Last updated on Jun 21st, 2021 at 10:47 am

If you’ve ever considered giving your toddler an extra spoon of cough syrup or mixing a herbal calming remedy into his yogurt before bedtime to get him to fall asleep effortlessly and sleep through the night, you’re not alone. We’re familiar with these thoughts of desperation. Concealer and miracle eye creams aren’t cheap, and tea bags alone definitely won’t be able to cover those sleep deprived circles under your eyes. So, what’s a girl to do?

According to Ann Richardson, the author of Toddler Sense, parents have to teach their children how to self soothe and put themselves to sleep. Easier said than done, right? Not necessarily. Ann, who’s also a qualified nurse and midwife with more than 23 years’ experience in the midwifery and paediatric fields, explains that toddlers usually struggle to fall asleep, or wake up during the night, because they haven’t learnt to self soothe or to put themselves to sleep. Overstimulation, over-tiredness and too much television can also be blamed for your tot’s sleeplessness. Your little one won’t wake during the night because he’s hungry or needs a snack, as nutrition plays no significant role in night wakings during the toddler years, unless the child is ill.

“Toddlers get caught up in bad habits such as being driven to sleep, pushed in a pram, having a parent lie with them or lying on the couch watching television. These bad habits can then become learned expectations very quickly if parents continuously provide them,” says Ann. It’s up to you to change the way you respond to your child when he’s unable to fall asleep and to reset a new and healthier sleep expectation. Introducing a bed time routine and boundaries, discussed further on in the article, is a great way to eliminate these “bad habits” and get your little one to sleep through.

Afternoon naps, contrary to popular belief, can’t be blamed for children’s reluctance to go to bed. A few hours of sleep in the afternoon, or at the very least, some quiet time, is vital for toddlers because their brains need this opportunity to “re-boot” and calm down after the busyness of being a toddler. Your little one should have an afternoon nap or quiet time up until he’s at least five years old. Late afternoon naps, past 4pm, are however, not recommended, as sleeping this late in the day can potentially lead to bedtime problems. It might be difficult to believe, but the more sleep a toddler gets during the day; the better he’ll sleep at night, as his brain won’t be in constant overdrive.

Subscribe to our Free Daily All4Women Newsletter to enter

By Xanet van Vuuren

Moving from a cot to a big bed