Pacifier Plan for a 2-year old sleep regression

Question from Ashley:

My son turned 2 at the end of December and for the last few weeks we’ve been having some early morning issues. At least 2-3 times a week he wakes up like 1.5-2.5 hours earlier than normal. He wakes up asking for me and/or his pacifier. The first time it happened I tried to ignore him, but after over 30 min I went in gave him his pacifier and laid him down and he went back to sleep. Since he went back to sleep so easily the subsequent times it happened I would just go in and give him his pacifier and cover him up, then leave. However, since the frequency is increasing, I am thinking this was the wrong approach.

We did sleep coaching after taking Tracy’s class when he was 1. This is the first sleep issue we have had since the 18 month regression. Just not sure what the right response is. I know he’s been having separation anxiety more during the days so I feel guilty not going to him, but I also don’t want to prolong these issues. Any similar experiences? I’m half tempted to get rid of the pacifier, but he only uses it to sleep and I don’t think I have the energy for that yet.

His schedule is typically:
Bed by 7, up about 6, and nap from about 1-3 (varies).

Hi Ashley
Separation anxiety peaks again at 2 years old and sleep. Needs may change. Extra attention is appropriate during the day and this may pass in a few weeks. It’s a really good time to evaluate your accuracy at catching the sleep window so watch his body language carefully. Perhaps  a later bedtime  is needed. Watch for the tired signs.  I suspect that the label of “terrible twos” is the result of the changing sleep needs at this age and  the parents haven’t adjusted for or are even aware that this happens.  Before this milestone, many children have a 4 hour awake window. Then, around 2 years old it can change to anywhere between 3.5 hour to 6.5 hours. Watching for the sleep cues will help you figure out the new normal.

To help you prevent a compounding issue of needing more and more attention in the early morning hours, You could try a paci plan.
Put the pacifier(s) in a small bucket attached to the corner is the crib. Easily accessible. Let him help you fill it at night.
When he wakes wanting the paci, come right away and say “find your paci” or something like that giving him vocal direction.
Then hand him a pacifier.
Do that for 1-3 days.
The next step is to do that but help him find the bucket by guiding his hand to it. And say your vocal directional phrase like “Find the paci.”
The next step is to just say your directional phrase. . No other help.  Each step can be 1-3 days each.

I like behavioral plans that are responsive and supportive.  They help the growing child feel secure    which helps  them more easily learn.

I hope that helps.

Tracy Spackman

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