If you’ve got 2 year old sleep regression going on, read this post and get some simple solutions to help you get back to restful naps and evenings. Post contains affiliate links.
This might be the refrain going through your head…
“My 2 year old won’t sleep. Why won’t he sleep? Why does he keep waking up? Why does he take so long to go to bed?”
You are wondering how you had a baby who was sleep well and then BAM they turned 2 and now they’re singing God Bless America for an hour from their dark room instead of going to bed.
Or maybe that’s just us.
You might have arrived at the age of 2 and felt you were in the clear, out of the woods having time to breathe… then the 2 year old sleep regression creeps up.
Well, the good news is you’re not alone.
Common 2 Year Old Sleep Regression Issues
Here are some of the common reasons little ones stop sleeping well at 2 years of age and what you can do about it.
They Act Like They Want To Stop Napping
I’ve heard time and time again that moms drop their 2 year old’s nap because they start fighting it.
This is where we focus on their needs, not their wants.
2 year olds need a nap during the day to get them through until bedtime. The key is to realize your baby has need for a nap and to take your little one to naptime every single day you’re home. If they know it is not a choice, but a requirement, they spend less time fighting it.
Choose a logical time (after lunch for example) then create a nice wind down routine and make nap happen. Even if it takes your toddler a little longer to fall asleep, they still need that time of rest.
Don’t Move Them To A Toddler Bed Just Yet
My 3 year old still sleeps in a crib.
Because he’s never asked for a bed, he’s still working on his self-control, and most importantly, because there’s no “rule” of when you need to move your little one to a bed. Many mothers move their toddlers to a toddler bed super early and these are common results…
- Fights naps
- Gets out of the bed frequently
- Gets out of bed at night
- Wakes up early and comes out of their room
If you have a 2 year old doing these behaviors and nothing seems to work, I recommend bringing the crib back (or borrowing one if you’ve already donated yours) until your child has enough self-control to stay in bed when asked to.
If you’ve already moved your child into a toddler bed and they come out multiple times, but you don’t want put the crib back, I recommend getting a gate like the ones below for their door. If you are a deep sleeper and your child won’t stay in their bed then this actually becomes a safety issue.
They Take Forever To Fall Asleep
2 year olds need slightly less sleep than 1 year olds, as a general rule. If your little one is taking long naps they may not be as tired at their normal bedtime. Just because they take a long time to fall asleep at night doesn’t mean you need to put them to bed a lot later, but you may need to tweak naptime.
Instead of letting them sleep until 4 p.m., you may wake your toddler up around 3:30 p.m. for example.
If they are taking a bit of time in their own bed to fall asleep, but they are happy, then you’re probably fine. They may use that time to play with their stuffed animals, sing, or even talk to themselves. This can actually be a healthy time for them to process what they’ve learned that day.
You may adjust their sleep times gradually when you notice they take longer to go to sleep, but don’t make drastic changes.
2 year olds are much more imaginative than little ones. This is both fun for them and slightly scary. You may find your little ones who previously went to sleep in a pitch black room now need a night light. Also, at this age, toddlers can start experiencing separation anxiety. They are more nervous to be separated from you and want a bit more attention in the evening to feel connected and safe as they drift off to sleep.
As parents, we need to validate our children’s feelings, not minimize them. You can do this by narrating what’s going on with your child.
Phrases like the following do not help alleviate anxiety, so don’t bother with them.
- There’s nothing to be afraid of.
- Don’t be silly.
- You’re fine, don’t worry.
These phrases are the same to a child as the phrase “everything happens for a reason” is to an adult who is going through something crappy. They don’t help and – also likely – they make things worse because our feelings are being invalidated.
Phrases That’ll Help
- “You feel scared right now, you don’t want mommy to leave.” | This doesn’t mean you won’t eventually go, but you are giving voice to your child’s desire.
- “You think there’s a monster and you don’t like monsters!” | You don’t need to convince your child there aren’t monsters. It’s like trying to convince someone the earth isn’t flat. They don’t want to listen to reason. The goal is getting a child to believe they are okay. The quickest way to do that is helping them to acknowledge what they’re feeling scared about. Acceptance is more than half the battle.
- “I love you, you are safe.” | This is powerful to a child since they view you as So Big and themselves as So Small.
They Are Teething And We Misinterpret
When your child gets their 2 year molars life gets tough.
They are fussy, irritable, and seem like a different child.
Teething may last a month or two at this time and it’s important not to drop naps and let bedtime move back later and later as a result. Find a pain management strategy that works for your little one and keep naps and bedtime consistent. If you aren’t sure if they’re teething or not, then give a dose of pain relief (whatever your pediatrician suggests) and see if sleep improves.
This is how I’m usually able to rule out – or rule in – teething. If they take ibuprofen and then sleep a full nap for a day or two… I know it’s teething.
Give them something to bite or chew on and keep the routine steady.
One Common Reason Your 2 Year Old Is Not Napping
And I saved the least favorite for last…
2 year olds often go through sleep regressions because they are coming into their own minds.
They don’t want to miss out. They don’t want to stop playing. They don’t want to be still. They don’t want to rest while other family members keep doing what they were doing.
They are starting to assert their wants.
Toddler years are great training ground for adults in our mental parenting game. Here’s where we must step back and evaluate our kids’ wants vs. needs. They want to play, but they need to sleep. Don’t bother trying to reason with your little ones because they can’t. Offer as many choices throughout the day that you want, but don’t let nap time be a choice.
Your little one is really growing up around this age. A lot of changes are taking place in their bodies and minds. More than likely your toddler is not ready to give up this nap, they just need to work through a few things.
Validate your child’s feelings.
Keep your limits and boundaries firm.
This regression, too, shall pass.
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