The Toddler Sleep Strategy that Has Saved our Sanity!

The toddler sleep strategy that will save your sanity!

….. And vacuum cleaners…. Boy loves to pray for vacuum cleaners.

Sleep has been one of the most contentious issues in our home since the birth of the boy.  We tired tried a number of “sleep training” methods in his infancy with little success because there were too many things that interrupted any good routines that we finally managed to perfect. And while we had different opinions, neither of us were quite comfortable letting our new babe scream until he passed out… (no judgement from me though… I know way too many people who sleep peacefully through the night as a result of it…). Toddler sleep has been eluding us of late though.

I’m excited today to share a new-ish strategy that somehow crept into our nightly routine and saved my sanity.   We recently transitioned to a “big boy bed” – read: a bed that a kid can escape from at will…as many times as he wants…. in 0.15 seconds….

At least it’s safer than his crib Houdini antics…

Boy now had the upper hand.

First, I had to convince him that his bed was special (and it IS!  we shlepped that organic mattress all the way from Canada people!).  Then I more or less hyperbolically sat on him until he zonked out on it. Rinse and repeat.  But it was taking SO much longer for him to fall asleep there then it did in his crib (we had it down to a 15 minute science) – which meant it that our new nighttime routine was gobbling up over an hour of our already short evening together as a couple.

Our Previous Routine to Encourage Toddler Sleep:

  1. Use the potty
  2. Put on a night-time diaper and pyjamas
  3. Brush teeth and wash face
  4. Turn on air purifier
  5. Close curtains
  6. Kneel beside bed and pray together
  7. Sing one of four favourite songs
  8. Place into bed
  9. Listen to litany of excuses and how “not sleepy” he was
  10. Remind him that he was, in fact, knackered
  11. Wait for him to pass out
  12. Sneak quietly out of bedroom.

NOW, the moment we have all been waiting for.  I suspect this would work on kids of most ages from infancy on….  don’t get too excited now, but actually you can, because it makes so much sense, and it’s loving, and lovely, and comforting and just a delightful way to leave a Little for the night.

The toddler sleep strategy that will save your sanity

Take a Deep Breath

No really.  That’s it.  Then take another one.

I’ve been having a bit of a tough time falling asleep for the past few months… and repeated deep breaths were helping me.  So why not him?

Following steps 1-7, our new 8th step is to sit quietly with him (I generally have to remind him that if he talks or moves around he goes straight into bed by himself-  instant calm).  Then holding him against my chest I take 15-20 deep, slow breaths and he begins to match them.

At the end of this, he is still awake, but so relaxed… and almost drowsy.  I put him right into his bed… he still insists that he is not tired… but the proof is in the pudding parents…. 2 minutes to snoozeville.

I don’t want to mislead you into thinking this is a miracle that works 100% of the time… but it’s been close for us!  There have been maybe 2 or 3 days over the last few weeks when he didn’t doze off quickly… but by and large – my boy and I enjoy a sweet time of winding down together, and he falls asleep on his own in under 5 minutes.

A peaceful and happy boy means this mama is full of joy!

Wishing you success and toddler sleep-dust 🙂

73 thoughts on “The Toddler Sleep Strategy that Has Saved our Sanity!”

  1. That sounds like it would work-you’re right, why not, it works for us! Even though bed time is pretty easy going at the moment, when we transition to the big boy bed, that might very well change…

    1. Joanna! So great to hear from you and I’m overjoyed that bedtime is easy for you right now! I hope it stays so with those two little cuties of yours 🙂

  2. Hey Vanessa!! I love your blog. In addition to being a very entertaining writer, your tips are simply genius :). Never had the chance to spend any time with you, but I’ve realized Ray is one lucky guy to have you! And of course lil Jere amazes me, I hope I get to meet him some day.

    1. Mimi! It’s so nice to hear from you :). thank you for all of those far to generous words! I’m really glad you find the info helpful! ANy chance you can swing through Dubai in the near future? We would love to spend time with you three as well! I’m sure the kiddos would have fun together – and it would be great to get to know you!

    1. You’re so right Nicolas! THanks for the suggestions – I’m definitely working toward that and hopefully it’ll improve my sleep too!

  3. I can totally relate and patience is the key. I find that a glass of milk before bed worked best for us and when that didn’t work I took him out for a stroll around the block (:

    1. Great strategies! Thanks for sharing Michelle – I find warm milk sometimes to be helpful too!

  4. Hey Vanessa! Great tips! So well written too I’m definitely going to try this with Neiva!! Sometimes my bedtime routine with a Neiva turns out to be anything but a routine!! She has to read all the books she can find until she is super tired of reading! Oh and dare I turn off the light then the tears will roll lol…I’m going to try and get her to try choosing just 2 books (which I’ve been trying but somehow she prefers 20 books instead of 2 books!) and then I’ll try to do the deep breathing. Hope it works!!

    Hope life in Dubai is treating you guys well! Kisses to the lil one!!

    1. Hahahah!! Hi Neethle – so great to hear from you :). That sounds like a familiar story….20 books before bed! Lol! Another little tip that I did recently was put away all of his toys and books sorted into 5 boxes for 5 days, so each day of the week only ONE box of them comes out and those are what he is allowed to play with (he was so bored of everything before and now is really enjoying them!) He only has a maximum of 3 books lying around to beg for now! Haha! I hope this works for you!! Miss ya xoxo

  5. Ok your vacuum cleaner bit made me LOL! 🙂 My sister is close to losing her mind because my niece just won’t sleep. I am sharing this with her like right after this!

    1. Oh I’m so glad and really hope that it works for her! I love this platform for sharing the simple things that work and hopefully making other mom’s lives easier 🙂

  6. Getting the kids to sleep is a challenge especially when you’re trying to fix their bed time for school! We all have different routines but it sure would be nice to try something else if yours doesn’t work. I hope this works for a lot of parents! It would help a lot.

    1. I hope so to… And wonder what it’ll be like once we get to school age and routines… Thanks for stopping by!

  7. simple but truly amazing strategies, this must definitely work… and am sure it does as you are such an amazing person to have shared this with us.

  8. Haha. I dont have kids so i cant really understand the feeling but this is a great tip will pass it on to my cousin who just delivered a baby in January and is suffering from sleepless nights. 🙂

    1. Hahaha you should try it too Ana! Might help you a sleep a little better? I certainly found that it helped me… Along with getting up earlier.

  9. Although we have a bit of a sleep struggle, too, I’ve started doing something similar. Monkey Boy isn’t yet in his own bed yet, nor is Turtle Boy. Yet, on most days, since I’ve given up trying to get Monkey Boy to nap during the day, I can usually get him sleeping within about 15 or so minutes. Our routine looks really similar to your old routine, but we do the deep breathing in bed, with me beside him. 🙂

    1. I love that you call them monkey and turtle! Haha that’s so cute 🙂 I wonder if I could get him to deep breathe on his own… How old are yours?

    1. Yes, kids are all so different 🙂 I just love being able to share what works for us and hope that it helps a few others!

  10. It’s always the simple things that can make such a huge difference! I don’t have kids (yet) but I’m glad you’ve found a solid sleep strategy.

  11. I’m one of those people who needs some kind of background noise to fall asleep. Usually a talk show or something not too involved does the trick.

    1. I agree! background noise is really helpful for me too (and for babies – that’s one of the reasons for the air purifier!)

  12. I really love your new method, I think it works not just for toddlers but for adults too! This breathing technique is a great way to help with stress management and perfect for relaxation!

    1. Thanks Eugenia! I agree – it worked so well for me I decided to try it on him 🙂 Thanks for saying hi!

  13. A friend of mine needs this list! Her toddler is about that age when it’s so difficult to get him to sleep in hte evenings. Kids need routine and something comfortable to make them feel good and safe. Great tips!

    1. Thanks Tiina – I hope she finds that this works for her 🙂 It’s added such a lovely touch to our evenings!

  14. That is a great idea! It’s a start because he is relaxed and then it helps me to fall asleep for good! I like all the other stuff you tried before. My baby is months old but it’s funny the way he moaned and makes weird noise when he knows we are going to put him to bed, even if he is knackered of course… #TwinklyTuesday

    1. haha! Kids are hilarious. I like to think of this as facilitating drowsiness….(for both of us!)

    1. Oh wonderful Tineke! I really hope it works for you as well as it has worked for us 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

  15. I’ll give it a go! Arthur is 19 months, in a toddler bed and has still never slept through the night. He does go to sleep in his bed quite calmly though as long as I am sat next to him! #twinklytuesday

  16. We follow a very similar list! We play an audiobook or music for the boys at the end of bed time routine. It seems to give them something to focus on instead of the fact that they should be sleeping. They usually fall right asleep. #TwinklyTuesday

    1. I’ve thought about adding music in to keep him company too… great idea! Taking the focus off sleep is key!

  17. Great post and so glad for you it works for your little one. I have days where I hardly can’t sleep and read about this simple trick before. And yes, it works for me too.
    All the best for you and your sweet family <3

    1. oh awesome! So glad it works for you Julie 🙂 I love how I stumbled across this one too…. sleepless nights!

  18. I don’t have kids but I see many of my colleagues complaining about their kids unhealthy sleeping habits. I’ll pass your post to them!

    1. Hahah you’ve heard right! Please do share it and I hope it proves helpful for them 🙂 thanks for stopping by!

    1. Boys are awesome and exhausting! haha! I love learning about things other mom’s do to make life easier and more joyful 🙂

  19. I’ve totally tried the breathing thing and he moans at me haha! Brilliant that it’s working for you. Most of the time Zach falls asleep pretty easy but there’s the odd night where it’ll take like half hour! Nightmare! He manages to flip himself over about 50 times before he finds his comfy spot and gives into sleep! Thanks for linking up with #TwinklyTuesday

  20. Great article. I’m definitely giving this a try. Have you got any hints on introducing 7mo baby to 3yo room? I am wanting my boys to start sharing a room. Thanks for sharing your tips.

    1. Hi Sheena – I wish I knew – I’ll probably have to come to you for advice on it! We only have one for the time being… but from what I’ve heard – kids tend to really LIKE having a roommate, and many become better sleepers as a result 🙂 I hope it is so for you! You can explain it to your 3rd old well enough I’m sure… and just tell him or her that he needs to be your special helper for baby to help him sleep (i.e.: needs to be very quiet, and make baby smile if sad…etc). Definitely enlist their help for a smoother transition!

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