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Toddler - Week #119

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Your 28-month-old toddler (week 119)

By Shelley Feldman, edHelperBaby

The Family Bed?
           Many parents (although some may hesitate to admit) welcome their children to sleep in bed with them, and have since the day they were born.  These parents cannot imagine the sleeping arrangements being any other way, and believe whole-heartedly that it is the natural and "normal" way to get a little shut eye.  But what happens if two years down the road, you and your partner believe that it's time to make a transition and move your toddler from your bed to his own, and three actually becomes a crowd?  Most importantly, how do you make this big move, without completely rocking your little one's world?

       The first key to success is teaching your toddler how to feel safe, secure and comfortable sleeping on his own.  Up until now, you have provided these things for your little one and he has not had to learn how to make this happen alone.  The next step towards making this transition is to be certain that his bedroom is a cozy and inviting environment, and if he isn't attached to a "lovey," do your best to help him find one.  Explain to you toddler that although you won't be there while he's sleeping, his "lovey" will, and when he wakes up you'll be right by his side once again

  The crucial piece to reclaiming some space in your bed, and the one which is probably the most difficult, involves getting your toddler to try a night in his own room, in his own bed.  It may actually be in your best interest to camp out in your toddler's room on the floor for a night or two making it an exciting and enticing special occasion.  Then, after a few days and when you think it's appropriate, sit with your toddler on the edge of his bed until he falls asleep, but be sure he understands that this time you will not be there all night long.  The goal here is to eventually get your toddler to fall asleep on his own without you in the room at all, but don't hesitate to take as many baby-steps along the way to get to that point, even if it means that each night you only move one inch closer to the door while he falls asleep.

       Let your toddler know that you will check on him throughout the night, and if he needs some reassurance that you're still an ear shot away, he can just call out to hear your voice.  Keep in mind that this is a major transition for everyone involved, so expect minor set-backs and most importantly, let your toddler know how proud you are of him for trying.

       Lastly, don't be surprised if you find yourself missing your little one in the middle of the night just as much as he misses you, and remember there's never anything wrong with a little early-morning cuddle after a great night's sleep.


Your Late Night Visitor
           When your little one awakens in the middle of the night not feeling well, or is frightened by the monsters under the bed, you may find that her first line of defense is marching right up to and into your bed.  And although it may be the path of least resistance, allowing your toddler to cuddle up beside you and fall back asleep once you have established that she has her own "big kid" bed, may actually do more harm than good...that is unless you want this new visitor every night, or have no intention of ever getting to sleep through the night uninterrupted again.

       Your best bet when you are greeted at the foot of your bed by your toddler's smiling face is to take her gently by the hand, walk with her back to her room, tuck her back into her cozy little bed, and turn right back around to your own room.  Although it may be difficult, it is important that you limit the interactions that you have with your toddler during these wake-up calls.  The less you respond to her, the less likely she is to continue, especially when she doesn't get the reaction that she was hoping for.

       In essence, provide your toddler the comfort and reassurance that she needs from "you," and not your bed, and you will be avoiding a habit that may be very difficult to break (trust me, I've found out the hard way).  You don't want your toddler to ever feel that she is being "rejected" by you, so be certain that although she is being turned away, it is done in a loving and kind manner.

       Another important factor regarding intercepting your late night visitor is to be consistent regarding how to handle her attempts.  Once you have made the decision to change sleeping arrangements, be sure that you remain firm and follow through time and time again.  By letting your guard down one last time, you may have a permanent little bed-fellow trying to steal the covers.  Stick to your guns, and you are teaching your little sleep-walker the first step in learning to comfort herself, and that is something that will inevitably boost her growing ego a bit more every day.


           Make A Bed-Time Book       

       Winding-down with your little one at the end of the day, and jump-starting the bed-time routine, can be a difficult task.  From the time that dinner is over, until the moment that your toddler snuggles up in bed, there are so many steps that must be taken that it can become overwhelming, even for the most organized parent.

       Getting your toddler to comply with your bed-time routine can be exhausting. However, if he can "see" all of steps that he must take along the way, it may run a bit smoother.  The best way to make this visual guide to get you from point A to point B is to create a "bed-time book" with your toddler, and once in place, you may actually find that going to bed is something that he actually looks forward to.

       To begin, take pictures of your toddler as he goes through his bed-time routine.  For example, take a picture of him taking a bath, one getting his pajamas on, and one brushing his teeth.  Next, take a picture of your toddler reading a bed-time story, giving everyone a good-night kiss, and finally climbing into bed with his favorite stuffed animal.

       The next step is to place all of the photos in chronological order, into a small photo album (or staple them to sheets of construction paper and make your own book).

       For the grand finale, give the book to your toddler and teach him to use it as a guide to show him the way from one task to another.  You may find that your toddler enjoys his bed-time routine more when he is able to anticipate what will be happening next, and more importantly, he'll love feeling a bit more in control of the situation as well.


  Andrew and Devin's Opinion
           I wish that I had learned about this activity a long time ago.  What a wonderful way to empower my 28-month-old twin boys, and get them to follow my routine without even realizing it!

       The night before creating our "bed-time books," I followed Andrew and Devin around with a camera snapping photos of them reluctantly getting ready for bed, and from the bathtub bubbles to the Eskimo kisses, nothing was left out.  Once the pictures were printed, I then placed them chronologically in two little photo books, and the next evening after dinner they were presented to the boys.

       Andrew and Devin loved having little books of themselves and were quick to point out everything that each picture depicted.  After a few minutes of flipping through the pages and discussing the contents, I then opened each of the books to our first "step" of the night.  Pointing to the image of both boys in the bathtub, I then asked the boys what time it was, they shouted in unison "baff time!" (bath-time), and off they went.  Good start!

       Next, I opened the book to step 2, asked the boys what time it was, they shouted "Jammas!" (pajamas) and off they went to their room to get dressed for bed.  Step 3, 4, and 5 went off without a hitch as well, and now everything was done with the exception of hitting the hay, the step that I was quite certain would end their compliance.

       So there I was, on the couch with two very clean little boys in their pajamas.  They had just had a little snack, brushed their teeth, and sat quietly through Good Night Moon, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  I was totally impressed.  Bravely, I opened to the last pages in their own "bed-time books" showing the pictures of the boys climbing into bed for the night.  I cautiously pointed to the last step, and quietly asked, "Andrew and Devin, what time is it now?"  To which Andrew replied, "I wanna new book."


  Have you begun to wonder...
           How do I help my toddler to leave her pacifier behind for good?       

       This can be a very difficult transition for some toddlers, while for others it can happen overnight.  The most important thing to figure out before you attempt to remove the pacifier from your toddler's life is why she is primarily using it to begin with.  Is it something that she just keeps in her mouth all day?  Or is it more of a comfort object helping her to fall asleep and "cope" with difficult situations like when she is left with a sitter?  Your course of action will depend upon why your toddler continues to depend upon it, so once you've figured it out you're ready for the next step.

       If you believe that your toddler is using her pacifier as a source of comfort, your best bet may actually be to try and get her to find comfort in something else, like a lovey.  Providing her with something else to keep her hands on (and possibly her mouth at times too) may ease the transition, and although it is just exchanging one habit for another, it's a step in the right direction.

       If you believe that your toddler's use of the pacifier is solely out of habit, it may help to have a special send-off for your toddler's pacifiers, possibly wrapping them all up in a box and giving them to a new baby, either in your house or in your neighborhood.  Some parents even give the "pacifier fairy" (a take-off of the tooth fairy) a ring and ask her to please come pick up the pacifiers that your toddler has left for her while she's sleeping.

       Although these methods do require that your toddler immediately stop using her pacifier, and you may have to struggle through the next few days on little to no sleep, the experts believe that most little ones will adjust after just four days.

       Also, most toddlers will independently give up their pacifiers when they near the age of 3, so it may be in your best interest to wait a few more months, unless it is an absolute necessity right now.

       Keep in mind that these comforting habits are very difficult to break, and be sure to praise your toddler for any progress she makes.  Be prepared for a rough few days, and remember that sometimes two steps forward and one step back is the best that your little one can do.


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