Your toddler still needs almost as much sleep as they did when they were younger, usually around 11 hours at night until the age of two years.

Until around 15 months your toddler probably has had two naps a day (around 1 -1.5 hours each), but by 18 months they may have just one sleep in the afternoon. This afternoon nap might last until they are around four or five years. If not, it is good practice to have them lie quietly with a book or a safe toy.

If you’re still being woken at night or you have difficulty settling your toddler to sleep, you’re certainly not alone. Many parents have problems with their child’s sleep that last well beyond the first year.

Strategies to improve the situation are those that you might have used when your child was younger and they’ll still work now:

  • make sure they follow a bedtime routine.  Toddlers enjoy knowing what’s going to happen and like to keep the same order it makes them feel secure.
  • try a warm bath (not too hot). Sitting in warm water is a soothing experience and getting your toddler warm and clean and dry is a great way to ease them into bedtime. A bath is also a wonderful way for your partner to spend some special time with your child.
  • into bed for a story with a cuddle. For a toddler, choosing a bedtime story is another chance to assert some control over the nightly routine.
  • stick to the same bedtime and naptimes each day. If your child knows when sleepy-time is they are more likely to fall asleep on cue.
  • let your child fall asleep on their own. If you lie down with them each night or sing them to sleep, they will need you to do the same when they wake in the night and will call for you to do so.

There may be renewed anxiety about keeping you within sight. Your child may already have a soft toy or a bit of blanket. Now it acts as a true comforter to help with the separation anxiety. Make sure it is tucked up with them.

Many children overcome bedtime fears with a nightlight left on in the bedroom, the door left ajar, or a radio playing softly.

If your toddler has become used to you settling them to sleep, teaching them to fall asleep on their own may not be easy. Many parents try a structured approach – when you leave the room and they start to protest, you wait five minutes before going back in, then ten minutes, and so on. The aim is to reassure them that you are still there but that sleeping is something they can do all by themselves. Toddlers have more staying power than babies so it may take a few nights. Get support from other parents or a sympathetic relative if you do this. Unhappy evenings can be a strain. But it will work and the whole family will sleep much better for it.

As your toddler gets a little older they may decide to try delaying tactics. Two favourites are “I want a drink of water” and “I want to do a wee”. Be patient, firm and consistent. Put them back to bed and make sure they understand it is sleep time!

Never tie a child to the bed or lock the bedroom door.

From Cot to Bed

Many parents move their child into a bed between the ages of two and three years, usually because the cot gets too small. It is also a good idea to move a toddler into a new bed a couple of months before a younger brother or sister is due, so the new baby isn’t seen to be taking over “their” cot. Once in a bed, you may find that they’ll get out of it – just because they can. If they disturb you take them back to bed calmly but firmly, again and again, until they understand that beds are for staying in. If you lose your temper you’ll be giving them attention and possible entertainment, so stay calm.