Why is my Toddler Waking in the Night?


Dec 14, 2023

Is your toddler waking in the night all of a sudden, leaving you at a loss?

Whether your toddler is typically a rock star sleeper or one that keeps you on your toes, night wakings and early morning wakings are never something we look forward to or embrace as parents.

Believe it or not, it can be very common and even normal for toddlers to suddenly begin waking during the night or the early morning. 

In this video and podcast episode, I’m going to share with you four areas of your child’s sleep that you should check when it comes to solving your toddler’s night wakings.

Addressing these areas of your toddler’s sleep will help your toddler to stop waking throughout the night (or early morning!) and start sleeping a blissful, 11-12 hours again!

Does Your Toddler Sleep Independently?

Sometimes, a toddler waking in the night is a simple sign that they are growing, changing, and learning a very important new skill. 

Other times, a toddler waking in the night means that a new, sleepless habit has developed. 

Maybe you’ve previously sleep trained your child using my Baby Sleep Training Course.

Or, maybe your child has been an “angel sleeper” who has never needed any type of sleep training before now.

Whatever the case may be, you’ve landed on this video because your toddler isn’t sleeping through the night. 

Instead, your toddler is waking up multiple times a night or in the early mornings and you’re ready to do what it takes for you and your toddler to feel well rested again.

You know that sleeping all night long feels amazing and even one or two night wakings can begin to feel like misery. 

The good news is that the information and tips in this video and blog will help your toddler sleep through the night again.

There is one caveat though, and that is your toddler must be sleeping independently. 

If your toddler has never been able to fall asleep and stay asleep independently without the help of you or a prop, then they are actually going to need more support than this video and blog can give you. 

If your toddler uses a pacifier to fall asleep or needs you to rock, shush, pat, rub or lay next to them in order to go to sleep and stay asleep, then what they really need is our Toddler Sleep Training Course.

Our toddler course provides you with a clear, step-by-step plan for every single day of the 3-week program. It also gives you the confidence and script that you need when it comes to teaching your toddler how to fall asleep within 10 to 15 minutes and sleep a full and blissful 11-12 hours through the night. 

If you’re ready to finally take the plunge and make sleep a thing for you and your toddler, then I want to point you to our Toddler Sleep Training Course HERE .

Let this course be the catalyst that helps you and your family make sleep a thing, together. 

If your toddler is already sleeping independently but definitely needs some troubleshooting in order to solve their current night wakings and/or early morning wakings, then stay with me and let’s dive in!

How to Help Your Toddler Sleep Through the Night

When it comes to your toddler having night wakings and early morning wakings, it’s important to look at the “big picture.”

Your toddler’s sleeping habits (both good and bad) are affected by a wide host of things including their nap schedule, daily diet, and daily play opportunities.

In order to solve your toddler’s current night wakings, there are four pivotal areas of their sleep that you need to consider and check.

Check #1: Is your toddler on 1 nap? 

The first area that you need to check when it comes to your toddler waking in the night is their daily nap schedule.

A toddler (14 months-3 years old) should be taking one, midday nap. 

If you’re listening to this and you have an 18 month old who’s on 2-naps, then that’s the culprit.

That’s why your child is waking up in the night.

I have an entire youtube video devoted to the 2-1 nap transition and you can find that HERE.

I also have a podcast on the 2-1 Nap Transition HERE.

It boils down to a simple math equation.

If your toddler is getting too much sleep during the day then they’re going to sleep less at night.

A toddler should be getting a maximum of 2.5 hours of consolidated, daytime sleep. 

If your toddler is sleeping more than 2.5 hours during the day, then their bodies will need more awake time and they will begin waking during the night. 

>>> Is your toddler struggling with their nap, too? Check out my blog on the Toddler Nap Regression HERE. <<<

A toddler’s midday nap should be anywhere from 1.5-2.5 hours in length, depending on their age. 

1.5-2.5 hours is a large range for the midday nap and it’s important to consider the age of your child and if they are in daycare.

If you’re wondering, “How do I make this one, midday nap happen? What about daycare? Is my child on the right schedule?”

I want to point you to my Complete Schedule Guide HERE. 

In this Complete Schedule Guide I’ve sat down and wrote everything I know about baby and toddler sleep schedules to give you the guidance you need to KEEP sleep a thing for years to come.

Check #2 Is your toddler drinking milk before bed? 

The second area you want to consider when it comes to your toddler waking in the night or early morning is your toddler’s milk consumption.

Is your toddler drinking milk right before they go to bed?

This is a common habit for toddlers to hold on to past the 12 month mark and it can lead to night wakings and early morning wakings. 

When your child turns one there should be no more bottles, period. 

The bedtime bottle needs to be dropped as well.

Between 12-13 months old, your child should be weaning off of bottles and learning to drink from a cup. 

After 13 months of age, your child should not be having a bottle or sippy cup of milk right before bed. 

“Why, Becca?”

One of the biggest reasons why your child needs to drop the bedtime milk is because milk contains natural sugars inside the carbohydrates in milk and they are causing a sugar crash for your toddler. 

Along with that, your toddler is likely not eating enough because they are filling up on milk instead of solid food.

It could be that your  toddler is waking up hungry during the night or in the morning because they didn’t eat enough for dinner and instead drank too much milk before bedtime. 

There is a direct correlation between picky toddlers and toddlers who are addicted to milk.

If your toddler is drinking milk like it’s their job, and they’re not eating their dinner, that’s a problem.

After 13 months of age, milk should be seen as a beverage and not a meal.

Move the bedtime milk and serve it with dinner. 

Start with a smaller serving of milk, 4-6 ounces and if your toddler asks for more, ask them to first eat their food.

If you’re a nursing mom, that’s amazing and you do not need to stop nursing just because I’m saying there should be no more milk at bedtime. 

If you are still nursing your toddler, all you need to do is begin nursing your toddler outside of their bedroom in a well-lit room BEFORE you begin your toddler’s bedtime routine instead of right before they go into their crib. 

Usually, anytime you make a change to a sleep habit or pattern it takes time to see progress

However, when you remove the bedtime bottle or sippy cup of milk you are going to see immediate change.

So trust me on this, remove the bedtime milk and look forward to seeing progress in your toddler’s sleep that very same night.

Check #3 What happens during the first 10-15 minutes of your toddler’s morning? 

Let’s face it, toddlers can tend to be milk monsters. 

Because of that, it’s no surprise that my third check also revolves around milk. 

Bedtime milk becomes an obsession, and sometimes morning milk becomes an obsession, too. 

If your child wakes up in the morning and they know that as soon as they wake up they are going to get a big bottle or sippy cup of milk, then they are going to crave that milk as soon as they open their eyes, even if it’s 4am in the morning.

It’s important to remember that your toddler isn’t a baby anymore and their day shouldn’t start with milk. 

So how should your toddler’s day start? 

Once your toddler’s day begins (after 6:00AM) they can get up out of their crib, change their diaper/and or use the potty,  get dressed, say good morning to the house, maybe stand in the sunshine, and help get breakfast ready! 

After 10-15 minutes of time has passed, they can sit down and eat their breakfast. 

Milk can be served as a beverage with their breakfast.

You see the difference?

Instead of waking with the instant gratification of milk, they have time and space to wake up, get ready for their day, and enjoy breakfast..

Developing a morning milk addiction can happen before you even realize it.  

Maybe your child wakes early, screaming for milk, so you give it to them and you let them watch a show because it’s way too early for you to start your day. 

Once you’ve opened the door to early morning milk and a show, your child will begin to require that every morning, no matter what time they wake up.

All of a sudden they go from waking at 5:30AM… 

Then 5:30AM turns to 5:00AM… 

Then 5:00AM turns to 4:00AM…

At that point it’s so early you tell them to get into your bed and drink their milk quietly. 

And then all of a sudden you wake up one day and wonder how your toddler has started sleeping in your bed.

Be proactive now and analyze the first 10 to 15 minutes of your toddler’s day. 

If your child is asking for the milk, it is perfectly okay to say, not yet. 

Set the stage and expectation that there will always be a gap of time between when they wake up in the morning and when they eat breakfast. 

Preventing instant gratification with milk helps your toddler to adopt a healthy view of sleeping all night long and grow in patience. 

Check #4 Is your toddler getting enough physical activity? 

If your toddler has been struggling with sleep at night and suddenly waking up, it could be that they aren’t engaging in enough physical activity throughout  the day.  

Toddler’s NEED to burn energy throughout the day so that they are ready to sleep at night. 

There’s all sorts of things you can do to get creative, but increasing your toddler’s physical activity during the day is a huge deal when it comes to sleep.

If we as adults sit around all day and don’t exert a lot of energy, it can be very hard to fall asleep or have a  solid night of sleep because our body didn’t burn enough energy.

The same is especially true for toddlers! 

Toddlers have a lot of energy needs. 

I recommend going outside for at least 1 hour per day.

Engaging in outdoor play will help your toddler to fall asleep better at night. 

Evening walks after dinner, dance parties in the living room, or laps around the house are just a few practical ways that your toddler can burn energy before winding down for the night!


Now, remember, these checks and tips will work under one condition.

Your toddler must know how to fall asleep and stay asleep independently. 

If your toddler is using a pacifier or you’re having to pat them, shush them, hold them, rock them or lay with them to sleep, then none of these checks are actually going to solve anything. 

The four considerations about your toddler’s sleep that we covered above will help to recalibrate your toddler’s sleep if they truly are an independent sleeper.

If you have a toddler who has NEVER had the skill of knowing how to put themselves to sleep independently, then this is where our Toddler SleepTraining Course HERE comes into play.

It’s really common to run into night wakings and early morning wakings as your baby blossoms and grows into a toddler.

If your toddler is waking during the night, it’s not impossible to get them back to sleeping a blissful 11-12 hours at night if they are an independent sleeper!

In order to help your toddler sleep through the night, consider the following:

  1. Is your toddler on one nap? At 14+ months of age, it’s time for your toddler to consolidate their sleep and take one, midday nap. 
  2. Is your toddler drinking a bottle or a sippy cup of milk before bed? After 13  months, it’s time to drop the bottles, serving milk solely as a beverage alongside a meal.
  3. Is your toddler drinking milk immediately upon waking in the morning? There should be at least 10-15 minutes between when your toddler wakes in the morning and when they eat breakfast so that they do not become dependent on drinking milk as soon as their eyes open in the morning. 
  4. Is your toddler burning enough energy? Toddlers need to burn a large amount of energy each day in order to be tired enough to sleep all night. Ensure that your child is engaging in enough active play (preferably outside!) before nap and bedtime so that they can sleep soundly. 


Why is my toddler waking in the night?

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