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Typical sleep at this age
Most toddlers need about 11 to 14 hours of sleep per day, including a one- to three-hour nap each afternoon, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Some children continue to take two shorter daily naps until they turn 2. (If yours is one of them, don't fight it!)
Establishing healthy sleep habits
Help your child learn to fall asleep on his own consistently. At this age, your child should be able to drift off on his own at night without being rocked, nursed, or otherwise lulled to sleep. If he learns to depend on any of these external cues, he won't be able to fall back to sleep during the night when he wakes up and they're not there.
Think of it this way, say sleep experts Jodi Mindell and Richard Ferber: You fall asleep with your head on a pillow, only to wake up in the middle of the night and find the pillow gone. You'd probably be concerned about the pillow's absence and look for it, rousing from your sleepy state.
Similarly, if your child falls asleep every night listening to a particular CD, he'll wonder what happened when he wakes at night and doesn't hear the music, and he may not be able to drop off again easily.
To prevent this, try to get him into bed when he's sleepy but still awake, so he can fall asleep by himself. If you haven't focused on sleep training, start now – before he transitions to his own bed.
Once your child is a year old, the American Academy of Pediatrics says it's okay to let him take one doll, blanket, or soft toy as a lovey to bed with him. He may find a lovey very comforting in bed.
Offer acceptable choices at bedtime. These days your toddler is beginning to test the limits of his newfound independence, wanting to assert control over the world around him. To curtail bedtime power struggles, let your child make choices whenever possible during his nighttime routine — from which bedtime story he wants to hear to which pair of pajamas he'd like to wear. Getting to pick his favorite stuffed animal for the night, for example, might make it easier for him to settle to sleep.
The trick is to offer only two or three alternatives and to make sure you're happy with each option. For example, don't ask, "Do you want to go to bed now?" He could say no, which isn't acceptable.
Several of the most common sleep problems for toddlers of all ages are difficulty falling asleep, separation anxiety, and frequent night wakings. Children may also experience nightmares and night terrors.
This age group has its own particular challenge: Between 18 and 24 months, some children start climbing out of their crib, putting themselves in danger of falling out.
Unfortunately, just because your toddler can get out of her crib doesn't mean she's ready for a big bed. Try to keep her safe in her crib with these tips from Sleeping Through the Night, by sleep expert Jodi Mindell:
Lower the mattress: If you move the crib mattress to its lowest position, you may be able to prevent your child from getting out. (However, this probably won't work when she gets bigger.)
Empty the crib: It's safest to keep toys, bumpers, and extra bedding out of your toddler's crib for a variety of reasons. For example, your child could use crib toys or bumpers as stepstools to help her get out. If you remove them, she may stay put a little longer.
Don't make jumping out worth her while: If your child jumps out of her crib and you react by giving her lots of attention or letting her get into bed with you, she'll just keep doing it. Instead, stay calm and neutral, firmly tell her not to climb out, and put her right back in her crib. She'll get the idea pretty quickly.
Keep watch: Stand in a spot where you can see her in her crib, but she can't see you. If she tries to get out, immediately tell her to stay in bed. Stay calm and keep the interaction minimal, so she doesn't turn it into a game. After you've done this a few times, she'll probably learn to stay put.
Set up a safe environment: If you can't keep your child from jumping out, you can at least make sure she stays safe. Place pillows and other padding on the floor around her crib and on nearby toy chests, dressers, and other objects that could cause a hard knock.
If she absolutely won't stop climbing, you can always move her into her own bed. It may take you a little while to get her to stay, but at least then you won't have to worry about her falling and getting hurt.