Parenting can be exhausting, and it's often even worse when you have a toddler who has taken to sleeping in bed with you or refuses to go to sleep in his own bed. Luckily, it's not too difficult to break the bad sleep habits your toddler might have settled into and get him sleeping in his own crib.
Establish Bedtime Routines
Toddlers love routines, explains ZeroToThree.org, the website for the National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families. Set up a bedtime routine that works for you and your toddler. Put her to bed every night at the same time, whether it's a weekday or a weekend. Start quiet time a half hour or more before bed and establish a set of soothing activities, such as a warm bath, a cup of warm milk and story time. Then lay your toddler in her crib with a warm hug and kiss and leave her to sleep.
Let Your Toddler Choose the Setting
Make the crib a fun place to be by letting your toddler have some say in what the crib and his room are like. For instance, you could let your toddler pick out his sheets and a cuddly blanket for his crib. If your tot doesn't like the dark, consider using a nightlight in his room to make him more comfortable.
Make Nighttime Wakings Boring
If your toddler wakes up frequently during the night and calls out for you, or if he climbs out to come find you, gently put him right back to bed. Don't make it fun; this is not the time for a chat and cuddling or a snack, which will encourage him to get up at night. As hard as it can be when you're exhausted, be consistent. Take him by the hand and walk him back to bed if he gets out, tuck him in, give him a kiss and leave. It might take a few nights before your child realizes you aren't going to cave in and let him sleep in your bed, but keeping nighttime talking and interaction to a minimum and repeatedly putting him back to bed will eventually make him realize that he might as well stop fussing or calling out to you. Also, if your toddler is trying to climb out of the crib, it might be time to move him to a toddler bed to decrease the risk of injury from a fall.
If your little one doesn't have a favorite item, encourage her to choose a special stuffed animal or baby blanket as her comfort object. This object can be part of naps during the day as well as a fixture overnight and should be kept close during the bedtime routine leading up to sleep.
Timing Is Everything
Don't change your toddler's sleep routine during a time of other big changes, suggests Pregnancy.org. For instance, when a new sibling is arriving, when your child is starting day care or when you're moving to a new home is not a good time to try to get him to sleep in his crib if that hasn't been the routine. After things settle down and the sibling has arrived or he's used to day care will be a better time to work on getting him to sleep in his crib.