Toddler Sleeping Troubles

Some parents are lucky to have babies that start sleeping through the night at only a few weeks old. I had two completely different sleepers. My oldest was a sound sleeper by the time she was 3 months old, but my son at 15 months was still waking up at night sometimes. If you’re having toddler sleeping troubles I’ll share some of the things we did as well as various methods.

Child sleeping

We have tried numerous ways to help our son sleep better from trying new sleep positions to using various sleep aids. Sometimes we were lucky and he would sleep for a few nights in a row then we were back to square one. Often times it was things that we couldn’t help such as multiple ear infections. Other times it seemed he just wanted to play. What works for one may not work for others so here are different solutions that you can try.

Common Causes for Toddler Sleeping Troubles

Babies younger than 6 months old have more needs than older infants. Toddlers who are over a year old are capable of sleeping through the night. A toddler should be eating enough during the day that they don’t need night time feedings. So let’s explore a few reasons why toddlers may wake up during the night.

Illness or Ailment
cryingSometimes a child may have some type of illness or malady that prevents them from sleeping. Common ailments that often disrupt sleep include:

Many parents can distinguish the difference in their baby’s cries from something’s wrong or just fussiness. If your child seems unusually irritable, has fever, tugs at the ears or any unusual behavior that is not typical it could be an indication that something more is going on. You should consult your physician to determine the problem before giving medication especially with recent concerns addressing acetaminophen use in infants.

Bedtime or Naptime Inconsistencies
Disruptions in your child’s normal bedtime routines or naptimes can contribute to difficulty sleeping in your toddler. A child who skips their nap or goes to bed late may be overtired which can cause irritability and crankiness. Likewise, different sleeping environments can cause problems in sleep patterns for young children.

If you have recently moved a child from your room to their own room or from their crib to a toddler bed, this change can cause anxieties. A toddler who is used to co-sleeping will have a harder time trying to go to sleep on their own or may wake during the night realizing Mom and Dad are not nearby.

Solutions for Bedtime Battles

There are several methods and different techniques recommended by experts to help ease toddlers into bedtime and to sleep better. Some parents may not agree with some of these techniques which is why I’ve listed various tips.

Stay Consistent
The best way to help toddlers sleep better at night is by establishing early sleep habits. Get your toddler off to bed at the same time every night and try to stay consistent with nap times. If possible, arrange events or outings around nap time so you don’t have to disrupt their nap schedule. Sometimes this isn’t always practical.

If you have to do something or take your child somewhere during nap time don’t allow them to skip their nap altogether. If you know you will be doing something at nap time try to have them take a nap earlier in the day or allow a short nap later. When you skip naps it causes them to be overtired which can lead to difficulties getting them to bed.

ferberThe Ferber’s Method
Toddlers should be able to put themselves to sleep. Avoid rocking or TV to bed as this will only set up bad habits for your child as they won’t learn how to self-soothe. The Ferber’s view follows a modified cry-it-out method where you allow your child to cry for intervals of 5 minutes, then the next night for 10 minutes and increasing it each time. I know many moms who do this and swear by it and some who are completely opposed to the idea as it is controversial. This never worked for us and only caused sleep issues for the other members in the house because allowing him to cry wakes up my husband and our daughter.

An alternative approach is in terms of attachment parenting. Attachment parenting follows nurturing to your child’s needs. As long as your child is capable of falling asleep on their own and you put them down while they’re still awake, this is perfectly fine. When your child wakes up try to find what works for putting them back to sleep. Sometimes something as small as a wet or dirty diaper could be the cause of your child’s waking.

Our son always slept better in an inclined position when he was younger. Once he was sleeping in his crib after a year, we found that a pillow helped. Before they are a year old you should not have anything in the crib as this could pose a risk for SIDS; however from 1-2 years it’s ok to give them a pillow or a lovey to cuddle with that helps them to sleep better.

Avoid Night Feedings
Toddlers are old enough to make it through the night without a middle-of-the-night feeding. If your child frequently wakes during the night and you always give them a cup with milk this could lead to problems such as conditioned hunger (where a child gets used to eating at certain times) as well as cavities. Instead offer a cup with water. If they are thirsty they’ll drink or they’ll simply push it away. Either way they get the idea that bedtime is not time for eating.

It’s common for babies and toddlers to wake during the night when they reach certain milestones such as walking. You might also find other helpful tips in our sleeping guides for helping your toddler fall asleep and stay asleep. If all else fails and you are still experiencing toddler sleeping troubles try talking with your pediatrician. She may have a solution or can determine if there might be an underlying condition that’s causing their sleeplessness.


  1. Any ideas for toddlers that stop napping during potty training?

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