Yes, it’s normal for your baby’s sleeping schedule and nap schedule to change as they grow into little independent toddlers. As much as I love routines, when it came to implementing my toddler’s new sleeping schedule every night, it took a while. Not only did I have to stick to it, but so did my partner and my son’s grandparents as well. It was a team effort.
Infant sleep varies; when they are newborns, they are required to sleep at least 16 to 17 hours a day. When they are four to 12 months old, they should get at least 12 to 16 hours of sleep. And when they are one or two years old, they should sleep at least 11 to 14 hours a day, according to UCLA Health.
As first time parents, we also learned that it was super important to know the ABCs of safe baby sleep. Which are the following:
A – is for putting the baby alone in their crib. Also, keep items like toys and blankets out of the crib.
B – is for placing your baby on their back. This reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). So, avoid putting the baby to sleep on their stomach or side.
C – is for using a crib to put the baby to sleep in. Babies should be able to sleep on a firm, flat surface. Some safe examples are a crib, bassinet, portable crib or play yard that follows the safety standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Check the CPSC website at www.cpsc.gov to make sure the product is not recalled.
During the newborn stage of my son’s life, I used white noise as recommended by his pediatrician. The white noise worked perfectly for a few months. His crib included the sound, which was perfect. Some of the challenges with that were using it at random places. Another challenge was asking our Amazon’s Alexa to turn it on at night, but she sometimes wouldn’t even play the right sound. Eventually, we became annoyed by the sound as well. So, me and my partner decided to stop playing white noise and try helping him sleep without it.
By the time my son, Levi, was four-months-old, his naps had decreased from eight to five a day, which is normal. Also, at this age, we noticed a new challenge: Levi outgrowing his crib.
After much consideration, my partner and I decided to buy him a toddler bed. We decided to buy it from the Delta Children’s Store on Amazon. Although the bed is recommended for 15+ months, it was perfect for Levi because it had guardrails and was a floor bed. The thing that convinced me to buy this bed were the reviews. One of the reviews I saw had a two-year-old toddler crawling out of his bed and it looked super safe. So, I thought this could be a bed that Levi could grow into in his toddler stage and he eventually did.
Levi, who is almost two years old, was really uncomfortable in his bed since he is a crazy sleeper.
Each sleeping stage of a baby is different, and so are the nighttime routines. Some babies sleep through the night. My son, Levi, did on some occasions. The whole transition was hard for first-time parents. And what was even harder was adjusting to our new sleeping schedules, which meant waking up a few times at night with my partner to feed Levi.
I made a few adjustments to make it easier on us. Instead of walking all the way to the kitchen at night to grab his formula, water and bottles, I had the whole set up ready on my vanity at night. This new system was working and it was saving us a few extra minutes to sleep in.
But I found something that made our system easier and better. I bought a couple of feeding bottles that store formula and water separately in the bottle. When the baby is hungry, you simply press the button on the bottle and shake it a few times. This bottle, called PopYum, was designed to be used with one hand only so that you can comfort the baby or multitask with the other hand. These bottles were lifesavers and made our feeding times much easier, not only at night but also when we went out to the store or other places.
By the time Levi was 13 months old, he had decreased his naps from one to two a day and he would only wake up once at night for a bottle of milk. At this age, I knew it was very important to start a “bedtime” and abide by it every night.
Dr. Monsalve and sleeping routines
I recently spoke with Dr. Gloria Monsalve, who is a bilingual family physician and an advocate for patients in the San Fernando Valley. She’s been in practice for more than 15 years, helping those in low-income communities, specifically the Latino community.
As a result of our discussion about the importance of establishing a sleeping routine, I am satisfied with the choices I have made.
“It’s important to start with a sleeping routine because when toddlers are sleeping, many functions of their body are starting to develop, like their growth and their hormones. So, it’s not just the time they sleep but the quality. If we establish a routine that’s going to lead to better sleep, it’s going to give us good outcomes for their health as well,” Monsalve said.
The way that I established my nighttime routine with my toddler is the following:
I start by giving him dinner. I make sure he has a full belly before going to bed. In this way, he is able to reduce his hunger and avoid waking up in the middle of the night to take a bottle of milk.
I wait an hour or two after dinner to get him in the bathtub. Levi loves taking baths; this hasn’t been a problem with him at all. I make sure to put all the toys he loves, like his little dinosaurs, balls and floating turtles. I leave him in the bath tub for about 20 minutes or less. In the bathtub he also brushes his teeth.
Levi during his bubble bath time. He really enjoys bath time and playing with his toys.
Goodnight kisses to dad
I have gotten so good at my nighttime routine that I decided to take over this role. I take Levi into our room with a warm bottle of milk. Levi’s dad goes into our room to say goodnight and gives Levi a goodnight kiss. Then Levi says, “Goodnight, dad,” gives his dad a kiss on the cheek and then kicks his dad out of the room, which is hilarious to me. Levi says, “Bye, dad” as he is waving goodbye as well. We also make sure to turn off all the lights in the room. This basically hints to Levi that it is nighttime.
Sometimes I do put on a cartoon for Levi, and some other nights I don’t. It all depends on his energy levels. Some nights, he might be sleepier than others. I try to avoid it as much as I can, but the cartoon does help him prepare to think it’s time to go to bed. Most of the episodes I put on are for bedtime. The most I will watch is about five minutes.
Cloudbabies as stated on their website, is a “whimsical, animated preschool series following Baba Pink, Baba Blue, Baba Yellow and Baba Green, whose job is to look after the sky, with a little help of Bobbo White.” All of these little helpers live in a house in a big fluffy cloud and work together to solve problems.
Transferring him to his toddler bed
I do put Levi to sleep in our bed, but as soon as he goes to sleep, I move him to his toddler bed. To this day, I haven’t had a problem with him trying to sleep in our bed, which has been one of my biggest boundaries as a parent with my son Levi. I hope it stays that way.
It only takes me about 10-15 minutes to put Levi to sleep by the time he says goodbye to his dad. Some nights it takes longer because he might not be as sleepy, but I make sure he goes to bed before 10 p.m. every night.
For me and my partner, this nighttime routine has been very helpful. It gives us quality time to spend together to eat snacks and watch a movie together, or just talk about our day and catch up with each other. And also enough time to sleep a good number of hours.
Monsalve also believes that establishing a nighttime routine for toddlers has good sleeping outcomes for parents as well. “For the parents, it’s the same thing. The amount of sleep they do is a very important part of their health. If parents are having a bad night, the next day they can have mood swings that can affect the life of a toddler. So, it’s important for the whole family to get a good night’s sleep,” Monsalve said.
Life with toddlers can get crazy, but in the end, it’s all worth it.
My toddler, who is almost two years old, is now outgrowing his toddler bed, which was our new challenge. We noticed that he kept waking up at night more often because he was uncomfortable in his bed. At night, you can hear his feet and hands smacking the guardrails of his bed. Not only was he losing sleep, so were we. Oftentimes, I had to carry him to our bed so that we could all just go back to bed. Last week, I couldn’t take it anymore, or should I say, my back couldn’t take it anymore. I would wake up every day with back pain. Not only was this becoming a problem for me, but also for my partner. Also, after much consideration, we decided to transition my toddler to a full size mattress. We probably expected this since we have a very fidgety sleeper.
I explained my situation to Monsalve and she agreed with my decision. She said that usually around two to three-year-old toddlers transition to a bigger bed. She also said that I was paying attention to my toddler’s signals that he was uncomfortable in his bed.
“That was the most important thing you could have done, which is paying attention to his sleep behavior at night and seeing that he is not comfortable either in their crib or in their current bed,” Monsalve said.
For the most part, I was really trying to avoid co-sleeping with our toddler. I did not want it to become a habit. That’s why I made the decision right away to get a bigger bed.
Monsalve said that there are huge debates when it comes to co-sleeping.
“Some studies show that when kids co-sleep, they become more shy, insecure and develop anxiety problems. It’s highly recommended that kids sleep in their own beds. Once in a while, it’s OK for a child to sleep with their parents. Only if they have night terrors or have anxiety problems,” Monsalve said.
She also explained that it’s very important to explain to the child why they are letting them sleep with the parents. “It’s important not to make it a routine,” Monsalve said.
In order for my nighttime routine to become what it is today, I’ve had to be consistent and follow a set of rules. After seeing my bedtime routine with my toddler and being given some tips on how to create your own, I hope this has been helpful to you.