Understanding your baby's sleep, 1 - 2 Years

0-2mths | 1-3 mths | 4-7mths | 8-12 mths | 1-2 yrs | New baby and toddler

A simple bedtime routine, one that has already been established and remains the same night after night, is your best bet for combating your toddler's cry of 'I don't want to go to bed!'

Your child is becoming increasingly aware of surroundings, so outside stimuli may begin to be more of a disturbance at night. And your toddler's growing imagination may start to interrupt sleep as well.

How long will my toddler sleep?

You are the best judge of how much sleep your toddler needs. There's a wide range of normal, but generally a toddler between the ages of 1 and 2 requires about 10-13 hours of sleep a day. Whether all these hours are slept at night or split up between nighttime sleeping and 1 or 2 daytime naps is up to you.

Some parents find that their kids need that sleep during the day. Others find that daytime napping interferes with a good night's sleep and that a rest period (quiet playing or reading) works better. If this occurs, you may want to combine two short naps into one or do away with the nap altogether. That's OK. Your child doesn't need to nap every single day.

It may take several weeks of experimenting until you find the combination of sleep and naps that works best for your toddler. Just make sure he is getting enough rest. It can mean the difference between a happy, sunny disposition and a cranky, hard-to-manage child. Try to get in tune with your child's needs and personality.

Where and how should my toddler sleep?

Most likely your 1 to 2 year old will still be sleeping in a safe, secure crib. Remember not to put any extra-large soft toys or stuffed animals in the crib, and look out for items with ties or strings that could wind up around his neck. Also, be on constant lookout for nearby objects he might be able to reach from a standing position in the crib: curtains, window blind, pulls, pictures, or wall hangings are all possibilities.

Your curious toddler may be looking for ways to climb over the crib railing in an effort to 'break out' of the crib. Don't leave a lot of toys to pile up and climb, and if you haven't taken down those bumper pads, do it now so that your child doesn't try to use them as a step.

Another excellent way of keeping them in their cots is to put them in a sleeping bag which makes it harder to move too far!

If you have an active climber who is getting out of the crib and suddenly appearing in the living room, you might want to consider moving him to a bed. It will be difficult at first to keep him in it, but at least you'll know he won't fall down getting out of a bed, whereas he could get hurt climbing out of a crib.

He may begin waking up at night, for several reasons. Sometimes it's discomfort, such as teething pain, or illness. Sometimes it's mild separation anxiety. Dreams and nightmares can begin to affect toddlers, who have a difficult time distinguishing these from reality. If this is true of your child, be especially aware of any videos or books he is exposed to just before bedtime. Keep the content mild and calming.

Look around for an environmental cause for his nighttime awakenings. Toddlers are notorious for not staying covered at night, so in the colder months you might want to dress him in warmer pajamas and place him in a sleeping bag. Is there too much noise coming from an adjoining room? Toddlers will learn to sleep with some noise, but a loud television or too much conversation close by can be disrupting. Check out his room - make it someplace you would sleep soundly and chances are you'll make it more comfortable for him.

Teething

Teething can begin as early as 3 months and continue until a child's third birthday.

Between the ages of 4 and 7 months, you'll notice your baby's first tooth pushing through the gum line. The first teeth to appear usually are the two bottom front teeth. These are usually followed 4 to 8 weeks later by the four front upper teeth. About a month later, the two teeth flanking the bottom front teeth will appear.

Next to break through the gum line are the first molars (the back teeth used for grinding food), then finally the eyeteeth (the pointy teeth in the upper jaw). Most kids have all 20 of their primary teeth by their third birthday. (If your child experiences significant delay, speak to your doctor.)

Easing Teething

As kids begin teething, they might drool more and want to chew on things. For some babies, teething is painless. Others may experience brief periods of irritability, and some may seem cranky for weeks, with crying jags and disrupted sleeping and eating patterns. Teething can be uncomfortable, but if your baby seems very irritable, talk to your doctor.

Although tender and swollen gums could cause your baby's temperature to be a little higher than normal, teething doesn't usually cause high fever or diarrhea. If your baby does develop a fever during the teething phase, it's probably due to something else and you should contact your doctor.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when your baby is teething:

Wipe your baby's face often with a cool cloth to remove the drool and prevent rashes from developing.

Give your baby something to chew on. Make sure it's big enough so that it can't be swallowed and that it can't break into small pieces. A wet washcloth placed in the freezer for 30 minutes makes a handy teething aid — just be sure to wash it after each use. Teething rings are also good, but avoid ones with liquid inside because they may break or leak. If you use a teething ring, be sure to take it out of the freezer before it becomes rock hard — you don't want to bruise those already swollen gums!

Rub your baby's gums with a clean finger.

Never tie a teething ring around a baby's neck — it could get caught on something and strangle the baby.

If your baby seems irritable, you may be advised to consult your doctor first.

How can I help my toddler go to sleep?

By now you've probably found the right combination - like a warm bath and a bedtime story - that helps relax your child. Stay with it now. Don't let it get overly long. That backrub that seems like a treat now may not be so appealing when it's demanded night after night for longer and longer periods. Decide how many drinks of water you'll allow and how many times you'll retrieve the toy that's thrown out of the crib in defiance of bedtime. Get used to setting the rules and sticking to them. This not only helps him get more sleep now, but also helps you later if other, more serious discipline problems arise.

If he wakes in the middle of the night, quietly and quickly provide reassurance that everything is OK and you are close by. Too much interaction can backfire, so keep your night time 'visits' brief and boring for him.

If you are faced with a child who rises early, make sure sunlight doesn't wake him by keeping curtains or blinds closed. Try putting a few safe toys in the crib - they may keep him busy in the morning. And always try to go into his bedroom to greet him with warm hugs and cuddles to start the day at a regular time that you set not your baby.

Good luck and enjoy your little one with a better and happier sleep routine.