There’s a major difference between a baby waking up at night and a toddler waking up at night. Many of those issues, to put it very delicately, are related to mobility and language. When a baby wakes up, an uneventful diaper change or quiet feeding will usually suffice to calm them. A toddler, however, is harder to soothe, more likely to jump on their parents’ bed, and prone to coughing up a litany of illogical demands that, if met, will only keep them up longer. Getting a toddler back to sleep is like negotiating with a subconscious that has taken hostages. And the stakes are high. Vicious cycles are made of this. No one disagrees.
As a sleep specialist at Boston Children’s Hospital Sleep Center, Jennifer Gingrasfield has seen her fair share of parents struggling with nights of waking toddlers. She notes that the key to understanding how to getting a kid to bed in any situation is first knowing why they woke up in the first place. When parents talk about getting kids to go back to sleep, it’s important that they understand that as a long-term, broader effort. Taking a one-off nightly approach won’t work.
“Sometimes in those toddler years there can be a lot of triggers,” Gingrasfield explains, some of those triggers can be linked to developmental changes that cause them to want to test their environment. Others might be purely physical, like night accidents that cause wet pull-ups and discomfort.
When the wake ups are linked to comfort…