Erica Neser is a UNICEF-trained Breastfeeding
Consultant and Infant Massage Instructor with the International
Association of Infant Massage. She has a BA degree in Psychology,
and is trained as an Aromatherapist, Postnatal Depression
Group Leader and Infant CPR Instructor. She has been featured
in radio talks, contributes to baby and women’s magazines
and often speaks at parenting workshops and to groups of
health professionals. She has been working as a breastfeeding
consultant and teaching baby massage at two busy baby clinics
for ten years. She is the co-author of the IAIM (South Africa)
Baby Massage Parents’ Manual. She lives in Stellenbosch
with her three young children, who have all learnt to sleep
TODDLER SLEEP PROBLEMS
Extract from: Sleep Guide for Babies and Toddlers
by Erica Neser (Protea Books, 2006)
Toddlers can be very stubborn and it should not
be surprising that 20-30% of toddlers (up to 3 years) suffer
from common sleep problems and 20% of two year olds still
wake up and cry most nights.
- Make sure your toddler
gets enough physical exercise and fresh air during
- Avoid using TV or video as a
babysitter, especially in the afternoon and evening.
- Don’t be afraid of setting
boundaries. Be consistent. Try to tell your toddler
what you would like him to do, rather than telling
him what you don’t want him to do.
- Toddlers (and babies) like predictability
- Older children who are sleep deprived often complain
of headaches and tummy aches.
And Off To Bed We Go…
- When toddlers
become over-tired, unlike adults, they can become
hyperactive and bounce off the walls, due to secretion
of adrenaline. Catch him and get him down before that
- Don’t let your toddler decide
when he should go to bed. You decide.
- One of the main causes of toddler
sleep problems is because bedtime is too late.
- Toddlers like to stall the whole
- Be firm, stick to your bedtime
routine, which is of the utmost importance at this
age. Decide how many stories you will read, how many
lullabies you will sing, and don’t be wheedled
into doing more.
- Rub his back when he is in bed.
Tell a story and “illustrate” it on his
back. This is a wonderfully calming bedtime ritual.
- Dr. Marc Weissbluth (Healthy Sleep
Habits, Healthy Child, p. 325) suggests that you let
your toddler repeat after you the following sleep
rules every night: At bedtime we…
1. stay in bed…
2. close our eyes…
3. stay very quiet…
4. and go to sleep!
over-tiredness can lead to neediness.
- If your toddler wants you to
lie with him until he is asleep, make a compromise
– tell him that you would like to lie with him,
but you can’t (think of a good reason), so you
will sit with him and hold his hand. If he makes a
big fuss, leave. You can offer to come back again
on your terms.
- You can “negotiate”
with a toddler who has a fair command of language,
by saying, “Would you like Mummy to sit with
you / sing a song / tell a story? OK, if you lie down
and close your eyes, I’ll do that.” If
he gets up or starts talking again, repeat what you
expect of him. If he doesn’t keep his side of
the bargain, leave for a minute or so, then come back
and repeat what you want him to do.
- If he keeps coming out of the
room, put up a safety gate. It’s less scary
for a toddler than a closed door.
- Alternatively (for a bigger
child) you can tell him the door will stay open as
long as he stays in bed. If he gets up, the door will
be closed. (Leave a night light on and leave his favourite
fluffy toy with him.) Open the door after one minute.
- Popping in and out works well
with toddlers. You can tell him that you have to go
and do something, but will be back in a minute. Tell
him to wait quietly until you come back. You can repeat
this trick a few times. Sometimes toddlers fall asleep
while waiting for you.
Sleep Guide for Babies and Toddlers (Protea Books, 2006)
offers parents a practical, baby-friendly approach to establishing
good sleep habits and solving baby and toddler sleep problems.
would like to order please contact me
Visit us at www.babysleep.co.za
Sleep - Altered sleep routine
Sleep - Appropriate
sleep routines (Jacqui Flint advises)
Sleep - Background
Sleep - Dealing
with Catnapping (Author Erica Neser advises)
Sleep - Darkened
Sleep - Night
Sleep - Reasons for waking
Sleep - Sighing
Sleep - Sleep routines for Baby (Author Erica Neser advises)
Sleep - Surviving Co-sleeping (Author Erica Neser advises)