Brentnol and I made a pact to change things when it came to the twins’ sleep routine. With Eli and Anayah, we would read them a story, say the evening prayer, and then lie down with them, and we would end up sleeping before them most nights. With the twins, we wanted structure; we tried to make bedtime more manageable, so after about 14 months of having their cradles in our room, we moved them into their bedroom.

Is Sleep Training A Thing?

I did not know that sleep training was a thing – sometimes I wonder if I am a mom – anyway, we decided that at night when they cry for us, we would not check on them every time. With the twins, the night feeds were the worst. I am not sure if I hated night feeds or potty training more. Anyway, they did not wake up at the same time, they would wake up like 15 minutes apart, so when I am putting one down and hoping to get a 5-minute cat nap before the other one woke up, nope, the other would wake up. Having them both wake at the same time was not much fun either because feeding them simultaneously was difficult for me; two tiny humans tugging away at me was very uncomfortable.

Success – Our Girls Slept Through The Night

After about two weeks of not checking on them every time they woke, they slept throughout the night. Our routine at night was a story, prayers, a lullaby, lights out, and pull in the door.  This honeymoon phase lasted about six months, and then Zarah started having night terrors, which lasted about one week. We addressed this by checking on her the first night and then reducing our visits over the week until she was back to normal.

The Thing About Making Changes

Then they started climbing out of their cradles, oh fun. So, we were forced to convert their cradles into beds. Luckily, this did not upset their sleep routine; thank God the transition was smooth. Then came the change of moving them into their older sister’s room. That move did not go well at all. Up to an hour after bedtime, they would find all the excuses to come out of bed. The excuses range from you forgot to kiss me goodnight to I cannot find my dolly.

Paediatric Sleep Consultant To The Rescue

I thought about it for a second, and then I remembered Holly (@tinysleepersbigdreamers). I met her when I facilitated Mommy Connections (@mommyconnectionsdurham). Holly is a Paediatric Sleep Consultant, and she is fantastic. She had an upcoming webinar for sleep training for older children, so I decided to see what tips I could pick up and introduce to our nighttime routine. It was comforting to know there was help. Holly never disappoints.

She offered a wealth of information; I will try to summarize as best as I can here. A few of the tips we were already using but some of them we overlooked.

Sleep Training: A Few Tips For Toddlers - sleep training 101
Sleep Training: A Few Tips For Toddlers
Minimize Changes

The thing about sleep training is that so many things can happen at different times that can adversely affect sleep. One of the tips that Holly mentioned on the call is changes. We made a huge change when we moved the twins into their sister’s room, which upset their sleep pattern. The time when we had converted their cradles to beds, we should have moved them into their sister’s room at the same time. When you are making changes, try to keep them at a minimum. We went from our routine that worked so well to having them pacing the halls at night and coming into our room as well.

Reduce Afternoon Nap Times

Another tip is to reduce afternoon naps if your children are not sleeping through the night. This is one that we had noticed. When the girls have an afternoon nap for more than an hour, we will have the licks of Lisbon to get them to sleep that night. Scheduled afternoon naps are no longer a thing in our home, they stopped napping way before their second birthday. But if they have a full morning of running and playing, they crash around 2 pm. Now the toss-up is should I let them nap longer than 1 hour and enjoy some uninterrupted time to get some work done or wake them up within an hour so that bedtime goes smoothly. Option 2 for sure.

Get A Night Light

Our girls like to watch creepy cartoons with spiders and bats, go figure but these spiders and bats started making way into their dreams. So, enter the nightlight. The tips where nightlights are concerned have to do with the colour of the light you choose; Red-based night lights promote sleep, blue and white will wake them up. This was news to me. So, our next step is to acquire a red-based night light.

Sleep Training: A Few Tips For Toddlers - red based night lights
Put Them Back To Bed 

Most nights, when the girls make their way into our room, we lift them and talk to them, but that is a bad idea. Talking to them wakes them up, so the less you say to them, the better it is. So now we just put them to use the bathroom and back to bed. Holly advised that putting back to bed is best and unless they really must urinate, skip the bathroom break. If you are worried about them needing to pee, reduce liquids before bed. What I have noticed is that most mornings when I put them to pee, they hardly pee because we have eliminated liquids before bed. So now I just put them right back to bed.

Ensure Room Is Cool

The temperature of a room contributes significantly to a child’s sleeping. If the room is hot or humid, the child will be hot and bothered, but the child will sleep longer if the room is cool and comfortable. We have central air in our home, and the heat usually is at 22 degrees, but we would add fans to the kids’ room to make their rooms a little cooler. Twenty-two degrees may be a bit warm, but hey, I am from the Caribbean, I need my heat.

Sleep Training: A Few Tips For Toddlers - a cool room
Stop Electronics 1 Hour Before Bed

Bedtime routines are always great. They worked well when they were babies; we must continue the same now that they are toddlers. Holly advised that electronics should be stopped at a minimum of 1 hour before bedtime, and we find that doing this helps the girls to wind down better. They are not overstimulated. 

Give Your Toddler Options

Another great tip is getting them involved with planning stuff and making choices like what pajamas they want to wear to bed, what toothbrush they want to use. I find that even allowing them to brush their teeth helps our bedtime cause.  During the day, have them help in the kitchen, have them select their snacks or veggies. The logic here is if children are given an option during the day or even night, bedtime would be easier. So, I decided to test it out, and it works.

Sleep Training: A Few Tips For Toddlers - give your children choices during the day
Give Your Toddler Your Undivided Attention

During bedtime, give your child your undivided attention and engage them in conversation. That strategy, Holly describes as “love bucket filling.” Find out things that happened during the day, what made them happy, what made them sad, help them to open up. Always have an exit strategy, my girls will hold you down with conversation because they know it will extend their time before lights out, but consistency is essential during bedtime. Please make sure they are comfortable, make sure you set clear expectations and boundaries, and above all, stay calm.

Sleep Training: A Few Tips For Toddlers - bedtime stories
Bedtime Tools

Great tools for bedtime include sleep sound machines, dark curtains, giving them rewards. A sleep sound machine can play a soft sound in the background that can promote sleep. We used YouTube to get white noise sounds. Dark curtains are important for keeping out extra light. This is very useful in North America during the summer when the sun comes up earlier and sets later. Kids start to protest when they must go to bed at 8 pm and the sun is still out. Make a pact with your children, if you stay in bed until morning, such and such will be the reward. Ensure they understand the reward system that you decide on. When your child wakes up in their own bed, ensure you celebrate that victory with them.

Sleep Training: A Few Tips For Toddlers- Reward chart
The Key Is To Stay Calm And In Control

At the end of the night, when you are about to have a golden hour for yourself before you crash, you want nothing to touch your time, a toddler that refuses to let sleep take them into that comfort of rest can be a tad annoying. Just remember, the key is that stay in control by remaining calm and firm. Holly has advised me that although it is called sleep training, sleep is a biological thing, the entire exercise is to establish boundaries with parents.

Sleep Training: A Few Tips For Toddlers - stay calm
Sleep Training: A Few Tips For Toddlers

So just to recap, the sleep training process can be divided into 6 groups, Holly calls them the 6Cs – they are:

  1. Clarity – set boundaries and expectations. Stay calm. Children will pick up on your discomfort.
  2. Consistency – is important in maintaining the bedtime routine
  3. Comfort – make sure they are comfortable
  4. Control
  5. and choice – get them involved in planning stuff and picking their own meals or own veggies. If they are given choices during the day, bedtime will be easier
  6. Celebrate – when they sleep through the night and wake up in their own beds the next day, celebrate with them.
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4 Replies to “Sleep Training: A Few Tips For Toddlers”

    1. Lolol, that’s great. I know the thought of going through this again is a huge no for you!

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