed increases the risk of SIDS.

If your child cries as soon as you leave the room

As physicians and as parents, our advice is to wait several minutes before you go into your toddler’s room if he/she cries or calls for you after you’ve put him/her down for the night. Then each time your child calls, wait longer before responding. Reassure him/her that you are there, even when you’re out of sight, and that it’s time to go to sleep now. Remain firm! Don’t keep going in! You may have to put up with several minutes (hopefully not hours) of crying before your toddler figures out you’re not going to come in and pick him/her up every time they cry.

Articles you might find helpful:

Questions about your toddler’s sleep? Come see us.

If you’re having trouble getting your child to go to sleep, or he/she is having sleep issues, or you simply have questions about any aspect of your child’s growth and development, please call (914) 232-1919 to make an appointment with one of our Westchester Health pediatricians. We will meet with you and your child, see if there is indeed a problem, and together with you, decide on the best strategy so hopefully everyone can rest easy. Our #1 goal is to help you raise a happy, healthy child and for you to feel confident as a parent. Whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.

To read Dr. Adler’s blog in full, click here.