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My Toddler Won't Go to Bed Without a Bottle

Photograph by Twenty20

Dear Heather,

My 2-year-old, who's now in a big-boy bed, insists on me putting him to bed with a bottle. He used to sleep from 7:30 p.m. to 7:30 or 8:00 a.m., and now he wakes up between 6 and 6:45 a.m. Any advice to help him sleep later?

Not So Early Riser

Dear No So,

RELATED: My Baby Sleeps Through The Night But Now I Can't

Yes, your 2-year-old has outgrown the need for a bottle before bed but, just like anything else, he’s used to it, so it feels very comforting to him. It’s what he’s known for his whole little life. Also, it sounds like you’re putting him to bed with a bottle (in his bed) or feeding him a bottle right before bed, which you want to shift, so he can brush his teeth. Those cavities can come on quickly when there’s milk involved before bed.

My suggestion is to be very empathetic and also very clear with him that you have a new way of doing things before bed. Talk about how it’s important to take care of his teeth and that you’ll have new steps to the routine. At his age, he can have milk with dinner and sips of water until bed—no need to drink a bottle of milk.

RELATED: My Toddler Stays Up Until 3 a.m.

On the early rising front, you’d be surprised what a toddler’s body considers a normal wake up time. Actually, 6 a.m. is a good wake-up time for a child his age, as long as he’s going to bed at 7 p.m. I’d recommend protecting his bedtime and making sure he has the opportunity to sleep at least 11 hours before his 6 to 6:45 a.m. wake-up time. Make the room dark and use white noise to see if you can help him sleep in longer, but don’t be surprise or think something is wrong if he’s greeting you at 6 a.m. Toddlers are notoriously early risers.

Happy Sleeping,


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Do you have a sleep question you want Heather to answer for Sleep Fix? Email her at heatherturgeonmft@gmail.com. Sleep expert Heather Turgeon, co-author of "The Happy Sleeper: The Science-Backed Guide to Helping Your Baby Get a Good Night's Sleep—Newborn to School Age," will fix your family's sleep problems in this space as she does in her Los Angeles-based sleep consultations. Turgeon's solutions are nonjudgmental, kind and—best of all—based on science.

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