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My 19-month-old seems to hate her bedtime routine! Since she was a newborn, her bedtime routine has been consistent — we bathe her, dress her for bed, read a few stories, sing lullabies, cuddle with her favorite toys, and turn out the lights. She's always participated happily, but now she'll cry or throw a tantrum as soon as we come into her bedroom. Sometimes I just abandon the routine and rock her for a few minutes. Sometimes it helps, sometimes it makes her more angry. She seems tired and she falls asleep pretty quickly once we turn out the lights, but I miss our enjoyable bedtimes and I hate ending the day on a bad note. What's going on?
When kids experience sleep or bedtime problems, they're trying to tell you something. Your daughter's telling you that she's ready for a change. You've had a consistent routine since she was a newborn, which is wonderful. But think about how much your daughter has changed since her newborn days — she's now a walking, talking, expressive toddler dynamo who's eager for more control over her world. Here are some simple steps that will update your routine for your growing toddler:
- Consider moving bedtime 20-30 minutes earlier. If she's like most toddlers her age, she recently dropped her morning nap (the average age to drop the morning nap is 15 months old). That means she's now functioning with less daytime sleep and may need an earlier bedtime.
- Give her the control she wants. Let her choose whether to brush her teeth before or after her bath. Allow her to choose which pajamas to wear and which books to read.
- Streamline her environment. Toddlers become overwhelmed by too many choices, so consider limiting the number of books and toys in her bedroom. Select a few favorites, and store the rest elsewhere.
- Keep it simple. The routine you describe may be too long for her attention span; she may be ready for sleep halfway through. If she starts melting down during the routine, cut it short, soothe her, and say "good night."
For more tips on designing a simple, effective bedtime routine, see my recent post Building A Better Bedtime at The Well Rested Family.
Sleep Pro, Malia Jacobson
Malia Jacobson has been helping tired families sleep since 2007. She is a writer, editor, nationally-published sleep journalist, and author of "Ready, Set, Sleep: 50 Ways to Help Your Child Sleep, So You Can Sleep Too." Her sleep articles reach millions in respected print publications.
Malia's articles have been featured in over 70 news outlets and publications, including ABC News, Women's Health Magazine, Costco Connection Magazine, Seattle's Child Magazine, ParentMap Magazine, Seattle Business Magazine, San Diego Family Magazine,and Cincinnati Family Magazine. She is a contributing writer at Family Time Magazine and Broward Family Life Magazine.
She holds a bachelor's degree in communication and a master's degree in business administration/marketing. When she's not writing, she organizes a popular attachment parenting group in her hometown of Tacoma, Washington, digs in her garden, and explores the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two young daughters.