Pantley's Answer: It is possible that your son's developmental leap is affecting his sleep, since sleep needs often change along with major milestones. Typically, around this age, toddlers modify their sleep hours by switching from two daily naps to one, or by putting more sleep into their night hours and less into their nap hours.
Take a look at your son's sleep schedule. At this age a child typically can last 4 to 6 hours between sleep periods, and usually has 2-3 hours of naptime plus 11-12 hours of night sleep -- this is a good way to judge if his current schedule is working for him, or if he needs an adjustment.
Co-Sleeping By Choice: Nikkie from Hornell, New York:
I have a 3-year-old son and a 2-year-old daughter. Recently they were both sick and so I had them sleeping with me to monitor fevers, and now this is the only way they can get to bed. Because I am a single mom who works full time and is in graduate school I have been allowing them to sleep in my bed because it makes for an easier bed time so I can get my work done after they go down. Am I doing the wrong thing?
Pantley's Answer: If you allow your children to co-sleep with you because you enjoy that arrangement, that's great, don't change a thing. However, if you'd prefer to have your bed to yourself, there are many ways to encourage their independence.
Actually, you have the perfect solution in your grasp -- create a "sibling bed" and allow them to snooze together! I suggest a large mattress on the floor in one bedroom where they can share sleep, and use the other bedroom as a playroom. Create a new pre-bed routine that includes story time while they are lying quietly together. Once they are sleepy and settled you can retreat to your own room. Many siblings who share a bed grow up to enjoy a special friendship with a foundation of hours of quiet pre-sleep conversation.
'The Morning Snuggle': Beth from Burke, Virginia:
Elizabeth, I love your gentle ways of helping parents and children in all areas -- especially sleep. My question: Our 29-month-old sleeps in her bed for most of the night. We get together for a "morning snuggle" so we both get some extra Z's. Lately, however, she's been waking a couple times a night and won't go back to sleep without being in bed with me. Any suggestions on how to help her get back to sleep on her own and wait until morning for our snuggle?
Pantley's Answer: Thank you Beth! I believe that gentle, respectful ways are every bit as effective as tough cry-it-out methods, so why not pick the nice way! Your little one has figured out that it's much nicer to sleep with you than alone, and she knows she's welcome in your room -- so there she goes. It's hard for her to identify when it's "early morning" vs. "middle of the night."
You can try putting a "sign" on your bedroom door -- a bright yellow sunshine, perhaps, that tells her it's okay to join you. Also, do a practice run with her each night before bed -- demonstrate what she should do if the door says bedtime, and what she can do when the sunshine is showing. If she comes in at nighttime then gently walk her back to her own bed and tuck her in and let her know you'll see her in the morning.