Toddler Sleep Training

Junior is perfect except for one thing: his inability to soothe himself back to sleep. And his sonic scream when he's hungry. And his tripping over perfectly flat surfaces. Okay, maybe he's not perfect.

Sleep is a panacea -- it heals the body, helps the mind sort the day's events, improves mood, and contributes to weight loss/maintenance! (source: IIRC)

As new parents, sleep is now a mere memory for hubby and me. It's hard to parent, let alone function, without sufficient sleep. Fortunately, we perfected a bedtime routine for Junior that lets him get enough sleep (minimum 10 hours a night) and lets us relax for a couple of hours before our own lights out.

This is a four-step process, and times indicated are approximate:

Step 1: Wind Down (6pm) -- Daddy takes Junior to his room, where there's no bustle (e.g. cleaning up dinner dishes). Junior quietly plays with his toys while Daddy catches up on the news. Then Daddy changes Junior into pajamas.

Step 2: Nursing (6:30pm) -- Junior's pediatrician sternly reminds us that breastfeeding is now very, very supplementary to his diet, so nowadays, this is his second and final session for the day (the first being in the AM).

Step 3: Toothbrushing (6:35pm) -- I brush Junior's teeth with just a dab of toothpaste, and afterwards allow him to suck on the toothbrush for that minty fresh flavor!

Step 4: Story Time (6:40pm) -- Junior's favorite part. He clambers into bed beside Daddy, who has selected a book from our spawn's vast library, which contains no less than three copies of Brown Bear, Brown Bear.

And then he gets put in the crib for lights out:


In the dark times before the Empire, Junior would only sleep in three-hour intervals, which required logistical planning on our part. Who would take first watch? How would we soothe him? Daddy usually got up first, and I would be called in if the crying escalated. It was awful and we were both grumpy in the morning, while Junior played merrily.

But then one day, a bit after Junior turned one, Daddy put his foot down and said, "It's time to let him cry it out." In other words, the little one had to learn to soothe himself back to sleep, without one of us there patting his back or shoving boobs at his face. The ultimate goal was to get everyone a solid night's sleep.

And y'know what? ...It worked! Eventually, anyway. There was a lot of backsliding (by me, admittedly, I can't sleep when he's crying) in the first few weeks, but by 14-15 months of age, Junior was sleeping through the night, mostly. He would wake up, utter a wail, and then settle back down. We learned to distinguish between "I am disoriented but will be back asleep soon!" and "I am upset and will get louder and louder!!!"

Don't get me wrong -- I'm still a zombie because my sleep ledger remains in the red. I'm the grumpiest I've been since my teenage angst years (so long ago...). Hubby seems to be faring better, probably due to sheer grit, and also headphones at night.

We suspect that Junior's teething right now (molars!!!) so he's periodically been waking up fussy. Argh. They do say that sleep routines get messed up every now and then. 

But at least we have our nightly ritual that has him in bed, asleep, at 7 pm...giving us a few hours of breathing room in the evenings.

TL;DR: A bedtime routine for toddler helps with family sleep!

This post brought to you by one of those oddly warm winter days!