The One Habit That Keeps My Toddler Sleeping Through the Night

I have a beautiful, top-of-the-line stroller in a pristine cherry-red fabric. It pushes with such ease that it may as well be powered by electricity. And yet, I’ve discovered that the best way to use it is to, well, not use it at all. Let me explain.

My 2-year-old daughter goes through long stretches of restless nights. Either she has trouble easing into sleep or she wakes up by 2 a.m., red-faced and inconsolable. Sometimes, it’s both. My husband and I have tag-teamed popping in and out of bed in endless succession, patting her back, wiping her tears, and silently cursing the gods of sleep. 

And then, one afternoon while out on one of our pandemic family walks, my toddler ousted herself from the stroller. Insisting she was a big kid who could trail along after her older sister, she hoofed it all the way on our one-mile stroll. As you can imagine, she slept like a rock that evening, from the moment she laid down in the crib until well after the sun rose the next day.

 

Source: @alainakaz

 

I recognize the importance of “wearing kids out,” but I always thought the phrase pertained only to playgrounds and impromptu dance parties. Never would I have imagined that the key to good sleep would be so simple and something applied universally across my family—walking.

 

Never would I have imagined that the key to good sleep would be so simple and something applied universally across my family—walking.

 

Throughout the past year, my family has been venturing out on family walks, packing up the little one in the stroller of my dreams, and letting my oldest zoom ahead on her scooter. These days, however, my toddler takes off running after her big sister, delighting in the futile dream of soon catching up to her. For many walks, we pushed the empty stroller beside her, thinking my 2-year-old would tire out and appreciate a comfortable ride home.

But, no. Each day my toddler insisted on “just walking,” a milestone I wasn’t quite ready for, but one I’ll welcome. Now, we leave the stroller folded up in the garage, heading out on walks by foot. Sure, our walks are a little slower these days—and my husband and I can’t carry on a conversation without our little one safely restrained—but doing so all but guarantees a restful night’s sleep. And for uninterrupted time to dream, stretch, and snooze the night away, I can justify some sacrifice, even if it means giving up my beloved stroller for good.