Why Does My 2-Year-Old Wake Up Crying at Night?

Greetings, Tiny Duck Parents!

Ah, the sweet serenity of bedtime – the time when the stars align, lullabies play softly, and your little one peacefully drifts off to dreamland. But then, the night unfolds, and your tranquil oasis transforms into a battleground of midnight cries, tears, and cuddle marathons. So, why does your 2-year-old wake up crying at night? Let’s dive into this nighttime mystery.

1. Room Conditions: It’s All About the Set and the Scene

Imagine this: your toddler’s bedtime ritual is a well-choreographed dance of favorite stuffed animals, cozy pajamas, and soft snuggles. Then, in the dead of night, the stage changes dramatically. Suddenly, it’s too dark, too quiet, or simply different from what they remember at bedtime.

The Fix: Create a consistent sleep environment by keeping the room conditions as close as possible to what they experience at bedtime. No nightlights, white noise machines, and a cool room can work wonders in maintaining the bedtime magic.

2. Teething Troubles, Nightmares, and Other Culprits

Sometimes, the cause of your toddler’s nighttime tears isn’t about the room or sleep training; it’s the usual suspects: teething discomfort, nightmares, or a looming growth spurt. These physical or emotional factors can trigger nighttime awakenings and cries.

The Fix: Address these underlying issues as needed. Keep teething toys or over-the-counter pain relief on standby for teething discomfort. Offer comfort, reassurance, and soothing bedtime stories to alleviate nighttime fears or nightmares. Keep in mind that sometimes all your toddler needs is a comforting check-in to get back to sleep. However, if you notice nightmares and middle of the night wake-ups are a frequent occurrence with your little duckling, then it might be time for some sleep intervention- your child’s body needs a full night of uninterrupted sleep each night.

3. Hunger Pangs

Two-year-olds are growing and active little ducks, which means they might get hungry during the night. Hunger is a common cause of nighttime awakenings and cries.

The Fix: Ensure your toddler gets a balanced meal before bedtime. If your child has an earlier dinner,  provide a light, healthy snack before bath and books. Opt for snacks like whole grain crackers, yogurt, or a small piece of fruit to tide them over until morning.

4. Falling Asleep Independently: A Skill Worth Teaching

One of the top reasons for midnight wails is that your little one hasn’t yet mastered the art of falling asleep on their own. They associate sleep with being rocked, sung to, or held by their loving parents. So, when they naturally wake up during the night between sleep cycles, they don’t know how to self-soothe and might cry for your help.

The Fix: Start teaching your child to fall asleep independently during bedtime. Gradual methods, such as the “Ferber Method” or the “Chair Method,” can gently encourage this skill, or you can inquire about the “Week to Sleep Method” we use at Tiny Duck Parenting!

Remember, Tiny Duck Parents, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the question, “Why does my 2-year-old wake up crying at night?” Each child is unique, and the reasons can vary from night to night. Be patient, experiment with different solutions, and most importantly, remember, the only thing your child needs in the middle of the night is sleep, so if you find your child is constantly waking throughout the night- know that teaching your child to get a full night of rest doesn’t have to be a challenge.

In the grand drama of toddlerhood, nighttime awakenings are just one act. With your love, patience, and a dash of creativity, you can transform those midnight cries into sweet dreams and peaceful slumbers. 🌙✨

Until next time, keep quacking, Tiny Duck Parents!

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About The Author

Picture of Jennie


Jennie is a certified sleep consultant with a background in Child and Adolescent Studies who specializes in teaching toddlers and children to choose to stay in their open bed, fall asleep independently, and sleep through the night. After earning her Bachelor of Science in Child and Adolescent Studies, and spending time in the classroom, she decided to follow her passion and move to New York City to become a professional theatre actress. Between shows, she worked as a nanny. One family had a toddler that couldn’t fall asleep without help, he refused to nap and would wake-up multiple times a night. Frustrated by the lack of resources for toddler sleep issues she became a certified sleep consultant. Relying on her education and experience, she then created Week to Sleep geared for toddlers in an open bed.

Jennie has helped so many families across the country make bedtime easy and enjoyable. She has been featured on Mommy Mingle, Parentville, corporate Google, and buybuybaby. Jennie’s favorite part of working with families is when a toddler runs to their parents in the morning exclaiming, “I did it, I am SO proud of me!