18-month Sleep Regression
We all hear about the dreaded sleep regression. This is the term that is used to describe an interruption in the sleep habits of a child who is otherwise a happy sleeper. Sleep regressions typically happen at or around 4 months of age, between 9 and 11 months, and then again at 18 months. It doesn’t always happen with children who are strong sleepers, but even the best sleepers can struggle with sleep around these times. For this post, I’m going to talk specifically about the 18-month sleep regression.
How do you know if your little one is going through an 18-month regression? Here are a few symptoms:
- Fighting naps
- Stalling and harder to put down at bedtime
- Increased night wakes
- Early morning cry outs at 5am
Why is this happening?
There is a huge increase in brain development at this age, both cognitively and emotionally. As they transform from babies into toddlers, they are learning so many new skills, experimenting with independence, and picking up so many new words. This is exciting for them, but can also be a little bit scary. Toddlers can experience a new wave of separation anxiety at this age, as they may be looking for more reassurance from parents.
What can you do about it?
Here are some tips to survive and conquer this difficult time:
A predictable routine is critical for toddlers. The structure of a routine gives toddlers comfort as they know what to expect. If a routine is unclear, or lacks consistency, it is much easier for toddlers to stall and push the boundaries. A bedtime routine chart can really come in handy. Toddlers love to follow along, and be in charge of discovering the next steps. As you approach the final step – bedtime – toddlers understand what’s coming and are less likely to protest.
2. GIVE YOUR TODDLER SOME “POWER”
In so many areas of their lives, we have to tell our children what to do, and when to do it – what to eat, when to go to bed, when to get dressed and when to leave the house. Toddlers lack control and are often looking for some ways to gain power. At bedtime, we can empower them to make choices about the things they can control, such as which pajamas to wear, and which two books to read (but two and only two). When they feel they have a say about some things, they are more likely to cooperate when other things are not negotiable.
3. PROPER BEDTIME TIMING
This is SO important. I cannot stress enough how important a proper, age-appropriate bedtime is with toddlers. An overtired toddler is not fun as they can become cranky, irrational or even hyper, if they’ve caught a second wind. I suggest starting the bedtime routine early, and having your toddler in bed BEFORE they have reached this stage. Bedtime between 7-7:30pm is ideal (no later).
4. PARENTAL BEHAVIOUR
As parents, we can set the tone for how bedtime is going to go. It is important to stay positive, calm, and CONSISTENT. You can choose and repeat a key phrase to help toddlers understand a given truth, such as “At bedtime, we go to sleep.” Try not to engage in lengthy conversations or negotiations, and avoid giving in to every new stalling tactic your toddler may throw at you.
5. KEEP THE CRIB
If your toddler is struggling with sleep at around 18 months, try to remember that it is simply a regression, and that it will pass with time, patience and consistency. A common misbelief at this stage is that the child has outgrown the crib. In fact, the opposite is true! Even if your toddler is starting to climb or protest the crib, it is actually the place where they feel safest and most secure. Moving a toddler out of a crib before he or she is ready can actually create even greater sleep issues. So, do you best to keep your toddler in the crib as long as possible – at least until age three!
Good luck during this tricky stage! They good news it often lasts only a couple of weeks. Stick to your rules to help get your great sleeper back on track. Remember that sleep is exactly what toddlers need while going through this exciting time of growth. Watching them grow and develop from babies into little people can make all of those frustrating bedtime struggles become a distant memory.