Reader Question – For A Toddler That Wakes Multiple Times A Night


Dear Kate,

I’m struggling with my 22 month old son, who has a very  busy brain and wakes between 2 and 7 times a night. At first it was colic then he had hip issues. Now it’s dreams and hunger and general wanting to chat. From ‘E’

Dear E,

I’m sorry that you’re still dealing with so many wake-ups. One of the wonderful things about Hand in Hand parenting is that there’s a lot we can do in the daytime to help our child sleep well, and we can help improve our child’s sleep without using the cry-it-out approach.

One of the most common reasons that children wake is because they are experiencing stress and tension, and they are trying to process feelings. Children experience sleep as a separation so often when upset feelings bubble to the surface they wake up seeking connection to us.

Using all the Hand in Hand parenting tools described in this post can naturally help our children to sleep better. So it’s definitely worth reading the Hand in Hand booklets and implementing them as much as you can.

Sometimes children’s sleep issues are rooted in their early life. If they had a difficult birth, or they had a difficult start or lots of medical intervention, or separation early in life, they can need an extra big dose of connection to help them recover. Toddlers may use asking for things in the night such as food, as a pretext for deeper feelings they need to heal from.

Babies are born with an inbuilt way to release stress and tension, and naturally improve their sleep – crying. However it’s really common for us to get confused about our children’s crying. Most of us were never told about this natural healing process, so we may not recognise the times our child needs to cry to heal from upsets. We may stop them by distracting or avoiding tantrums when actually our child just needs to cry.

All we need to do to help our child sleep well, is simply let go of our need to control or manage their emotions. When we make space to listen to them, they will naturally be able to relax and sleep well through the night.

Staylistening is the tool, we can use to listen to upsets whenever they arise. If we can stay close and listen to our child, when there is nothing to fix, then they can naturally release the feelings that get in the way of their sleep.

Using special time (1-1 time spent with our children doing what they love) can help deepen your connection with your child, so that they internalise a sense of having you ‘there.’ This can mean they are less likely to wake, because it deepens their sense of safety and security. You might want to try some special time first thing in the morning, or as part of your child’s bedtime routine.

Laughter is the second way we naturally release stress and tension from our bodies. Playlistening means any kind of laughter play where our child is in the powerful role. This builds their confidence and sense of security. Lots of laughter throughout the day, can help them to release any tension that may come up at night if it’s not released in the day.

Hand in Hand parenting is based on the idea that our children are naturally good, loving and co-operative. Where does your child struggle? Where are they not co-operative? If you can find those moments and add some laughter, you are not only helping their ability to co-operate, you are also building the connection they need to sleep well. Take a look at this list of ten typical challenging moments for parents of toddlers, and try out some of the playlistening suggestions.

Allow lots of time and space for your children’s feelings in the day. So if for example your child throws a tantrum when you need to leave the house to meet a friend, see if you can send apologies to them and listen to the feelings rather than rushing out. This means the feelings are less likely to arise at night.

And if you try all this and your son is still waking. Have a read of the following sleep related articles, and see if they help too.

5 Sleep Secrets For Peaceful Nights 

Helping Young Children Sleep 

Still need some sleep help? Check out Hand in Hand parenting’s online self study course, Helping Young Children Sleep 

Would you like a Hand in Hand parenting solution to your parenting challenge? Leave me a comment or use the contact form here

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