You know what the experts say: Establish a regular bedtime routine and teach your toddler to fall asleep on her own and you too will have a child who goes to bed without complaint and never once tries to sneak into her parents' bed in the wee hours. Sounds great, but does it really work?
Establishing a consistent bedtime ritual – one that includes some variation on a bath, book, and bed – is the number one way our site parents help their toddlers drift off to sleep. Variations on the "cry it out" approach worked for many of you, but others swear by the family bed.
The following are more sleep strategies that worked for other members of the our site community. Whatever route you choose, remember this: What works for one family might not work for you, so do what's best for you and your toddler.
"I bought a sound machine that has about eight sounds, such as white noise, heartbeats, rain, ocean, and streams. I use it for every nap to help drown out the noises of the day and at night, too."
"From the first night we brought him home, we put a Soft Vibes Teddy against the side of the crib and a Mommy Bear at the head of the crib. We keep a bucket of pacifiers by his crib so one is always handy."
"My 12-month-old son sleeps with his 'friend' Elmo. He'll spend half an hour talking to Elmo in the morning, which gives us some extra zzzs. He also has a very soft blanket that he'll cuddle with."
"We introduced Megan to books very early on. When it's naptime, we play music, and she picks out about four books that she can take in her crib with her. She blows me kisses and I tell her to have a nice nap and I'll see her in a bit. Then I leave and she 'reads' until she falls asleep."
Watch for sleepy signs
"My best advice is to watch your toddler's cues, i.e., rubbing his eyes, fussing, sucking fingers or a thumb. The minute we see him do any of the above, we just put him down in his crib and he goes right to sleep."
Customized bedtime hour
"Don't make bedtime a fight. Not all children go to sleep at 7 p.m. and wake up at 5 a.m. Our son Ian sleeps from 9 p.m. until 7:30 am. This schedule is rarely changed and he sleeps without a hassle."
— Dan and Christine
"My 3-year-old son started waking up in the middle of the night with nightmares, and was afraid to go to sleep for fear of the dreams. One night I was in my room saying my bedtime prayers and he came to see what I was doing. I let him join me, and in the prayer I said I hoped he would sleep without nightmares that night. He slept through the night after that and ever since this has become a ritual. It's also a time for the two of us to wind down and talk about the good and bad things that happened that day."
Consistent schedule, even during holidays
"My son Oliver always kept the same sleep schedule and as soon as we saw him getting sleepy, we'd put him down. But with all the excitement of the holidays, he was too busy to notice that he was tired – and so were we. After a disastrous Thanksgiving when he never took his naps and was cranky all the time, we changed our tack. At Christmas, we kept a very close eye on the clock and brought him into a quiet room for some downtime and a nap – even if he didn't appear tired. He ended up sleeping every single time and the nights were no longer a problem."
Modified crying it out
"After weeks of repeated night wakings, we decided to try the technique where you let your child cry for 15 minutes and then go in and verbally soothe him. Nicholas cried for 15 minutes, and we went in there and 'talked' him down. The next night he did it again, but only cried for ten minutes and he was out. It didn't happen the next night."