The 18-month sleep regression
When the 18 month sleep regression sneaks up on you, you may be wondering. Your toddler were sleeping just fine, their naps were long, they slept till a decent wake-up time, they were happy to go to bed. Then, suddenly, they are crying like they are the last child on earth the moment you leave the room, waking up frequently, crying, being up for a few hours in the middle of the night. You are at your wits end, because nothing you do helps!
“What did you do with my child!?“
It may seem that your sweet toddler has regressed from all the progress you have ever made before when it comes to sleep!
This is all due to the 18-month sleep regression and you probably have fond memories of all the other regressions, too! 4, 8/9 and the 12-month one. Luckily, after the 18-month sleep regression, there is only a 2-year one left.
As feisty as a toddler can be at 18 months, aren’t they just the cutest things ever at this age!?Brave Little Baby
What is the 18 month regression and why is it so tough?
Every child develops at her own pace, and this regression can arrive a little earlier or on 18 months. This is mostly linked to brain and physical development. And a huge separation anxiety development. One mother coined it as “the cling wrap phase”. I cannot explain that any better. Because the little ones have grown quite a lot, their cries may sound much worse, and one gets a fright at how forceful their crying can sound. So we may need to add a few loving boundaries that our little human beings may not always want to abide by.
The 18-month one is by far the toughest!
What can you do?
Let’s first talk about why it may be happening?
- Separation anxiety is experienced at eight months, 12 months and at 18 months. The only difference is that they now know they are separate from us and very independent, and they are not entirely sure if they like it. So, when you leave the room, they cry because they want you to come back.
- They can now feed themselves; drink from cups; take off some of their clothes themselves; some are potty training – they want to do everything themselves and they rather want to play and be with you than sleep. The result is that they tend to show a lot of resistance.
- They are very active, so make sure they don’t miss any meals, because they want to play.
- They go through a rough period of teething. It may happen that they cut their four canine teeth all at once, and their first molars may appear. This may cause a period of broken sleep.
- Some may be changing their routines, in other words the transition phase going from two naps to only one during the day. This is a phase you will need to ride out a little bit, but we have a few tips that can help.
- They may be pushing boundaries and throw some tantrums, making their will quite evident. It is also a result of the sleep deprivation they are going through, making them a little bit more fussy than usual.
Some suggested tips to get you through this “lovely” 18 month sleep regression
Unfortunately, there is no quick fix and it takes some time to adjust.
- Your wind-down before a nap and your bedtime routine should still be in place. Remain consistent with these and change the activity if your little one does not want to read anymore, but rather play with cars or blocks, or build a puzzle.
- Remember how wonderful it is to have a favourite soft toy or blanket. If you have not introduced one yet, now is a great time to do it. You can even role play how the soft toy goes to bed.
- Prepare your 18-month old that bedtime is coming and what is expected of him, and prepare him before a nap, too.
- Remain consistent with your loving boundaries when it comes to sleep. One or two nights being out of sorts is okay, and if you feel you were doing everything wrong, relax. Just try to get back on track and try not to form any long-term sleep associations as a short-term solution.
- Screen time can also be a problem if your little one is getting more than her recommended daily dose, and try not to have screen time an hour before bedtime.
- Do not drop all naps. This regression is not a sign to stop naps in total; we just need to get through this transition phase.
- Avoid big changes like moving your toddler into a big bed too soon or potty training in this time.
- Give them choices at bedtime: Choose between two books, or what PJ’s would you like to wear tonight?
- If you need to, rather sit with your little one next to their cots on a chair, and support him with your presence till he falls asleep. Do not leave too soon.
- Where possible give your little one undivided attention throughout the day.
- Stay calm and confident take deep breaths. You’ve got this.
Is sleep training a good idea around this age?
Yes, it is still fine and should not stop you on the journey to find healthy sleeping patterns for your family. It may be a little tough because of all the reasons above, but the little ones can still learn this very necessary skill of falling asleep on their own, as it essentially sorts out most sleep disruptions. It may also contribute to this regression not lasting too long – it can last three to six weeks if not addressed.
Luckily it does not last forever! Each child is different and some may not go through it at all. If your little one has been sleep trained, then you may need to do a few days of sleep training again just to get back on track.
How much sleep would your little one need?
For day naps a total of one to two hours and overnight 10 to 12 hours if possible.
You made it through all the other regressions, remain calm through this one and try these tips we are suggesting. Remain as consistent as you can and allow for some disruption throughout the day and night. Your little one is growing.
When to seek advice from a doctor
A few difficult nights are usually no cause for concern. Touch base with the paediatrician about night wakings if:
- Your little one is eating less than normal during the day.
- Your child is not growing well or picking up weight
- There is abnormal breathing, like snoring while sleeping.