Eating solid foods, learning how to walk, and saying their first words are all memorable milestones for your little one to reach. But, perhaps, the most exciting point in your child's development is the first time they successfully sleep through the night. If you ask any parent, they will tell you with stars in their eyes about the pure bliss that is waking up fully rested. Yet, it's not an achievement gained without bumps in the road. You're definitely not alone if you've wondered, "how do I get my toddler to stay in her bed at night?" You're even less alone if you've had that thought at midnight, staring up at your ceiling, bargaining with the powers that be.
Luckily, you don't have to make any eternal promises to the bedtime gods to get your little one used to sleeping in their own bed. Pediatric sleep specialist Dr. Dennis Rosen told Psychology Today that consistency is key to getting your toddler to stay in their bed at night. Setting, and sticking to, a regular wake-up and bed time will help their internal clocks get used to their schedule, Rosen further explained. But what if getting up early still doesn't help them with sleeping through the night? Thankfully, there's a solution for that, too.
If their sleep cycle isn't the problem, it could be something more emotional that causes your child to continue getting out of bed during the night. Family therapist Jill Spivack suggested to Parenting that separation anxiety is a common reason toddlers don't sleep by themselves. The best approach here, Spivack recommended, is to slowly transition from sleeping together in their room overnight, to just sitting with them until they fall asleep, and eventually adjusting to a regular bedtime routine. It might take a bit, but this method is worth it in the long run.
After trying the above methods, if you're still not seeing improvement, this could be a battle of the wills. As most parents will tell you, the toddler period is right around the time when your child discovers they have opinions about everything. In an interview with Parents, psychology professor Dr. Greg Hanley said, "give her a 'bedtime pass.' Allow her to leave the bedroom, but only once a night, to ask for whatever is needed." Again, the goal is that your child will eventually outgrow these transitional steps, but they definitely have a purpose. The concept of a "bedtime pass" gives your strong-willed toddler a sense of control. Of course, it's helpful to remember that every child is different and if you're concerned about their sleep habits, don't hesitate to reach out to a medical professional for support.