If you're already in the heat of it, you already have a list of things to know about sleep regression in 18-month-olds, like making sure you never run out of coffee and also implementing lots of bathroom breaks so you can cry out of sheer exhaustion. But that doesn't make this time in your child's life any easier. Let's face it, sleep regressions suck, but in 18-month-olds, it's a fresh new h*ll for all parents.
At this point, your little one has already been through a few infant sleep regressions, but your 18-month-old is nothing like a 9-month-old. Instead, The Baby Sleep Site noted that this regression is one of the hardest because your baby is stubborn, willful, and the regression is often the result of defiant behavior. Your child simply doesn't want to sleep. They want to get up and play, they want to get in bed with you, they want to watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, they want to eat blueberries and play blocks — your child is learning that they can have control over certain situations and sleep is no longer a thing they want to do.
But there are a few other factors that might be at play, so when you know these nine things about your 18 month old's sleep regression, you can figure out the best way to get your little one back to sleep. (Just keep the coffee coming, mama.)
1. It Could Be Because Of Separation Anxiety
Although separation anxiety usually affects younger children, The Baby Sleep Site noted that even 18-month-olds can still deal with separation anxiety, which could cause them to wake up at night.
2. It's Also Because They Are Asserting Their Independence
Noticed that your toddler is extra assertive and demanding lately? That could be why their sleep is suffering, too. Parents noted that this is the age where kids start to realize that they have some control over things and they will spread that power out to their sleep, too. Super frustrating.
3. You Can't Undo Previous Sleep Training
It is so hard to continue with your previous sleep training, but you can't give up now. The Baby Sleep Site suggested that if you already got rid of sleep associations, such as a bottle to take to bed or rocking them until they fall asleep, it's not time to re-introduce those. Continue with helping your baby get to sleep on their own so they can't get themselves back to sleep if they wake up.
4. A Nightlight Might Help
Your little one's imagination is taking off at this age, according to Parents, so they may start having fears about monsters, the dark, and other childhood fears. Instead of arguing over their worries, invest in a nightlight to give them some security and help minimize their middle of the night wake-up calls.
5. It Can Affect Naps, Too
Unfortunately, your 18-month-old's sleep regression isn't just for night time. Turns out that it can affect their naps, too. The Baby Sleep Site recommended that you offer extra naps if your little one is flat out refusing their usual schedule, especially if they aren't sleeping at night either. You may have to turn their usual two hour nap into several 30 minute naps just so all of you can get some kind of rest.
6. They Might Climb Out Of Their Crib
Baby Center noted that at around 18 to 24 months, children may start climbing out of their crib. Before you put them straight in a big bed, lower the crib mattress and try to make sure there's nothing they can use to help climb out, like crib bumpers or lots of toys. Parents noted that you should make sure you calmly walk them back to bed instead of letting them sleep with you, otherwise they'll think their behavior is OK and will continue to do it.
7. Look At Other Factors That Could Affect Their Sleep
Are they teething? Could they be afraid of something? Are they anxious or worried? Baby Center notes that you should look at your child's environment and see if anything is affecting their sleep before you consider it an actual regression. There's a lot going on at 18 months old and it might be that your little one's teeth or a cold might be waking them up at night.
8. You Have To Continue Your Same Bedtime Routine
It's hard when your baby is a toddler and can communicate better about what they want, but you still have to keep up the same bedtime routine. Don't let their requests for extra hugs or to watch a movie in bed with you deter you from what's been working. Parents suggests keeping the same base routine, but letting your little one establish a sense of control by making little decisions, like which book to read or which pajamas to wear.
9. It Is A Vicious Cranky Cycle
You know your child is cranky AF when they are exhausted, so go ahead and make note that this sleep regression will result in a vicious cranky cycle. As your child refuses to nap, they still keep that same defiant behavior according to The Baby Sleep Site. So now they're throwing tantrums because they are exhausted and they want their own way. Basically, it never ends until they actually start sleeping regularly. So stay calm, take lots of breaks when you can, and don't forget to ask for help.