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Night Waking

toddler wide awake standing up in crib

Once they pass the stage of nighttime feedings, most parents want their toddlers to sleep right through until morning.

It's not always easy, but these tips can help.

Children are quick to develop habits, and waking at night to feed can become a habit that lingers even when your toddler no longer needs it. To help your toddler break the habit of night waking:

  • Keep the lights off during nighttime feeding. Don't make this a time to talk or play. Gradually shorten the feeding time. Your toddler may find it easier to resettle if he doesn't fully awaken.
  • Monitor daytime napping. You may need to gradually shorten or move naps to earlier in the day so that your toddler sleeps better at night.
  • Some parents choose to break the night waking habit by letting their toddler cry for a set period of time - perhaps two or three minutes - before going into the room. If you take this apporach, don't pick your toddler up or engage in play. Instead, calmly tuck her back into bed and say, "It's time to sleep now." Then leave the room. You may have to do this more than once until your toddler falls asleep. 
  • Over a few days, gradually increase the amount of time before going to your toddler. It can be hard to listen to the crying, but it often works over time. (If at any time you have concerns for your toddler's safety or well being, go and check immediately.)
  • After making sure your toddler is not ill or injured, you can also call out to reassure her but not step into the room.
  • Some parents find it works to immediately get up, go into the room, and provide reassurance by saying: "This is sleep time."
  • If your toddler is big enough and no longer sleeping in a crib, make a bed on the floor of your bedroom. Your toddler can come in and use it if he wakes during the night.
Last Updated: August 12, 2013