As any new parent will tell you, one of the most hard-won battles in the first year and a half is teaching your baby how to fall asleep on her own and to sleep through the night. But even after you have made it past this victory, sooner or later your sweet, sleeping babe will grow into a curious and energetic toddler. With this new developmental stage comes new sleep challenges.
Some of the most common toddler sleep challenges you’ll notice include:
- Toddler figuring out how to climb out of her crib
- Outgrowing the crib
- Night wakings and early morning risings, followed by toddler getting out of bed/refusing to return to bed
- Difficulty napping after transitioning from crib to bed
To learn if your toddler is ready for a big kid bed, check out our 10 Tips for Transitioning Your Toddler to a Big Kid Bed.
Once your child learns how to get out of her crib or bed during nap-time, at night, or early in the morning, you’ll need a plan to address this change and prevent it from further developing into a sleep-disrupting habit.
Thankfully, sleep is not an innate skill but a learned behavior. Just as you taught your baby to fall asleep on her own and stay asleep, you can also teach your toddler to stay in her sleep space during nap-time and throughout the night using the Silent Return method.
How to Get Your Toddler Back to Sleep with Silent Return
If your toddler is leaving her sleep space during nap-time, at night, or early in the morning, Silent Return is a method that can help her learn to stay in her sleep space until it is an appropriate time to get out. Silent Return works by returning your child to her bed anytime she wakes and leaves it. The method is called Silent Return because after the first few nights, the goal is to put your toddler back to bed without saying a word. The psychology behind this is that giving your child any verbal attention – regardless whether the tone is positive or stern – reinforces the getting-out-of-bed behavior, and makes her more likely to repeat it.
There are several things you can do to facilitate your toddler picking up Silent Return:
- Setting new family rules for sleep. You can do this by having an informal meeting with your toddler where you make it clear to her the new rules for sleep: 1) We stay in our beds all night long 2) If you wake at night and leave your room, I’m going to put you back to bed every time.
- Using positive sleep-speak. Positive sleep-speak involves making positive comments about healthy sleep to your toddler throughout the day. Practice this frequently and during play and meal times.
- Repeat Silent Return all night long, for as many times as it takes. It can work after a few tries, or take dozens of tries and several hours, but your persistence and consistency are key to success.
- Praise any bit of progress. In order to reinforce the progress your toddler is making, verbal praise is key. Even if the progress is small, make a big deal about how happy and proud you are. The behavior is the reward, so try to stay away from rewarding your child with treats or gifts.
Have questions about your toddler’s sleep habits or want more guidance on implementing Silent Return? Schedule a free 15-minute consultation with one of our Certified Sleep Experts here.
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