Not getting enough sleep can lead to a host of other issues with toddlers, such as tantrums, meltdowns, crankiness, and a disagreeable demeanor. Sleep is important to make life easier for the whole family. When it comes to establishing good sleep habits with your toddler, the earlier you start, the better.
Some parents don’t realize that the habits they allow or even encourage can lead to sleep problems. Once these habits have developed, it can be difficult to make changes. But it’s not impossible and is certainly worth the effort. It will be easier for the child and the parents if ground rules and routines around sleep are set sooner to avoid problems later.
Toddler Sleep Associations
A sleep association is anything that a toddler or child connects with going to sleep. It can be an object, like a pacifier, blanket, or stuffed animal. Or it can be an action, such as rocking, nursing, or sleeping next to a parent. Children start establishing sleep associations very early in life. If a toddler is used to falling asleep with a bottle or being rocked to sleep, they will make that association every time it is bedtime.
Some sleep associations are healthy and critical to setting up a bedtime routine so that your child’s mind and body are ready for sleep. Parents might give their toddler a warm bath, brush teeth, read a story together, turn the lights low, sing songs, or do anything that helps indicate that bedtime is approaching.
Other sleep associations can create issues. If a toddler must have a bottle of milk to fall asleep, it may seem fine at first. But later, it becomes unhealthy due to promoting cavities or being a source of extra calories that your toddler does not really need.
Or, sleeping in your child’s room may have seemed like your only option for getting your child to bed, but that probably means you are not getting a good night’s sleep. Consider whether a sleep association is adversely affecting your child’s sleep, your own sleep, or that of another family member or caregiver.