Your sweet baby is now a full blown toddler by 18-months old! It’s been smooth sailing with sleep and then the 18-month sleep regression hits and your little one is suddenly waking multiple times at night, fighting bedtime and skipping naps! Exhausting! Let’s dive into the causes and what to do to get through the 18-month sleep regression.
The most important thing I want you to remember about all sleep regressions is that they aren’t truly regressions but rather progressions. While sleep does regress temporarily, your toddler is making huge permanent gains in other areas. So sit back with a giant cup of coffee, enjoy watching them hit some developmental milestones and use these tips to get sleep back on track!
How long will the regression last?
The good news is if your little one has a solid sleep foundation, was sleeping well before the regression AND you follow these tips, sleep regressions typically last less than two weeks. If your little one hasn’t yet mastered independent sleep or you brought back habits you don’t want to keep in the long term, you may need to use sleep coaching to help get sleep back on track.
What causes the 18-month sleep regression?
- Language burst: You little one’s receptive and expressive language is growing rapidly and they probably have a lot to say…even if it seems like the only word they like to say is no!
- Testing boundaries: Speaking of “no”…the 18 month sleep regression is usually coupled with the realization that your little one now loves to test the boundaries you set and express their strong opinions about everything!
- Teething: Your little one’s canine and first molars are coming in. This can cause some discomfort and disrupt sleep. Speak to your pediatrician about how to manage teething pain.
- Separation anxiety: Separation anxiety spikes again around 18 months. Remember this is a normal part of development and a sign of healthy attachment.
- Bottles: It’s time to cut the bottle and move to an open or straw cup.
- Nap transition: When kiddos are in the thick of the 2 to 1 nap transition they can become overtired which will cause disruptions in sleep.
What can I do to survive the 18-month sleep regression?
- Consistency is KEY: First, stay consistent with your soothing bedtime routine. Toddlers need some good wind down time to help them transition into sleep. Create a visual schedule to help your toddler understand what to expect as part of their routine. Be sure to include connecting activities like reading together, a special song, or snuggles. This is also a great age to begin introducing mindfulness into your bedtime routine such as deep breathing and meditation. Next, check your consistency during night wakings. Are you responding in a way that communicates to your child that it is time for sleep? Or are you starting habits that you don’t want to keep in the long term?
- Introduce a lovey: Whether it’s a stuffed animal, cozy little blankie, or random toy trophy (yes, my daughter slept with one for months) giving your little one something to snuggle if they wake in the night can help them get themselves back to sleep with less support from you. That’s a win.
- Tweak the schedule: If your toddler is still taking 2 naps it may be time to transition to one. Also, consider bedtime. Could they be getting overtired which is causing the night wakings? Pulling bedtime a little early might do the trick!
- Set firm and fair limits at bedtime: Don’t overreact if your child protests bedtime. This can unintentionally reinforce the behavior. Be confident in your boundaries and validate their feelings: “I hear you. You wish it wasn’t bedtime. I love spending time with you too and we will come back together in the morning.” Keep it simple and loving. Consistent boundaries help kids feel safe even if they’re not happy about it at the moment.
- Sleep training: If after a couple of weeks (or when you just can’t anymore) go back to your sleep training method. You will have a clear plan to follow at bedtime and during night wakings. If you need help with sleep training, reach out. I’m here for ya!
Using these tips will undoubtedly help your family get through the 18-month sleep regression with your little one! Before you know it, they’ll be back to sleeping 11 hours seamlessly through the night!