By: Nicole Pelletiere
Ah, the pitter patter of toddler footsteps at 3 am. The sound is just as familiar as to where those footsteps are going to lead–your bedroom! If you are feeling like your bed is not big enough for the three of you, rest assured that you are not alone.
While it may seem perfectly harmless to allow your little one to slip under the covers with you and your husband, it could forecast even more sleepless nights than you can imagine.
“Of course every child wants to be with their parent, but it teaches the child not to lean upon themselves” says Summer Hartman, Certified Child Sleep Specialist and owner of Sleeping Sweet Peas.
Luckily, Summer has shared some helpful tips with New Parent on how we can re-establish healthy, independent sleep habits with our toddlers.
- Start early– As Summer suggests, parents should begin a healthy nighttime routine beginning at 12 months old. Setting the tone early on is crucial to teaching your child to sleep in his or her own bed. Explain to them that they are a ‘big girl’ or ‘big boy’ and how important and special it is that they have their very own bed to sleep in. There is a fair chance that they will get out of bed anyway and if they do, it is important to put them back where they belong in order to reinforce what you expect of them when the lights go out.
- Use alternatives so they still feel safe and secure– It is normal for children to wander into their parents’ room at night in search of security. A great alternative is to allow them to sleep on the floor with a blanket, while holding their hand. As Summer explains, this a great way to get them in their own bed since the floor is not all that comfortable. It also sends the message that they can always come to their parents and not be turned away or feel discouraged.
- Healthy eating – Feeding your child healthy foods before bed determines how well they will sleep at night. It’s best to serve organic foods like fruits and veggies and to get rid of processed sugars. Summer suggests that parents should stop serving salty or sugary snacks by 3 or 4 o’clock. Eating healthy before bed means less tummy discomforts, resulting in less late-night interruptions and a better night’s sleep for the entire family.
- Bedtime Routine – Every night do the same thing. About 45 minutes before bed should be a time to relax; give them a warm bath, allow them to pick out a few stories, sing lullabies together, or listen to soothing music while laying down. This is a great way to prepare your child to get ready for bed, while sharing some special time together beforehand.
- Be CONSISTENT – Consistency shows who is in control of the situation. Once control is lost, your child may feel that is it okay to visit and revisit Mommy and Daddy’s room on a constant basis. We aren’t saying that it will be easy, but the end results will be worth it. Not only will you get back your beauty sleep, but your child will understand and respect the nighttime rules that you have set for them. Best of all, they will develop into self-soothing, independent little individuals. What parent could ask for more?