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with Heather Gilmore, MSW, LLMSW, BCBA

3 Effective Tips for Getting Your Toddler to Sleep on Her Own Through the Night (It Really Worked!)

baby sleeping photo

Parenting a young child can be exhausting. One specific aspect of parenting that can be especially challenging is bedtime and even all through the night if your child doesn’t sleep soundly through the night. I have three kids. They have all had different sleep-related behaviors and temperaments.

My youngest child, now two and a half years old, has gone through a number of different sleeping arrangements. (First of all, I know that consistency is better for kids, but as a tired and busy mom sometimes you give in.)

Anyway, I had decided that I wanted her to sleep in her own bed (previously she had been sleeping with me in my bed. Don’t judge. 🙂 It happens. Some people agree with co-sleeping. Others think it’s the worst thing ever. We shouldn’t judge each other’s parenting. Instead, let’s support one another.)

So, the reason I am writing this post is to give you some tips of how I got my two year old to successfully sleep in her bed through the night without much assistance from me at all. As I said, her sleeping arrangements and behaviors and various experiences have influenced her (and my) nighttime routines and habits, so it’s a long story, but I will give you some basic tips that have proved to be helpful in getting my two year old to sleep in her toddler bed…without me laying next to her…and without waking up (much) or coming to sleep with me in the middle of the night…and getting a good night’s sleep for her (and more mommy time for me after I lay her down in bed).

3 Effective Tips for Helping a Toddler Sleep through the Night in Her Own Bed…

Based on behavioral science and attachment theory as well as experimentation and motherly love!

  1. Be consistent
    1. As I said, it is very important to be consistent when training your young child to sleep in her own bed. Giving in every once in awhile is more likely to turn out badly. This shows that if she cries hard enough or long enough that you will let her sleep with you. So, be consistent, and make sure she does actually remain in her bed from bedtime to wake up time. BUT…because the crying is difficult for us moms to take sometimes and attachment theory would suggest that we be considerate of our child’s needs and wants (not to say that they can’t ever cry, because they certainly can, but just to be mindful of our reactions and behaviors), do the next tip.
  2. Give her what she wants within limits
    1. You will have to consider how much your child can or cannot understand in order to implement this or modify this tip to suit your child’s level of functioning. I know that my daughter wants me to sleep with her, so what I did was set a quiet timer for a few minutes and I laid my head next to her (awkwardly) on her toddler bed for those few minutes and explained to her that I was going to play the “back and forth game.” When the timer goes off, I would go lay on MY bed for a smaller amount of time (like 30 seconds). Then, when the timer went off, I would reset it and go lay by her for a few minutes again. Then, I’d increase the time that I was to lay on MY bed (without her really knowing what amount of time I was setting the timer for). I did this “back and forth” game over and over again until I was up to about one minute of laying with her and about 7 or so minutes laying on MY bed. (By the way, her bed is in my bedroom as of right now. That’s another story.) By this time, she fell asleep when I was laying on my bed. This might seem complicated, but it worked!
  3. Leave the room for some mommy time!
    1. So, after my daughter got used to the “back and forth” game for a few nights (maybe about a week), I decided to start leaving the room. I would tell her that I would come back and check on her in a little bit if she stays in bed. It’s important here that you actually DO go back and check on her. At first, go back every 30 seconds, then every minute, and keep increasing the amount of time that she has to wait for you to come back, and then, presto!, she will just fall asleep at some point while you are out having your mommy time. And, then, your mommy time will get longer because you will be spending much less time on putting your toddler to bed and much more time just relaxing in the living room or doing whatever. 🙂

Now pause for a moment and look how precious your little one is. She (or he) is growing up so fast! It’s okay, though. It’s good for them and it’s good for you. 🙂

I hope this post helps someone else with a toddler. If you have any questions about my process or thoughts on what has helped your toddler’s sleep habits, please either message me ([email protected]) or comment below.

Thanks again for reading!


3 Effective Tips for Getting Your Toddler to Sleep on Her Own Through the Night (It Really Worked!)

Heather Gilmore

My name is Heather Gilmore. I am so happy to be able to have a space to share helpful insights and resources to other moms out there. Being a parent is hard work and I hope to be able to give you tips and strategies to make it at least a little bit easier and more enjoyable. We love our kids but any mom knows that they can also be exhausting and overwhelming at times, as well. I have a master's degree in social work. I work as a children's therapist. I am also a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and work with children with autism spectrum disorder. Additionally, I am a freelance writer specializing in topics related to children and families. I have my own company called Hope Family Resources which provides resources in person and online to help families find greater hope, health, and happiness. See my site and learn more about me at: or email me at [email protected] I have also published books on Amazon. Search for "Discpline and Parenting Strategies for Kids with ADHD," "Have Peace: How to Have Peace in Your Busy, Chaotic Life," and "Sibling Rivalry: How to Deal with Sibling Rivalry so You Won't Have to Anymore,"

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APA Reference
Gilmore, H. (2016). 3 Effective Tips for Getting Your Toddler to Sleep on Her Own Through the Night (It Really Worked!). Psych Central. Retrieved on January 22, 2020, from


Last updated: 29 Jun 2016
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