Sleep regressions have a way of sneaking up on parents like soul-crushing ninjas. Just when you think you've finally reached a stage when your baby or toddler will sleep through the night, and you're used to sleeping yourself, a regression kicks you in the face. If you're anything like me, you'll consider the 18-month sleep regression the worst of all. So, just how long does the 18-month sleep regression last? The answer is, thankfully, not forever. In fact, there are actually a few things you can do to make your life bearable in the meantime and while you wait for this sleep-depriving horror to pass.
According to The Baby Sleep Site, a sleep regression is "a period of time (anywhere from 1 – 4 weeks) when a baby or toddler who has been sleeping well suddenly starts waking at night, and/or skipping naps (or waking early from naps) for no apparent reason." These regressions, according to the same site, generally relate to some physical or mental development your child is experiencing. There are multiple regressions your baby is sure to experience, but you'll likely discover the 18-month sleep regression to be the worst. At 18 months of age, your toddler is likely going through a ton of different changes, like teething, separation anxiety, and learning to feed themselves. At the same time, they also begin to assert their independence, which means fighting sleep and throwing tantrums. You know, all the "fun" parts of parenting a tiny human being.
The good news is that sleep regressions are a phase. In fact, according to Kim West, a licensed social care worker, sleep coach, and founder of The Sleep Lady, the 18-month sleep regression should only last 2-6 weeks. She advises parents "do whatever they can" to help their toddler sleep, and to create and consistently follow nap time and bedtime routines. While there's really nothing a parent can do to speed up this process, West advises making naps happen by whatever means necessary (car rides, stroller rides, and giving your toddler ample time to run) to make for easier bedtimes.
The Baby Sleep Site agrees, adding that it's best to manage the 18-month sleep regression by offering a little extra comfort or quick check-ins with your child, but not to fall back on old habits like rocking, nursing, or bringing your toddler to bed with you. These strategies might help in the short run, but may actually create more bedtime struggles in the long run by creating less-than-ideal and somewhat unsustainable habits that are harder to break once the regression has passed.
It's important to remember that even if it doesn't feel possible, and even if the 18-month sleep regression feels like an eternity, it will end and it will get better. Regressions are just a phase and, chances are, in a few weeks your toddler will no longer want to cry through a nap or party in the middle of the night. If, however, they seem to be stuck in this phase after 2-6weeks of trying everything, as always, you should call their pediatrician to rule out a health issue.