When your two year old is a sleep thief (still)

Whenever I used to hear of two year olds not sleeping I used to offer a sympathetic head tilt.  And secretly used to wonder what those parents were doing, what two year old doesn’t sleep??

Now, two years later I’m eating my words.  Who has a two year old that doesn’t sleep?  I do.

I’m now on the receiving end of sympathetic head tilts, and people asking have you tried this, have you tried that.

Yes.  I’ve tried a lot.

No.  He still doesn’t sleep.

He didn’t sleep when he was 4 months old, he didn’t sleep when he was a year old, he didn’t sleep at 18 months and he still doesn’t sleep now.

You need to put him to bed awake, he’s relying on you to put him to sleep.

He goes to bed awake, he lies in the cot, talks to his bunny (or monkey, or lion depending on his mood) before hurling it out.  He sits and reads his books to himself after story time (or rips them up in a fit of temper) and then lies down and goes to sleep.

my two year old doesn't sleep

Most of the time.  He has nights where he needs extra cuddles, he has nights where I hold his hand in the cot, he has nights where I’m in and out like a yoyo.  But for the most part, he puts himself to sleep in his cot.

And he still doesn’t sleep through the night.

You need to try a consistent bedtime, the same every night.  No you need to change it – it’s not working

On the whole, we do.  Bath, milk, story, bed.  Subtle variations but pretty much same same.  He can predict what’s coming next and preempts it.  He runs to the fridge to get his milk, he has his own special seat for story time.  He rushes to give his brother kisses.

Still no sleep.

If your child isn’t sleeping then your bedtime routine is obviously not working.

Helpful.  What do you suggest?

We’ve added stories, we’ve cut stories.  They go downstairs together, they don’t go downstairs together.  Bath time shenanigans at night, bathing them in the day.  We’ve tried all variations.

My two year old doesn’t sleep through the night (still).

my two year old doesn't sleep

You need to increase his nap.  No he naps too much.

Apparently sleep begets sleep.  Or it doesn’t.

Whatever length of nap he has, the sleep pattern through the night is the same.  Sporadic.

Naptime temper tantrums because I won’t let him sleep on the tiled floor….

He doesn’t sleep through the night.

He needs a lovey to help with separation anxiety.

I’d LOVE him to have a lovey.  Not only would it make my life easier, it’s incredibly cute.  What’s not so cute?  Having him hurl anything I give him at my head.

two year old doesn't sleep

So the lovey isn’t in the cot with him during the night when he needs it as it’s been used as a missile.

And guess what?  Still doesn’t sleep.

You need to do some tough love.

What works for you, doesn’t work for me.  Tough love isn’t for us, crying it out isn’t for us, nor is controlled crying.  If it works for you, great, marvellous.  But it doesn’t work for me, it makes me anxious, upset and worked up.  None of which are great for my (already high) blood pressure.

The old saying – you do you and I’ll do me.

My two year old doesn’t sleep through the night

Well, at least not consistently.

He wakes and then he needs a little bit of help to go back to sleep.  Sometimes that’s in the form of me rocking him on the chair.  Or I might sleep on an air bed in his room.  He likes to have a bottle still.


These are bad habits.


These are things that are sleep crutches for him and maybe, just maybe, if I wasn’t so tired and had some energy to work on stopping them he’d sleep.


I may have made a rod for my own back.

But you know what?  My two year old doesn’t sleep through the night.  And it’s still OK.

It’s OK for me to be exhausted from broken sleep.  It’s perfectly acceptable for me to form a caffeine habit.  My moaning to friends?  Totally normal.

People might expect your two year old to sleep at night.

They might give you the sympathetic head tilt.

But it’s just as normal for a toddler to wake up and need help getting back to sleep as it is for them to sleep through the night.

So head tilt away to me, because my two year old doesn’t sleep through the night.  Still.

But he’ll get there, one day.  Of that I’m sure, until then?  There’s always coffee.

Whenever I used to hear of two year olds not sleeping I used to offer a sympathetic head tilt.  And secretly used to wonder what those parents were doing, what two year old doesn’t sleep??  Now, two years later I’m eating my words.  Who has a two year old that doesn’t sleep?  I do.

my two year old doesn't sleep






  1. April 4, 2017 / 9:16 pm

    Ha, yep good old coffee! You’re right, he’ll get there in his own time and in a few years you won’t be able to stop him sleeping all night and all morning. Because that’s life. Does it really matter? Probably to you when you’re exhausted but it will soon seem like a distant memory and it’s definitely nothing to do with anybody else, even if they are trying to help!

  2. April 4, 2017 / 10:27 pm

    No head tilting here. I need to conserve energy because my 2 year old doesn’t sleep.

    Like you I’ve tried everything.

    The only way of getting a decent stretch on uninterrupted sleep is to let her fall asleep when she’s ready. This can be anywhere from 9 to 3 am.

    Her brother was the same. I asked my mother about it and apparently so was I. Of I’d not napped by 4pm she kept me awake with no nap. I tried this once with Little Miss OMG but she was so cranky and overtired that it was hell for all of us. Her included.

    One day, like her brother she will Sleep. Until then I get lots of coffee fuelled quality one on one time with her.

  3. April 7, 2017 / 9:49 pm

    It’s so funny because with my first baby who slept through at 9 weeks, i put it all down to me following a specific routine, being so in sync with her needs, bla bla. Baby number two then came alone. Totally different beast. He’s 1 and is still waking up for milk. It’s quicker to give it than spend a few hours trying the cry it out approach and wake up the whole house. The second time mum me would happily punch the smug first time mum me! Coffee, chocolate, wine – anything goes my lovely xx

  4. April 12, 2017 / 10:43 am

    Absolutely love this post. My 10 month old doesn’t sleep through, though not exactly your situation i can somewhat empathise. And i totally 100% agree. It’s OK and it will happen one day!

  5. Heidi
    May 16, 2017 / 4:56 pm

    I hear ya, Momma! My almost 2-year old (2 more days) will not go to sleep unless someone “snuggles” him. He just cries or plays with his toys (or his fingers or toes if we removed everything) and NEVER, EVER goes to sleep on his own. But he’ll pass out on anyone that’s holding him after our bedtime routine. Then he’ll sleep through the night maybe about 50% of the time. I’ve heard plenty of advise and opinions, and we also have tried everything but “cry it out” to with no improvement. So for now, we are OK with snuggling him to sleep and having an extra cup of coffee on those days that we need it. My son is a happy little boy and that’s all that matters. You are great mom for caring enough to try the different methods and for accepting you little guy just as he is. Hugs!

  6. Marianne
    May 22, 2017 / 9:51 am

    Thank you so much for this! Those head tilts and suggestions drive me mental. I’m addicted to caffeine and I’ve not had a full week of sleep in nearly 2 1/2 years. I’m so sorry you have had this too but what you wrote is like it was my life being written about. Thank you for making me feel better 🙂

  7. Ami G
    May 26, 2017 / 9:42 pm

    I’ve given in. I changed his bad from cot to low single and that helped for all of 5 minutes, now he can get out of the bed and cling to the baby gate as he sobs and screams like he’s heart broken. I’ve climbed into his bed, put him in my bed, taken him down stairs and napped on the sofa. If I head tilt it’s merely because the coffees wearing off lol x

    • Laura
      May 31, 2017 / 10:06 am

      I am too scared to take the sides off!

  8. Diana
    January 21, 2019 / 2:20 am

    Thank you for this! My 2.5 year old doesn’t sleep through the night! She needs a cuddle to fall asleep and one of us (mostly daddy) to sleep with her half the night

    Thank you for not letting me feel like I am alone or not normal!

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