Congratulations on your baby’s first birthday! By now you have a toddler on your hands and all the wonder and busyness that this new stage brings. Hopefully things have settled into a nice pattern and your baby is sleeping more consistently, in particular you are all getting more sleep overnight. This new phase brings its own challenges and these are some of the common issues you might run into with your toddler and their sleep.
Nap transition: 2 down to 1
During this phase your child will most likely make the transition from 2 sleeps during the day down to 1. The timing of this is very child specific, with some not making the change till more like 18 months but on average this will be around 14 months.
You will know when your child is making this transition as either the morning or lunchtime nap will get harder and harder to achieve, they will play through the entire sleep or the if they do eventually fall asleep, it will be such a short nap to not make it worth it.
Once you make this transition, you will want the remaining nap to be during the middle of the day so it’s good to try and get there as soon as you can. Try and stretch that sleep to close to midday so that you don’t have an exhausted toddler who is falling asleep all afternoon.
Also, make sure during this time you bring bedtime earlier, sometimes even super early to allow your toddler to catch up on some sleep as his body adjusts to this increase in wake time. As he gets used to having just the one sleep, you can start to gradually move bedtime back to its normal time.
Tired Signs in Older Children
As children get older, their tired signs can become more complex. Now overtiredness can manifest as changes to their behaviour, such as becoming more irritable or overactive. They often struggle to settle down and can start to fight the sleep process. Example of tried signs in 12 month olds can include:
• Yawning or pulling on their ears
• Needing more physical contact
• Whinging or crying
• Clumsier than usual
• Racing around and being overactive
Increased Separation Anxiety
Around this age you may also find that your toddler goes through a phase of wanting you to be in the room with her when she goes to sleep. This is very common and it’s not even that they need you to be holding or touching them but simply that you be physically close by.
A fear of separation is a normal developmental process that toddlers go through and this can be exacerbated during the going to bed process. You can support him by keeping his environment and routine as stable as possible and giving him plenty of positive attention and physical contact as he adjusts.
If you have been working on your toddler learning to sleep independently and that had been going well, it’s important to still maintain these limits when it comes to going to bed. You may need to add some extra soothing steps in your bedtime routine, keep encouraging the use of a comforter or some more visits back in the room to calm him as he settles down, but you should still work on being out of the room when he eventually falls asleep!
Waking At The Crack of Dawn
Another challenge you might be dealing with early morning waking! While your toddler might think it’s time to start the day at 5am, you most likely have other ideas. First off, don’t put your baby down later at bedtime in the hope that this will make them sleep in longer. All this will achieve is a tired cranky baby who is getting even less sleep. If your toddler is still having 2 good daytime naps and is waking early and seems ready to go for the day, they may be getting enough sleep. Toddlers only need a certain amount of sleep across the day and night (around 11 – 12 hours) and so you may have to start limiting one of the naps or making that transition down to just one nap.
Here are my top tips to help with sleep at this age:
• Keep your eye out for if your baby is ready to make the nap transition down to 1 midday sleep
• Your child’s tired signs may have changed as they get older so look for more subtle changes in their behavior telling you they need to go to bed
• It is very common for your child to have an increase in their separation anxiety and for this to manifest in delay tactics for going to bed. Keep up with your same sleep expectations and add in some extra TLC during the day
Kate has a Ph.D. in Sleep Psychophysiology from the University of Melbourne and has worked in the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School. She lives in Melbourne with her husband and their 4 small children and now runs Babysomnia where she takes a mother- and family -centric approach to getting better sleep. If you need any help with your baby’s sleep visit her website (www.babysomnia.com) to book a one-on-one consultation and like her on Facebook