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Tackling Toddler Sleep Problems

Troubleshoot your tot’s nighttime woes so you can all get the rest you need in your own beds.
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Crying at bedtime to the point of being sick continued...

Ferberizing is really all about changing your toddlers' sleep associations, which should solve this toddler sleep issue. "If a mom rocks her toddler to sleep, this is that child's sleep association. If the goal is to get the toddler to go sleep by herself, you need to shift the association to one that she can do herself -- the Ferber method is one way to do that," Cradock says.

If letting your child cry until she vomits seems too barbaric, go into the room after your child cries for a set amount of time, rub her back, and say, "Mommy is going to sleep, too," and then walk away, Zafarlotfi says. You may have to do this a few times a night before your toddler is comfortable. If this cry-it-out method is not something that you or your partner (or toddler) can stomach, discuss alternative methods with your pediatrician.

The bedtime routines that never end

Sleep specialist Rafael Pelayo, MD, an associate professor of sleep medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine, says, "The goal is to make bedtime a positive experience." 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." 

Pelayo recommends the following solution.  "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."

Preferring your bed over his or her own

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, Pelayo says. "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.'"

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