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Bedtime and Your Toddler

Adapted from Sleeping Through the Night: How Babies, Toddlers, and Their Parents Can Get a Good Night's Sleep by Dr. Jodi Mindell and JOHNSON'S® Your Baby and Toddler, From Birth to 3 Years, DK Publishing Inc., 2004.

As your toddler starts becoming more and more independent and doing so many things for himself, it's tempting to think of him as "beyond babyhood." But keep in mind that he still has many of the same needs he had as a baby. He still needs a lot of attention, a lot of cuddling, and a lot of sleep. Toddlers need between 12 and 14 hours of sleep in total, usually 11 to 12 hours at night and another one to three hours during the day. If you regularly have to wake your toddler in the morning, it could be a sign that he or she isn't getting enough sleep.

Most toddlers will have learned to sleep through the night, although change and stressful events (a trip or illness, for example) can cause temporary setbacks. Switching your toddler from the crib to a bed at too early an age may also be disruptive and cause a setback. You may want to wait until your toddler is almost three years old before switching to a "big kid" bed.

Your toddler's sleep patterns will continue to change throughout the next year. For example, between one and two years, he will start to forego his morning nap. Still, it's important to keep him on a regular schedule to help him get the sleep he needs. Here are ways to ensure your toddler is getting the sleep he needs for his growing years:

Set a regular sleep schedule: Establish regular naptimes and a bedtime that enable your toddler to get all the sleep he or she needs. Restricting naps won't help a toddler sleep better at night. Quite the opposite - it can lead to overtiredness and more sleep problems. But avoid naps late in the afternoon.

Give your toddler soothing surroundings: Keep the bedroom dark, cool, and quiet. A night-light is fine; a television isn't.

Put your child to bed drowsy but awake: This will teach your toddler to fall asleep, as well as to go bak to sleep during the night, on his own with little, if any help from you.

Create a routine that helps your child fall asleep on his own:

A bedtime routine will help your toddler become sleepy. Your child's bedtime routine may include taking a bath, changing into pajamas, giving your child a massage, reading books together, sharing a song, imagining nice dreams, or whatever works best for you and your toddler.

Wind down at bathtime:

Bathtime is also a good way to signal "time to relax" to your toddler in preparation for sleep. Help your toddler relax and let go of the day's excitement with the warmth of a bath and your comforting touch. Bathtime with JOHNSON'S® BEDTIME® BATH with NATURAL CALM™ essences is part of a clinically proven routine that will help your toddler fall asleep easier and sleep through the night better. When washing his hair, letting him help out can keep things calm. Use an easy-to-rinse shampoo that won't sting his eyes, such as JOHNSON’S® BUDDIES™ Easy-comb 2-in-1 Shampoo and give him plenty of encouragement.

Help your toddler relax with a massage:

You may also choose to add massage to your toddler's bedtime routine. If you haven't already learned about the benefits of baby massage, it's never too late to start! Massaging a moisturizer all over after bath time is a nice way to make his bedtime routine more relaxing. Towel dry your toddler, then, using a quarter-sized amount of gentle moisturizer, massage his arms legs, back and tummy with smooth firm strokes. Be sure that the moisturizer is age-appropriate and made for his skin. A soothing massage with JOHNSON'S® BEDTIME® LOTION® enriched with NATURALCALM™ essences, is part of a clinically proven routine to help your baby fall asleep easier and sleep through the night better.

Keep his bedtime routine consistent, and moving forward:

Whether you choose bath time, massage, story time or a combination of all three for your toddler's bedtime routine, make sure that you stay consistent and follow the same pattern every evening. Your child will feel more relaxed if he knows what is coming next. Also, make sure his bedtime routine is always heading in the same direction - upstairs and into bed! Once you are upstairs, head from the bathroom straight to your child's bedroom for pajamas and books. You don't want a routine that moves all over the place.

Keep it short and sweet:

Keep his bedtime routine to 20 to 45 minutes (if it includes a bath). Taking two hours to get ready for bed is not a bedtime routine, it's an evening activity! Get your child a last drink of water and make sure everyone has gotten hugs and kisses. If everything is included, then your child has no excuses for calling for another drink of water or asking to go to the bathroom.

Save the best for last:

The last thing in your child's routine should be his favorite. Save snuggle time, reading stories, or playing a special game for last. This will encourage your child to head right to bed. If your child stalls at bedtime, set clear limits, such as how many books you will read or how many drinks of water you will allow.

A consistent routine that your toddler enjoys - a bath that lets him express his independence, a massage that helps him unwind and a favorite story that he asks for again and again (and again?) - helps your toddler look forward to bedtime. With patience and consistency, you can help ensure that your toddler is getting the sleep he needs for his next stage of development - mental, physical and emotional. With enough sleep at night and throughout the day, you may be able to avoid many of the tantrums this age group is so famous for. Which means you can spend your waking hours getting to know that wonderful person your toddler is becoming.

Remember to keep a consistent sleep schedule for yourself. After tucking your toddler into bed, unwind with a bath for yourself. Use scented candles. Have your partner give you a massage. JOHNSON'S® Baby Oil Lavender smooths and soothes. Enriched with Lavender and Chamomile, ingredients known to calm and relax, this product [link to product ] is a perfect moisturizer to use for massage.. Teach your partner to massage it into your skin with a relaxing stroke and soon you'll be looking forward to your very own bedtime routine!

For step-by-step instructions on baby massage, click here [link article: Bonding with Baby: A Guide to Baby Massage].