In case you needed the reminder, sleep is not a luxury, it is a biological necessity. And while you may have made it this far in your adult life by routinely sacrificing sleep for more interesting endeavors, it doesn’t work that way for babies. Critical development is underway while baby is asleep, from tissue repair to the formation of new brain synapses. That doesn’t mean it’s always easy to get your baby to fall asleep, or to stay asleep, even when baby needs it most. Hannah Peterson a pediatric nurse and the owner and operator of Dream Baby Sleep Consulting breaks down what kind of sleep to expect from your baby at 2-years-old.
READ MORE: The Fatherly Guide to Sleep
Busy Days Equal Longer Nights
Depending on how busy your two-year-old’s day has been, you can expect them to sleep about 11-11.5 hours per night.
Naps Have More Variability
One nap a day is the ideal number at this age, but when those naps happen, and for how long, can be somewhat flexible. Is baby at home? Are they at day care? These and other considerations will determine the best nap time. In general, plan for a 1-2 hour nap.
Vocabulary Comes into Play
Once baby turns two, their vocabulary starts rapidly developing and they are more engaged in verbal communication. Peterson recommends finding ways to enable the time and space for them to practice her communication skills during the day, and going out of your way to embrace her emerging vocabulary during the wind-down before bed. Your child will have an easier time falling asleep if her verbalization needs have been met.
Imagination Can Cause Problems at Bedtime
After age two, imagination and fear of the dark can change the dynamics of going to bed. Prepare for this by introducing a nightlight to help baby feel safe and secure in the dark. Peterson says to avoid white and blue, as those colors interfere with the production of melatonin. Instead, choose colors that mimic sunset, like warm orange and soft pink.
Be Clear on Your Expectations for Bedtime and Sleep
From this point forward, your little one will be testing the rules. Be clear on your expectations for bedtime, and then patient when boundaries are pushed. Peterson says to remember that challenging his bedtime is your two-year-old’s way of making sure the world is still a safe place. If the rule about bedtime is the same as last night, that actually helps him settle down a lot easier, and faster. All you really need to do is stay consistent.