Your toddler’s bedtime – our health visitor answers your questions

Struggling to keep your little one in her bed? Our health visitor has all the answers…

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Q. My 3 year old keeps getting out of bed at night and coming into my room. Help!

A. Start by making sure he settles to sleep on his own in his own bed as this way, when he wakes up in the night, he’ll know how to settle back to sleep without you. When this routine is established, the only way to reinforce better sleep habits is to keep putting him back in his bed each time he gets up.

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Calmly but emphatically put him back, with little chat, and a firm goodnight. It’s going to take energy and commitment on your part so get some extra help for a few days so you can catch up on rest yourself. The more reliable and persistent you are in putting him back, the quicker he’ll learn to sleep through.

Try leaving a T-shirt of yours with him for reassurance and if you want to know when he’s coming put a bell on his door so you’re prepared for having to put him straight back.

Q. My toddler is 3 years old, but still sleeps in his cot. When should I move him into a big bed?

A. There aren’t any set guidelines for this and you really have to be led by what suits your toddler’s development and your family needs. However, if he can climb out of his cot, then from a safety point of view a bed is a better option. Get him excited about it by making an event out of getting a new bed and duvet cover.

To begin with you may want to make the transition slowly by letting your toddler have daytime naps in the big bed before moving him into it at night too. And for the first few weeks, keep the same bedding, pyjamas and soft toys, as the familiar smells and comforts will be reassuring.

Try and avoid doing it at the same time as other big changes, like starting nursery or moving house. If you need his cot for a new sibling, make the transition a few months before the baby arrives so he doesn’t feel pushed out.

Q: Following a recent holiday my 3 year old wakes in the night and gets in our bed. Help!

A: Your best bet is to return to what worked so well before your little one’s sleep routine changed. Tell him that now you’re back home, everything’s going back to normal, which includes him sleeping in his own bed again.

Work out a reward chart with him, focusing on him staying in his room and, if necessary; pop a stairgate on his door. This’ll give you some advantage for getting him back into bed when he wakes.

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Alternatively, pop a string of bells on his door so you can hear him and get to him before he’s in your room. Get your message across by being consistent in putting him back to bed. It’ll be hard work at first, so pick a time when you can rest in the day and don’t have too many other demands on you.

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