3-year-old has started waking at night

Hi parents out there, 

I am reaching out to see if anyone can recommend a coach or helpful book to guide us through this very challenging time in our toddler's sleep patterns. She's almost 3 and has never slept in our bed. Bedtime has always been relatively drama-free. But, for the past month she has been resisting bedtime and waking up every three hours and refusing to get back in bed and go to sleep. She started preschool a month ago and I am in my third trimester of a second pregnancy, so we are aware of potential anxious thoughts that are keeping her up at night and trying to respond with firm, consistent, and loving direction to go back to sleep. But, things have not gotten better after a month and we are desperate -I am totally sleep deprived and really worried about this behavior persisting or getting worse once the new baby is born. 

Any advice on a person or book we can consult would be much appreciated. 



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Breaks in sleep habits are so tough! My only advice is to make sure you do not give her anything that is desirable during when she wakes up including positive or negative attention. Waking up has to be boring so that rolling over and going back to sleep is better. If she comes into your room to wake you up, no hugs, no holding her hand, just walk back to her room (she will follow), say "nighttime is for sleeping", put her in bed, and walk away. Do this as many times as necessary--being as calm and boring as possible. She will think of all sorts of things--I need a drink of water, I'm scared of something, I had a bad dream. Do not let this dissuade you. You can sit next to her bed, head down, no eye contact, be boring. She'll get the picture and your visits will stop. (I know! Easier said than done! You can do it!)

Hi Laura,

I don’t have advice, but we’re going through the exact same thing. We had a baby a month ago, and now they both wake up at night. Our oldest also started preschool at the same time the baby came. It’s a lot of transition all at once and my guess is it’s anxiety provoked. Sometimes if we talk to her about it at bedtime she sleeps better, but when all else fails my partner sleeps with her in her twin bed. The other night I gave up and put her back in her old crib. She still woke up, but didn’t get out and eventually went back to sleep. 

Hang in there, and let me know if you find something that works. 

- Diana 

The Happy Sleeper is a great book and covers ages 0-5, including troubleshooting. Good luck!

I’m very happy with Michelle McNeil, sleep specialist based in Lafayette. 

We had some sleep challenges along the way, around that same age and then again with other disruptions to the family routine - moving etc. My husband and I have thought highly of TB Brazelton’s Touchpoints, throughout although I admit I am biased because he was my pediatrician and his son is a friend. All that aside, he has interesting things to say. We did not always follow his advice to the letter but have relied on it for almost eight years now. 

Would you consider taking her into your bed? You might get some sleep if she’s asleep there rather than the back and forth as she wakes. It will not be forever. I promise. 

We had such problem with both of our kids around that time. Initially, I allowed my son to join me in bed.That resulted him waking up earlier and earlier. He would wake up 1 hour after bedtime and come to sleep with me. My solution was to hug and kiss him and firmly bring him to HIS bed. The compromise was that I would sit by his bed, hold his hand, until he is completely asleep. It is very physically demanding (I missed out on my sleep), but after a week or so, it was fine.

I had the same situation. Same age, same transition.  We felt with it by having my husband share a room with our daughter for about 6 months.  We all slept great.  Once my 2nd was born I only had to attend to his night time wake ups:). My daughter even slept some nights in the same bed w her dad. After this period she went right back to sleeping great and by herself. She's still a great sleeper. During that time my husband also realized she had sleep apnea! She had surgery to remove her tonsils and that actually greatly improved her mood. 

Totally agree with keeping it boring. We just made it through the same situation - 3 year old, and I'm in my third trimester. As soon as his feet touched the floor outside of his bed, my husband would pick him up and lay him back down, saying "Ok, let's try again." This could repeat itself up to 10 times before he'd finally stay put. We had my husband do it because 1) picking up a 3-year old with a baby bump is not ideal, and 2) he wanted the contact with me, but was less enthused about dad. He knew exactly what would happen and that it wouldn't get him anywhere. His attempts slowly grew fewer until they just stopped (took maybe 2 months total).


I would recommend Angelique Millette out of Marin. We used her with our infant and she’s phenomenal.  We’ve recommended her to several friends and they were all happy.  I see on her website she helps with toddlers as well as infants.  I hope everything is going well and your need had passed, but if not you might look her up!