Is it normal for toddlers to still wake mom up for some comfort in the middle of the night? A quick search of the Circle of Moms communities turns up many frustrated mothers sharing the difficult truth: their toddlers still wake up (and wake their moms up) in the middle of the night. If you're facing this situation too, here are some tips that may help.
1. Tire Them Out
Sometimes sound sleep is most easily achieved when toddlers are really tuckered out. As member Hanna P. suggests, encourage physical activity in the hours leading up to bedtime: "See if you can tire [your child] out more before he goes to bed."
Other moms also tire out their toddlers by pushing bedtime later. Gina C. finds that 9 p.m. is the magic number for her son: "I think the later they go to bed the better they sleep. We also play with our little lad a lot before he goes to bed."
Keep in mind, however, that being overtired can actually make things worse during the night. As a mom named Liz cautions, skipping the daytime nap is not the answer.
2. Keep a Strict Bedtime Routine
Several Circle of Moms members relay that a very consistent bedtime routine is key to getting their toddlers to sleep through the night. Amanda C., mom to 2-year-old twin girls, starts with a bath at 7:30 p.m., followed by milk, reading books, and finally teethbrushing and bed. Whatever routine you settle on, she advises parents to stick with it every night, as "it makes it easier."
3. Respond to Wakings Consistently
In addition to a predictable bedtime routine, Circle of Moms member Louise G. recommends a consistent response to night-time wakings: "Be quite firm and say it is sleep time now and leave . . . Stay consistent and your child will soon learn that waking in the night is not fruitful and will eventually stop and you will at long last get some well earned sleep."
In a similar vein, Jenna D. recommends a modified version of the Ferber Method for toddlers that she saw on a TV show: "Basically you put your child in their own bed, tell them it's bed time, turn the lights off and leave. Every time the child gets up and out of bed, you take them back to their room and put them in bed." She goes on to say it's best "not to talk to them or look directly at them" as this interferes with the self-soothing the child needs to learn during the process.
4. Skip Drink and Food Breaks
By the time children reach the toddler years, food and drinks are no longer necessary to sustain them through the night if they are eating and drinking well during the day. They may expect a night time drink or snack though out of habit.
As Raynae M. found, giving her 2-year-old daughter milk or even water in the middle of the night set a bad precedent, as she would wake up "like clockwork for a drink." It took her about a week to break the habit: "Finally, I decided that I wasn't doing it anymore, so I just denied her the drink, told her to go to bed. She still got up asking for the first week probably, but I would send her back to bed and after that week she has quit waking up . . . She couldn't understand at first why she couldn't have a drink and was very upset, but in time she has just forgotten."
Similarly, Cassidy V. laid down the law with her 2 year old and switched to water when a drink was absolutely necessary: "I told him that at bedtime and nap time he gets water because the milk is bad for his teeth when he is lying down. There are times he will still ask for it but we remind him that he wants to have good teeth so he gets water when he goes to bed."
Finally, while this is probably not the magic "answer" you really want to hear, it's important to note that many moms say it's totally normal for kids under 3 years of age to wake in the night for comfort. And many, including Heather I., also offer reassurances: they do eventually grow out of it.