Ten tips from The Sleep Nanny

Lucy Shrimpton, the sleep nanny, toddler sleep patterns, toddler transitions, how to get my toddler to sleep, how to get my toddler into a sleeping pattern,

There are so many transitions through the stages of baby, toddler, and pre-schooler but the toddlers really do go through the biggest challenges. Perhaps that is why toddlers can seem such a big challenge to us too!

So I put together my top ten tips for helping your toddler with the various transitions that you might encounter:

Transitioning from two naps to one

This is the most tricky nap transition for many little ones because it can take several weeks of nap disruption before they get there. Usually, you will see signs at around 13 or 14 months of this transition on the horizon as one of the naps gets shorts or he struggles to settle for a nap. Be prepared for this to take some time and some days he will manage on one nap while others days he will need to take two naps again. By 15-17 months most toddlers will be down to one nap per day.

Transitioning from a cot to a big kids bed

My best tip for you on this is don’t do it too soon. Totters do not acquire the cognitive ability to understand the concept of ‘staying in bed’ until they are at least two and a half and transitioning too soon can open a whole new can of worms! (see no. 6 below). I recommend waiting until closer to the third birthday if you can and use sleep sacks to try to prevent them from climbing out of the cot.

Transitioning out of co-sleeping

If your toddler has co-slept in your bed so far but is getting a bit big and it is affecting everyone’s sleep, it is time to take this privilege away and show him he must stay in his own bed now he is bigger. This can be done by gradually weaning him off the need to have you by his side. My ‘Four-Step Fade Out’ works well here: You can stay with him in his room while he settles to sleep, for the first few nights by his side then spend a few nights sitting further away and then sit as far away as you can in the room while still in view, finally you can sit outside the room and just offer some shh-ing for reassurance.

Read: Ten strangest reasons your child refuses to go to bed!
Accepting the arrival of a new sibling

It can be strange for a toddler to go from being the centre of your world to having to share your attention with a new arrival and some acts of jealousy may creep in. Get your toddler involved in helping out with the new baby, passing you nappies and entertaining her new sibling. Also try to find the time, perhaps while baby naps, to have some quality one-on-one time to indulge your toddler wholeheartedly.

Saying goodbye to a dummy

This is something parents fear at any age but a strong-willed toddler might put up more of a fight than a younger baby. Firstly, you cannot wean a dummy because it is either there or not there so make the brave decision and go for it cold turkey. You can tell your toddler a story about the hospital asking for all the dummies back for the new babies or there are the ‘dummy fairies’ or seasonal ones like leaving them out for Santa or the Easter bunny. Whatever you decide to tell him, make sure they are all gone, in the bin, out of the house so as not to tempt you at 4 a.m! A little gift for being a brave boy/girl sometimes helps to take the sting out of it too.

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Staying in bed

Toddlers love to get out of bed once they realise their new found freedom to do so. As per tip number 2 above, keep the cot as long as you can but, if you have had to make the transition a little on the early side, be prepared for lots of ‘getting out of bed’. When your toddler gets up, simply walk him back to bed without engaging with him. No conversation, no stimulation, don’t allow it to be an exciting occurrence. The more boring you make these ‘silent returns’, the sooner he will lose interest in getting up.

Read: Nine problems of sharing your bed…with your partner!
Transitioning from formula or breast milk to cows milk

At around one year it is okay to move onto cows milk but some babies are not very accepting of change. To make this a smoother transition, you can offer a cup with a mixture of both cows milk and formula or breastmilk (whichever she is used to) and shift the percentage of cows milk up each night. For example, start off 70% usual milk / 30% cows milk then move to 50/50, then 30/70 and then just cows milk.

New skills: Walking!

Once your toddler starts walking unaided, he will want to practice this even when it’s time to sleep. Big physical milestones like this can cause sleep disruptions too. Let him get plenty of practice int he daytime and if he stands up a lot in the cot at bedtime, don’t get into a battle of laying him back down as this will either make him angry or turn it into a game. He will lay himself down eventually.

Toilet training

A huge milestone of toddlerhood and one that can take a few days or many months to complete! My children were one of each. My tip to you is don’t jump on this at the first sign of readiness which is often around 18 months. Just let them practice at this stage as their interest will probably vanish again. If you start too soon you could have a lot of cleaning and laundry to do for a long time. You will glide through the process faster if you wait until around age two and a half when they are more physically ready and willing.


The classic toddler tantrum is something they all go through at some point and usually while they are aged two. Let your toddler express her emotions and try to encourage her to tell you what she is feeling. Rather than have a ‘naughty step’ I prefer a ‘thinking step’ where your toddler can have a think about what she did and reflect for a moment. The behaviour is naughty, not the child.

I hope these tips make toddler transitions easier on you and your family and you will find lots more in my new book ‘The Sleep Nanny System’ available now on Amazon just €12.99. For more information visit www.sleepnanny.co.uk.

by Lucy Shrimpton

Originally posted 2017-09-29 08:38:03.