Why is Your Toddler Waking Up at Night?


Is your toddler, who has been sleeping peacefully through the night for months, waking up at night? For parents, this can be incredibly challenging especially as broken sleep affects the next day’s schedule and moods. But why is he waking up?

Be comforted that this is common. It can be caused by many different things. There may be a good developmental reason for it. As you know, developmental milestones can cause havoc with your child’s personality. Your child might be overwhelmed by a new sibling, by potty learning, by her new bed. Or it can be because she’s too hot or too cold, has nightmares or night terrors, is afraid of the dark, or is sick.

What can you do?

It won’t be easy and some nights it won’t feel worth it, but the following steps can help keep your child asleep through the night, once again.

  • Early to bed is your best defense. Not enough sleep can result in sleep deprivation, and that can make your tot wake even more frequently at night. Getting plenty of daytime naps is also important.
  • Establish a soothing and consistent bedtime routine (warm bath, quiet story, hugs, etc.), which ends with you leaving the room before your child is asleep.
  • If your child doesn’t already have one, introduce a lovey to keep her company in the wee hours. A blanket, stuffed animal, or even an old T-shirt of yours may be all she needs to soothe herself back to sleep.
  • Consider a nighttime diaper, if you are potty training. This can eliminate anxiety over wetting the bed.
  • Don’t rush in. If she calls for you after you leave the room or whimpers in the middle of the night, wait a few minutes to see if she settles down by herself. (Remind yourself that it’s okay not to respond to every little noise you hear.)
  • If your child begins to cry in earnest, check to make sure she’s not sick or otherwise needs your help. If your child is sick or has a fever, please call your doctor. CMC has a 24 hour phone line where a nurse is available 24 hours a day. We will call you back within 30 minutes.
  • Provide low-key reassurance. Don’t pick her up and try not to talk. Instead, gently pat her on the back. When she’s calmed down (but not asleep), leave the room. If she starts crying again, wait a few minutes before you return. Continue doing this (if you feel comfortable with the crying), increasing the time between curtain calls.
  • Don’t give up! You’re tired, your partner’s tired, your child is tired but it will be worth it.

How can you prevent it?

Establishing a routine where your child falls asleep on his own, without you in the room, is important to preventing this from happening. Often, if a child relies on your presence to fall asleep, she will call or cry for you or come get you at any time at night when she wakes. This can quickly become a habit that affects your whole family’s sleep. Be strong moms and dads!