As a postpartum doula and infant care specialist, I'm trained to provide sleep support to newborns - And yet, I couldn't get my toddler to sleep. Not only was this exceptionally hard to accept as a professional, but even harder to accept as a mother. It leaves you feeling helpless and Inadequate and really, really tired.
If you've been following along, you'll know that our 2 year old daughter Charlie-May hasn't slept for through the night in just over 6 weeks. It all started when we moved into a new home, got pregnant, decided to potty train, oh - and transition her into a "big girl bed." Seems overwhelming right? Well it was, especially for her. Here's how we got her back to sleeping for 12 hours overnight with no-wake ups and no crying.
Bottom line, we tried to accomplish too many things at the same time. We took Charlie out of every routine we had in place for her which equalled stress and anxiety for both of us. After weeks of night wakings, we decided to put her bed rail back on her crib and joyfully listened to her boast about how "daddy fix bed" to everyone she saw. She just wasn't ready. And that's ok! We are still working on potty training at her own pace. She asks to wear her "big girl undies" when we are playing at home and attempts to use the potty throughout the day (often successfully!). But as parents, we've decided not to put too much pressure on a two year old wearing a diaper. It really came down to this:
"we stopped giving into the pressures put in place by every grandparent and mom group out there and started listening to the needs of our child."
2. Ditch the nap:
I realized that I was fighting Charlie to go for her nap. And although she would eventually sleep (sometimes for 2 hours!) it took forever to get her to settle and she always woke up miserable. We decided to keep her awake instead and our lives changed forever. Yes, she was a bit sleepy in the mid afternoon, but a good painting session or play date kept her occupied long enough to make it to bed time.
3. Early Bed Time:
Speaking of bed time - a toddler that doesn't nap during the day, often means a toddler that is ready for bed earlier than usual. Over the past 6 weeks, Charlie's bed time has been pushed later and later to sometimes 9:30 at night in hopes that she would be so tired she would fall asleep and stay asleep until morning. That wasn't the case. Since we ditched her afternoon nap, she was ready for bed at 7:30PM without a peep.
4. Night Light:
The great thing about having a toddler, is they can sometimes tell you if something is making them uncomfortable. Whenever we would try to put Charlie down for a nap, she would point at her ceiling and ask for "more light." We purchased a small night light that plugs in beside her bed and turned on her projector that plays a a soft picture on her ceiling. The extra light instantly soothed her she stopped waking up screaming bloody murder.
5. Get Back to The Bedtime Routine:
My partner and I were exhausted. Like emotionally and physically exhausted. We were so tired that even the thought of trying to put Charlie to bed made us weep a little. Her bedtime routine started to slip, subconsciously taking out pieces of it each night. When we started to implement the bath, the book, the song - we noticed she would display her sleepy cues again just like she did as a baby.
6. Get Them to Love Their Bedroom:
When we moved, Charlie got a big, beautiful bedroom - but one that was unfamiliar. For an entire week before bed, my husband and I would spend 45 mins in her room before her bedtime routine just playing and having fun with her. We brought the toys she loved the most and gave her our undivided attention to help her love her new space.
On the day we ditched Charlie's nap- she went from waking 6 times per night, to one. On day 2 she was putting herself back to sleep and on day 3 she slept 13 hours overnight BY HERSELF. Don't forget that each child is unique, and although I hope all of these tips and tricks can be helpful for your own toddler, they may need to be tweaked and adjusted to fit their own needs. Please don't suffer. Reach out for help. There are professional night doula's, family and friends that are here to support you. You can't pour from an empty cup - trust me.
The Doula Tree
Pregnancy, Labour & Postpartum Support