How to Break Bad Sleep Habits in Toddlers

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How to Gently Sleep Train a Toddler

Sleep deprivation is exhausting, and every mom knows the feeling. It is so important to the entire families’ health that you learn how to break bad sleep habits in toddlers.

Learn gentle sleep training methods for your toddler that work! You need to learn how to get a toddler to sleep from the professionals!

break bad sleep habits

Bad Sleep Habits in a Toddler are Exhausting

New motherhood is exhausting. I mean, putting the phone in the microwave and feeling as though you’re walking through a dream kind of exhausting.

Some lucky mamas get a break from that early on, with babies who sleep through the night by six months old. And some of us are still feeling it years into motherhood.

What do you do when your toddler is stuck in bad sleep habits?

Sleep deprivation gets to all moms at some point in time. How can it not? We all suffer from children with different exhausting sleep habits.

  • Maybe your child wakes up every night a literal handful of times.
  • Perhaps your toddler can only go to sleep in Mama’s arms.
  • Or maybe you’re guilty of still having to rock your one-year-old to sleep. (Or two year old, or maybe even 3 year old.)

There is no judgment here on your sleep choices, soothing choices, or sleep training choices. Every mom, child, and family is unique. But you are here because what you’re doing just isn’t working anymore!

Sleeping becomes absolutely foreign to many of us moms. If you have found your way here, you are one of those moms.

Want to know my dirty little secret? So am I!

How to Break Bad Sleep Habits in Toddlers Expert Advice

You heard that right, I AM one of those exhausted moms. I have a 3-year-old and an 8-year-old. I struggle with getting them to sleep and to stay asleep virtually every single night.

So why would I put together a post on the best sleep training methods for a toddler and how to break bad sleep habits?

Because I know how many moms suffer from this struggle night after night, year after year! So instead of simply doing research and putting together the tips that I HOPE are good advice:

I went straight to the source.

I called in a professional sleep training expert to interview! Because us moms all deserve the top quality advice! We all deserve a good night’s sleep, FINALLY!

With degrees in psychology and nursing, years of NICU experience, and is the creator of a successful sleep training program that has helped thousands of parents:

I KNEW Jilly Blankenship was the perfect candidate to answer our questions about how to get your toddler to sleep.

Let’s finally learn how to break our toddler’s bad sleep habits, learn self-soothing techniques for toddlers, and more!

The Best Sleep Training Advice for a Toddler, from One Year Old On: Breaking bad sleep habits and learning to self soothe.

Welcome Jilly, the brilliant sleep expert and creator of the unbelievably diverse sleep training program Baby Sleep Made Simple!

(No matter your baby’s personality, your level of aversion to letting your baby cry, or your exhaustion level, this program will have the perfect path to sleep unique to your family!)

Can you tell us about your background and experience with children’s sleep?

I’m a pediatric nurse and lactation consultant who for the last decade has helped parents learn to take care of their new babies. Before I became a mom 4 years ago, I thought I knew quite a lot about babies. But I soon realized I had no idea how much sleep deprivation would wreak havoc on every area of my life.

Getting up throughout the night with my baby drained my energy and I was arguing with my husband a lot.

Luckily, I knew that lack of sleep was the culprit and that if I could get my baby sleeping better, then our whole family’s situation would improve.

The problem was, all of the sleep training methods I could find seemed to be one-size-fits-all. I needed quick results because I was at the end of my rope. But my daughter is sensitive, so cry-it-out wasn’t a good option for her.

I sat down with my husband and we came up with the perfect plan for our baby.

  • we combined specific elements from different approaches
  • we wanted to help her sleep well in a way that worked with her temperament.
  • and created a customized sleep training plan just for her.

Our whole family was sleeping through the night in less than one week.  “You have to help other people do this. You’re a nurse, you know the sleep science. Look how much better off our family is now that we’re sleeping well,” my husband then said to me/ He was right.

And that’s how Baby Sleep Made Simple was born!

I need my toddler sleeping better, but I don’t know where to start.

When teaching toddlers to sleep well, we always begin at bedtime. The way that your child falls asleep at bedtime is the way she will need to fall back asleep each time she wakes in the night.

So the first step is getting your baby comfortable falling asleep on her own at bedtime. My free Exhausted Mom’s Survival Kit walks you through how you can do this.

Remember, it’s never too late to teach your child to sleep well. And if you prefer a gentle method, separate out the essential steps and go slowly.

By taking tiny steps toward:

You can all soon be sleeping through the night just like the thousands of other moms that followed Jilly’s program.

breaking bad sleep habits and teaching babies to self soothe

My toddler can’t self-soothe. Is there any hope of teaching self-soothing techniques to toddlers?

It’s never too late. Your child is never too old to learn to sleep independently. The great thing about toddlers is that we can communicate with them, which eases parent worries that their child may not understand what’s going on.

Plus, there’s no doubt that your toddler isn’t old enough to learn to settle himself to sleep. We just have to guide him to using his innate ability to self-soothe.

How can I wean my toddler off the bad habit of nursing all throughout the night? I’ve been nursing my toddler to sleep for years, how can I break this “bad” sleep habit?

With toddlers, it’s all about communication and setting limits.

Toddlers like to feel in control. Springing things on your 2 year-old at the last-minute is never a good idea because it often leads to resistance and tantrums. Give your toddler time to get used to the idea of upcoming changes in his sleep routine by discussing them first.

For example, during the day when your toddler is happily playing, have a simple and upbeat conversation about nighttime.

Explain to your toddler that you’re always nearby checking on him throughout the night. He’s safe in his bed and mommy is always close by.

But from now on, when he wakes during the night, the “boobies” or “milk” will be asleep. Instead, you’ll give him a cuddle, sit with him for two minutes, then he’ll fall back asleep and have lovely dreams.

Once the sun comes up, he can have all the milk he wants.

Of course, during the night you’ll have to enforce this! You can give plenty of love and comfort to your toddler in the night without feeding him. Soon enough, he’ll understand that nursing is “off the menu” at night. Then you can wean off any other hands-on comfort you’re providing.

Or you can go directly to the solution and pick up Jilly’s baby sleep training program or her toddler sleep training program to get one-on-one effective sleep training help right away.

How can I break the bad habit of lying with my toddler until he falls asleep?

It’s the same concept as with night wakings: communication and setting limits. Let your toddler know in advance any changes to his bedtime routine. You may need to discuss it every day for one week for him to understand that this new change will be a permanent one. Remember to keep the conversation brief and upbeat.

Here’s an example of a gentle way to teach your toddler to fall asleep on his own:

  1. The first step is to stop lying down together. Instead, sit up in your toddler’s bed while he falls asleep. Not much will have changed in his sleep routine (only your position) so this shouldn’t result in lots of resistance.
  2. On night two, sit in a chair next to your toddler’s bed while he falls asleep. The only difference between tonight and last night is that you’re a few inches farther from him. Remember, we’re making gradual changes to minimize his resistance.
  3. Each night move your chair one foot away from his bed. If he fusses or cries, you can give him a quick hug before returning to your chair. You can also sing or talk quietly to help him relax and fall asleep.
  4. Within a few nights, you’ll be sitting in his doorway as he falls asleep. The next step is to pop out of his room for him to fall asleep.
  5. In order for this to work, you have to stay consistent. Don’t give up. I always tell my clients to focus on your long-term goals. Where do you want to be next month? In six months? In two years? A few weeks of work now will set your child up to sleep well for years!

Wrapping Up How to Break Bad Sleep Habits in Toddlers

It’s never too late to teach your child to sleep independently. And as a toddler, your child is easier to communicate with and definitely old enough to be able to self soothe.

So you absolutely CAN do this!

Most often at this age sleep crutches relate to nursing and being held or sometimes even rocked. If you still want a but more guidance beyond this article, pick up your free copy of the Exhausted Moms Survival Guide now!

If you are 100% ready to take every step necessary to fix these bad sleep habits now you might just want to pick up Jilly’s full amazing sleep training program “21 Days to Peace and Quiet.” Or even the Big Kids Guide to Peace and Quiet if your toddler is a bit older.

jilly blankenship of baby sleep made simple teaches breaking bad sleep habits and sleep training a 1 year old You can find more information on Jilly’s sleep programs here.

Plus, Jilly answers baby sleep questions live every Tuesday on Facebook. Follow her here so you can join in!   https://www.facebook.com/babysleepmadesimple/


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    1. Yes Beth you’re right it absolutely is easier with a toddler because you are able to reason with them somewhat. Some personalities are easier than others too. My middle kiddo is the most sensitive person I’ve ever met, thus helping her learn to self soothe as you mentioned, which is exactly what sleep training refers to, was really difficult. My first and third kiddos were much easier, even though they are also sensitive attached children. Every child is different so thanks for the extra resource!

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