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Welcome to Dear Emily: Ask A Nanny
Emily is one of our Simply Real Moms who just happens to be a full-time nanny of eight years and counting. She has seen it all—the good, the bad and the downright ugly, and each post she’ll answer a question from a reader on topics that span from conception to adulthood. Nothing is off limits, and everything will be answered honestly.
My daughter is 21 months old and still not sleeping through the night. When she wakes she doesn’t ask for anything really per se, but she won’t go back to sleep unless I give her a sippy cup of milk. I’ve tried giving water instead of milk and she gets upset that it’s not milk. And if I try to just rock her for a few minutes and then put her back down she doesn’t fall into a restful sleep and tosses and turns until I go back in there again and do give her milk. After milk she goes back down into a restful sleep just fine. This happens at least once a night, sometimes twice a night. She goes down to bed around 9-9:30, wakes up the first time around 1am, and if there’s a second time she wakes it’s usually around 5am, then we get up for the day around 8am. She is sleeping in her crib, in her own room, and she takes one nap a day, usually about two hours long. Mama needs some sleep! Any tips to help her transition to a full night of sleep with no waking?
Well, hello Danielle!
Boy is your story very similar to a lot of moms out there! You are not alone.
I have seen that right around age two, kids seem to have a tough time with a lot of things, including sleep. Waking up in the middle of the night is normal, but definitely not un-fixable! It can be done with a little work and persistence.
You have a great start! She’s in her own bed, down to one nap a day, and you’re WILLING to get up with her when she’s up. Those are some of the hardest things to change when it comes to sleep training, so you are already a step ahead of some in your situation! I’ve got a few ideas to help out.
I’m not sure what your days look like, but my first suggestion to parents when they say their kids are having trouble sleeping through the night is to get a strict daily routine for the kiddo that’s followed every day. Routine has got to be one of the most important things for a toddler. Keeping a schedule that your toddler understands and can look forward to can really help start them on the right path to sleepy time! Along with a daytime routine, bedtime routine is crucial too. Bath, brushing teeth, reading a book, etc will help remind the little one that it’s night time.
As much as this may seem like a silly thing, there really are certain foods that can mess with a person’s sleep! Make sure she steers clear of juice or too much sugar in the afternoon/evening (until she learns to sleep through the night), and that she’s eating substantial foods at dinner. This helps to train her body that it can go through the night without needing to wake up. Eating a good hearty dinner (or a hearty snack before bed) will help keep her asleep. Try and give her a sippy with warm milk in it right before bed. Warm milk and a cuddle will help to relax her, possibly enough for the whole night. Milk is also a heavy drink, so it may hold her hunger over as well!
When she does wake up, try to keep from talking too much with her. The more you can keep it as dark and quiet as you can, the more likely she is to go back to sleep on her own. If you must, go to her room, tuck her in, rubbing her tummy or back, and quietly say something like “time for sleep” or “I’ll see you tomorrow” if you’d like. If she is still upset, give it five to 10 minutes and go back in with the same routine. Tuck, rub and a little night night. Don’t give in to the sippy cup if you can help it. I get it—we all have breaking points. But this is sleep training, and it will take some work (sometimes seemingly impossible work) but I promise you that if you stay strong and persistent with her that she will give in and sleep. It may take a few nights to a week of persistence, but remember that in the end it is ALL worth it to sacrifice a few nights for FULL nights of sleep every night!