How can I stop my 2-year-old from waking up in the middle of the night to play?
Q: My 2-year-old started climbing out of the crib a few weeks ago. We transitioned her to a toddler bed and she continues to wake up around 2am to play! And doesn't go back to bed until after 4am. I've tried cutting her nap, which resulted in a miserable little girl in the afternoon and still waking in the middle night. I now allow her to nap for an hour and she's still up and playing at 2am. Her bed time is around 830pm every night. SO,WHAT CAN I DO?!?
A: It's very common for toddlers to start waking in the middle of the night after transitioning to a bed. That's why I always recommend WAITING to give up the crib as long as possible. But don't worry: Your late-night party-girl will remember how to sleep through the night -- with your help.
During the day, remind her that it's her job to sleep when it's dark outside -- plus, Mommy and Daddy get grouchy when she wakes them up at night. Everyone needs their sleep to be healthy.
Adopt the "broken record" approach -- she needs to stay in bed. Lights out. Time to sleep. If she gets up or makes a ruckus, calmly guide her back to bed and repeat the rules. Don't get emotional, don't turn on the lights, don't talk much, and certainly don't offer any food, drinks, or TV.
It may take a zillion or so reminders (or just a few, depending on her personality), but eventually her internal clock will win out and she'll start to sleep again -- as long as YOU'RE consistent in your approach. And when she DOES sleep through the night again, congratulate her for a job well done in the morning, and tell her how great YOU feel after having a good night's sleep!
Answered by Dr. Heather Wittenberg