Tackling Toddler Sleep Problems (cont.)
Sound sleep solution: "The goal is to make bedtime a positive experience," says Rafael Pelayo, MD, an associate professor of sleep medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine and a sleep specialist at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, both in Palo Alto, Calif.
In two-parent households, bedtime can become tumultuous. "Either one parent says, 'I put her to bed last night and now it's your turn,' or one parent is better than the other at putting the kid to sleep and resentment comes in to play," he says. "This is more related to family dynamics than the child, but kids pick up on their parents' stress and anxiety around bedtime and that gets them stressed out and prolongs bedtime."
Try this instead: "Both parents should go into the room, dim the lights, and chat amongst themselves for about 20 minutes or so because there is nothing more boring, yet more reassuring and safe, than having both parents there," he says. "Instead of saying, 'Let's get this kid to sleep,' just hang out, talk, relax, and think about how lucky you are to have such a great kid," he says.
Nocturnal nuisance: Your 2-and-a-half-year old sleeps in bed with you and your partner.
Sound sleep solution: Some parents may enjoy sleeping with their children, but this can be a toddler sleep problem in other families. Whether you call it co-sleeping or bed-sharing, this is primarily a cultural or economic issue, says Pelayo, author of the forthcoming Sleeping Makes Me Tired. "You can only put baby in a crib if you can afford a crib, and your baby can only have their own room if you can afford it," he says. "It is really a cultural thing to have kids sleep in separate rooms or beds."
But if both parents agree that bed-sharing is a troublesome toddler sleep issue, "try telling them that mom and dad are happier when they sleep alone because children innately want to please their parents," he says. "Or say, 'There is no such thing as a three-person bed, just two-people beds.'" Children may be scared to be alone, so you need to let them know that they are safe and secure wherever they sleep.
Breaking this habit can be hard, Zafarlotfi agrees. It usually starts innocently enough. "A child may have had an earache and slept in their parents' bed and gotten used to it," she says. "If they are accustomed to your bedroom, you need to reverse it and spend more time in their bedroom," she suggests. Here's how: "Stay in their room on a recliner, dim the lights and act as if you too are dozing off or relaxing at bedtime or naptime so they know that you are present," she says.
Be positive. "Say, 'Mommy needs her time, but she will come to your room for a while.'" While you are there, "play soothing music and have fun in their room so they know that their bedroom is not for punishment or abandonment," she says. "When they fall asleep you can say good-bye or sneak out."