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Empowering Sleep Independence in Toddlers: Building Confidence and Autonomy

Toddler sleep

You won't believe how many families come to me ready to start sleep training, only to realize that they don't need it; they just need to give their toddlers some independence.

A typical night with a toddler might go like this: You (finally) put your baby down, he's calm and quiet, knows how to sleep on his own, but as soon as you leave the room, you hear, 'Mooooooom, I need water,' or '...I need to go potty, or fix my blanket.'

So you find yourself coming back several times at night, not just at bedtime but also in the middle of the night. After all, how can you leave your little one thirsty all night?

And there's nothing wrong with that. Sometimes, we just need someone to remind us that our babies are more capable than we think. At least, that's what it took for me. My sleep coach told me that my daughter, who was almost 4, could fix her blanket.

The Journey to Sleep Independence:

Teaching toddlers to sleep independently involves more than just putting them to bed. It's about equipping them with the skills to manage their basic needs during the night. Here are three things you can teach your toddler to do on their own to avoid middle-of-the-night awakenings:

"Mom! I need water."

Place a water bottle or sippy cup next to your toddler's bed and show him how he can get water if he gets thirsty. You can practice this during the day as a fun game! In the beginning, you might need to remind him that he can do it independently. Avoid filling the bottle completely to prevent frequent trips to the bathroom; instead, tell your toddler, "This is your water for the night."

"Mom, I'm cold. Can you fix my blanket?"

Teaching toddlers to adjust their blankets can be rewarding. Most toddlers can do this around age 3, but each child is different. Invest time in teaching them how to do it, and practice during the day in an engaging way. You can use a bedtime rules chart to encourage this behavior. When your toddler successfully adjusts the blanket, praise their effort!

"Dad, I need to go potty."

Managing bathroom trips can be challenging during potty training. Help your toddler practice going to the bathroom by themselves during the day. If they're old enough, encourage them to do it independently at night. Consider using nightlights outside their room and in the bathroom to provide enough light for them to navigate safely. It may take a few weeks, but they will eventually learn.

These are just a few examples of tasks your toddler can learn to do independently. It's not just about self-soothing but also about giving them the right tools for self-sufficiency.



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