All kids need sleep. While babies tend to sleep anywhere and everywhere (if you’re one of the lucky ones!), by toddlerhood, parents are often left pulling their hair out. As parents, we all know that getting enough zzzs is important for their physical and mental health, but with a toddler, who’s just learning about the world, bedtime and nap times can often be a challenge.
Toddlerhood often brings about common sleep problems like bedtime resistance and nighttime fears, and a lot of this is down to changes in their sleeping arrangements. At this age, they’re just starting to develop their independence and might even be in their own room. Our focus on safe sleeping practices, while they were babies, should continue into the toddler years. Not only that, but a secure sleeping environment can also help to make the bedtime routine run more smoothly. In this article, we’ll discuss all the important sleep safety tips for toddlers to help them get those important hours in.
Why Sleep Safety Matters for Your Toddlers
As parents, it’s important to make sure our toddlers are getting enough sleep. Between the ages of 12 and 24 months, a toddler needs between 11 and 14 hours of sleep a day, including naps. It’s normal at this age for toddlers to struggle with going to bed or staying asleep. As they’re learning more each day, night awakenings, night terrors, and other sleep difficulties become more common. Add in separation anxiety, which is common in toddlerhood too, and you’ve got a perfect recipe for nightmare bedtime!
Creating a safe sleeping environment is essential in helping your toddler feel secure in their sleep space. As toddlers are often very active sleepers, ensuring they have a safe sleeping arrangement also provides much-needed peace of mind for parents too.
Although the risks of accidental suffocation and SIDS decrease massively from twelve months, safe sleep is still something that parents need to be aware of.
Toddlers need between 11-14 hours of sleep everyday
Where Should My Toddler Sleep?
By 12 months, most parents have transitioned their toddler into a big crib and by this age, many toddlers are already in their own bedroom. If you’ve already done this and things are going well, you don’t need to change anything.
With this being the age where common sleep problems often start, many parents find themselves co-sleeping with their little ones. Co-sleeping is a bonding experience that helps children feel safer in their sleeping environment.
There’s no reason why your toddler has to have their own room just because they’ve reached a certain age. In many cultures, room sharing (where the whole family sleeps together) is very common.
Note:many people talk of co-sleeping as bed-sharing, but it can also mean just being in the same room as your child.
The pros of co-sleeping
- It is a bonding experience.
- It makes dealing with night awakenings easier.
- Breastfeeding is easier.
- Toddlers fall asleep more quickly and stay asleep longer.
- Helps build confidence and instill independence in kids.
The cons of co-sleeping
- There is an increased risk of suffocation.
- A child could roll off the bed.
- This can create intimacy problems with the parents.
12 months is a good time to transition babies into a big crib or their bed
Should you keep the crib or choose a regular kid’s bed?
Another consideration for toddlerhood is when to transition from a crib to a bed. Many people like to keep their toddlers in a crib for as long as possible, as it’s much easier to control the physical space that the child has access to.
If you feel your child is ready for a bed, it’s important to choose one that’s right for your child. Some children feel comfortable in a toddler bed, while others go happily into a regular big bed. Transitioning to a bed can be difficult as children learn of their newfound freedom. This can be avoided by keeping the same bedtime routine and having a bedtime story before you settle down into the night. If your child seems anxious about going into a big bed, you can use this time to redo their bedroom theme into something more grown-up.
Mattress, Beddings, and Linen for Your Toddlers
During the first few years of your child’s life, you all go through so many changes, and sleep is one of the biggest. In the early days, it’s all swaddles and sleep sacks, and before you know it, you’re considering blankets and pillows!
Though toddler blankets can be used from 12 months, if your child is happy and still fits into their sleep sack, you don’t need to change anything. If you do decide to introduce blankets, here are some things to consider:
- Don’t be surprised if they don’t stay in place! Toddlers are very active sleepers and change their sleeping position frequently.
- To avoid a toddler getting cold, put them in thick pajamas.
- Use a light, breathable blanket.
Eventually, they’ll learn how to keep blankets on!
You can start introducing blankets when your child turns 1 y/o
Important information about pillows and crib bumpers
If you decide to introduce a pillow, this can also be done from the age of 12 months. However, it’s important that you choose a firm pillow and not one that’s designed for an adult. The crib mattress or bed mattress should also be firm.
Remember, just because you’re introducing blankets and pillows, doesn’t mean you should be using bumper pads. This is talked about as crib safety for babies, but many people forget that these are dangerous at any age. Crib bumper pads have been linked to accidental suffocation and strangulation, this is why experts don't recommend using this.
Consider These Safety Tips When Using Stuffed Animals, Crib Sheets, and Blankets
If you’re going to allow stuffed animals into your child’s sleeping area, make sure this is something suitable for their age. A big stuffed animal simply won’t be safe.
When it comes to crib sheets and toddler blankets, bamboo fabric is ideal. Not only is this environmentally friendly, but it’s also ideal for any weather, making it a safe choice. What’s more because it’s soft (and gets softer with every wash), it’s the best choice for toddlers’ sensitive skin.
Use age appropriate stuffed animals and linens that certified safe for children
Simple Tips for Bedtime Routine
Having a bedtime routine promotes healthy sleep, and bedtime rituals are important in signaling to your child that it’s rest time. When things change (e.g., their bed, their bedroom, or you go away), keeping to their routine provides comfort in familiarity.
When babies become toddlers, they’re more likely to resist their established routine and fight against it. It could be a separation anxiety issue or just FOMO! However, there are things you can do to help keep your bedtime routine established:
- Offer a choice of pajamas. As toddlers are indecisive, offer two choices to make the process quicker. Having an element of choice makes the child feel in control.
- Let them choose their bedtime story. Again, offering a choice to your little one means they feel more in control of their bedtime.
- Stay with them. They’re only little for such a short time and even though there are plenty more things you could be getting on with, staying with your child until they fall asleep is something that will make things easier – and there will come a time when they no longer need this or want it.
Establish bedtime routines to help your toddler learn the signal for rest
Sleeping Safely is Always a Priority
As with all things parenting-related, what works for one family won’t necessarily work for another – it might not even work for siblings in the same family! The most important thing that all parents need to consider, though, is making sure their children are getting good sleep and that this is achieved safely. Parents can learn a lot from one another, what’s your one trusted sleep tip that really helped you to settle your toddler? Share it by leaving a comment below.