For some reason, there are several times throughout their lives when children forget how to sleep through the night. The first few times happen during infancy. Babies usually start sleeping through the night for longer stretches of time and then BAM around 4 months, they regress. Parents are baffled by this. But, like everything else, it passes and all is restored to normal. Babies wake up a lot at night. Whoever said “sleep like a baby” needs a reality check. So once your child has grown past the baby stage, you think you are in the clear. Well, I am sorry to say it, but some toddlers wake up in the middle of the night too. Don’t freak out! I promise it is a phase. And, if handled correctly, it will be a phase that will end quickly….if not handled correctly, it could cause some bad habits, for you or your child.
The first time Franki got up in the middle of the night I had no idea what was happening. My husband and I had not experienced a child waking up in the middle of the night in over a year…unless they were throwing up…but God help me, that is a whole different blog post. It was about 3:00 am and I heard tiny foot steps coming down the hall. (I used to be the deepest sleeper until I had kids) I jumped out of bed and greeted Franki at my bedroom door. I said nothing to her and simply walked her back to her bed. I figured maybe she had a bad dream or something. Shrugged it off and I climbed back into my bed. Shortly after I had fallen back to sleep, I heard the foot steps again. This time, Brett jumped out of bed. “What are you doing Franki?” he asked her as he guided her back to bed. This happened a few more times throughout the night.
The next morning I spoke with Brett and told him the fatal mistake he made while walking Franki back to bed….he spoke to her! I wish I could say that she only woke up like that one night and then went back to sleeping through the night…but that would be a lie. After the third night, I started Googling various reasons toddlers wake up at night and ruled all of them out…basically, she was just doing it and we had to break her of this before it became a bad habit. How did we do it? Once you can conclude that your child is not ill, you can get to putting them back on their normal sleep routine schedule. Several of my friends have told me that they will bring their toddler back to their bed and finish the night with them. And some say they just put their toddler in bed with them. I will tell you this, if you are alright with your toddler sleeping with you every night until they are about 5 or 6, then go ahead and allow them to get into bed with you. But, if that is not what you want, take note to how to make it stop.
Do not turn any lights on when your child wakes up in the middle of the night. Something woke them up, but they may not be fully awake yet. So NO lights.
My husband broke the cardinal rule, he spoke to her! Once you engage your child, you are awaking them further and making it more difficult for them to go back to sleep. When a child’s sleep pattern is broken, it tells their brain that they should wake up every night at the same time.
Back to Bed
I get it, you are tired…the easy thing to do is to just throw them in bed with you OR for you to go sleep with them. If you think you are tired now, just wait until you are kicked in the back and bladder every night by a toddler sleeping with you. Suck it up now…put them in their own bed!
Talk to your toddler the next morning about why they got up. Explain to them that they need to stay in bed and sleep.
No Sleeping In
Your toddler may be tired the next morning because of the interrupted sleep…do not let them sleep in! If you allow them to “rest up” they are likely to continue the poor sleep routine. Wake them up the normal time and keep them on their normal routine. There may be a few days that you have to deal with a cranky toddler…but again, better then a child sleeping in bed with you for the next 3 years.
Stay consistent. I promise, it will pass. Franki got up every night around 3:00 am for 2 straight weeks. BUT, it ended because we stuck to our routine. Both my husband and I were exhausted every day because of the interrupted sleep. But, the amount of times she would get up each night slowly decreased. It finally ended and the peace was restored to our house.