Of all the questions we've fielded regarding sudden changes in toddler sleep, this mama nailed it... and I'm sure many of you relate.
Dear The Sleeping Child;
My son will be 2 [soon]. He has been in a double bed since about 13/14 months and transitioned very well. He started sleeping through the night around the same time. We usually only have wake ups (and usually only once) when he is teething. Lately he has been waking up multiple times a night very suddenly. Crying and getting out of bed and wailing outside of his door until we come. Once we are there he usually stops, we put him back in bed and lay with him for a minute or so and leave. Until the next time. He has been waking up at 6 ever since the bad nights too when normally it was between 630-8
Sometimes when I lay with him he will kinda of whimper and moves his legs. Could those be growing pains or restless legs? But most of the times it doesn't seem to be anything. Could it still be teething? What should we be doing to help this get back to his sleeping through the night. Is it just a stage? Any help is appreciated.
Suddenly Sleepless Toddler
Dear Suddenly Sleepless Toddler;
Your list of "what can it be" ended on the money: it is a stage, especially since he's a rockstar sleeper.
The cognitive developments at approximately 2 years old is one full of opposites and lots of emotions that they cannot recognize nor know what to do with.
For example, A) he understands that people do things for and by themselves, so he wants his autonomy to do things for and by himself BUT he still desperately needs you because your connection with him is what gifts him confidence to explore, persevere, and learn.
With this in mind, there will be lots more hesitancy around initially going to sleep "I want to control when and how I have bedtime, but I want this focussed time with you", more frantic wake ups "I'm dreaming/feeling about my days and I'm not sure what I'm feeling, I need my mom/dad", and earlier mornings "I just want to get going to learn more!"
Be confident that it's a stage and that you'll never give him too much love and connection when he wakes at night, so respond immediately and in a way that *feels right.*
The Sleeping Child's approach, Parenting for Sleep, is wholly centred on positive parenting and the most beautiful spot to focus your attention is Special Time. (See Hand in Hand Parenting's Special Time checklist here)
Offering your undivided attention as Special Time reestablishes your parent-child connection, opens up time for your son to express any emotional projects he's working on, and - simply put - allows him to enjoy you and your attention in the exact way he wants! When you offer this connection during the day, you fill his emotional bucket before bedtime separation comes along.
Special Time is a long-term solution to sleep – especially when accompanied by the other Hand in Hand Parenting practices – because you develop parenting tools that flex with your son's physical and emotional development. How great is that?!?
Read through the link and think about how you can work Special Time into your day. Note: if your son is in daycare, try offering Special Time for a few minutes in the morning (reestablishing connection before separation) and again when he's home (reestablishing connection after potentially overwhelming times).
Try it and let us know!!