Creating A Toddler Sleep Schedule

Finn has been a fantastic sleeper since about nine weeks old. It was around that time that I went back to work and getting on a normal schedule certainly helped him start sleeping through the night. As Finn got older, he continued to be a great sleeper. As crazy and unpredictable as he can get throughout the day, I can always depend on an afternoon nap and an 8pm bedtime.

Routine Is Key

I get asked a lot about how we got Finn to stick with this routine, and honestly, I think we just got lucky! Of course we don’t really make nap time or bedtime an option, it’s just something he knows is going to happen.

About an hour before he goes to sleep, we remind him that it’s almost time for a nap or for bed. We continue to remind him by saying things like, “After you eat lunch, we are going to take a nap” or “We’re going to bed after this show.” We get him changed into his jammies around this time and put on a movie for him to unwind to.

Of course there are moments when Finn fights us, but ultimately, he does give in. Now that he’s a bit older, we’ve given him some autonomy. He likes to put the toothpaste on the toothbrush by himself and he likes to climb into bed alone. This gives him the independence he craves and gets him excited about going to bed.

We still give Finn milk before bed. Just a little bit in his sippy cup, solely for comfort. We’ve started not giving it to him unless he asks for it, but he usually does. I know this will have to end at some point, but for now, it works.

David and I both tell him stories or read him books before bed. We don’t make it drag on, usually only about five minutes apiece. Then we kiss him and say our goodnights. If he is fussy or tries to fight it, we give him something to look forward to the next morning. We will say, “Do you want to see your friends at school in the morning? Then you have to sleep so we can wake up and see them!” This usually does the trick.

Timing Is Everything

It’s been difficult to stay regimented at times, but we do our best to have Finn in bed before 8pm every night. This has creeped later into the evening as he gets older, but we will likely keep it there for a while.

This means that our dinner is eaten early, baths are taken before seven, and we get to watch cartoons for a bit before bed. If we are out and about, we make it a priority to be home before his bedtime. We’ve stuck to this rule so strongly, I believe it makes bedtimes easier. Since it rarely fluctuates, he knows it’s coming.

We also do the same thing with naps. For the two years or so, Finn has napped every afternoon. We usually get him down between 12:30 and 1pm, and his naps are typically two hours long. This means our days are broken in half, but we are usually needing a break from parenting around the same time, so it works out well 😉 .

Avoid Bad Habits

I made the mistake ONE time in my almost three years as a mom, and I won’t do it again. Finn woke up early one morning, around 4am. I was pregnant with Reese at the time, and so exhausted I just scooped him up and brought him into our bed. BAD IDEA! He kicked and squirmed and asked to watch movies, and eventually I gave up, made a pot of coffee and decided to start my day.

That night, bedtime was awful. He screamed and fought us the whole way, wanting to “sleep in Mommy and Daddy’s bed.” We finally got him down and I swore he’d never sleep with us again. Yes, it was easier than trying to get him back to sleep in his own bed, but in the end, it created an expectation that we had to break.

Transitions

Over the last two years, Finn has been a rockstar when it comes to change. I know not every kid is like this, but he is totally a go with the flow type of kid.

We transitioned him into a big boy bed the very same night we moved into our new house. We never set up the crib, so he didn’t ever think to ask where it had gone. We set up his bedroom, got him excited and he has slept in that bed every night since.

I’m a firm believer in going cold turkey with kids. We did the same thing when we switched from bottle to sippy cup – he got whole milk in it instead of formula, and he drank it without any fuss.

I realize that this is just our experience with our one child. Already, things are so different with Reese. However, I wanted to put it out there since I get asked about it! Toddlers are crazy little monsters, but getting them on a schedule has been a game changer when it comes to sleep!

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