When you’re a new parent, being able to sleep soundly through the night is a rare occasion that cannot be taken for granted.
Once your child starts growing and gets into their second year, they’ll have a more consistent sleeping pattern compared to when they were infants.
You’ll be able to get some much-needed sleep, but that’s until the 18 month sleep regression comes around. This is a phase that may bring you back to the sleepless nights you thought were gone.
In today’s article, find out everything you need to know about the 18 month sleep regression, and how to cope with it.
What is the 18 Month Sleep Regression?
The 18 month sleep regression refers to a period when your toddler’s sleeping habits take a sudden change. This happens when they hit the 18-month mark.
They’ll stop taking their daytime naps as usual, and they’ll keep awakening at night, then having trouble going back to sleep.
This change can happen suddenly, leaving you confused. One day your child could be sleeping soundly throughout the night and happily taking their afternoon naps.
Then the next day, they start refusing to sleep during the day and start waking up several times in the night. This shift will remind you of earlier months when you had to deal with a sleepless infant.
This is because when your baby is at 18 months, sleep regression also occurs at 4 and 8 months of age.
All of these stages are preceded by periods of peaceful sleep, and then suddenly they’re bawling in the middle of the night.
However, the 18th month regression will present new challenges that you didn’t have to deal with during earlier regressions.
Reasons Why the 18 Month Sleep Regression is Harder
While all of these regressions are difficult, the 18-month one is undoubtedly the hardest to get through. This is because your baby is growing, and they’re starting to get an idea of what they want to do – and what they don’t want to do.
So, if your baby doesn’t feel like dozing off during the day, you’re going to have a harder time getting them to take their nap. And if they wake up in the middle of the night and realize that you’re not in the room, they’ll get upset and not go back to sleep until you make an appearance.
All this means that if you try getting them to sleep using means that worked in earlier months, it might not work.
This is why you need to understand the 18-month regressions and why it happens. With this knowledge, you’ll be able to navigate this period without feeling like you’re doing everything wrong.
Why Does the 18 Month Sleep Regression Occur?
The first thing that you should know about sleep regression is that it’s normal.
It’s an expected part of a baby’s growth and development, so when it happens, you should not assume that there’s something wrong with your baby.
Another thing to keep in mind is that this regression is temporary. After a few weeks of sleeplessness, your little one will be able to get back to their previous sleep schedule.
However, how quickly they do so will depend on how you handle this regression. But before we look into that, let’s see 3 main reasons why the 18-month regression occurs:
Growth And Development
Around 18 months of age, your baby will grow at a rapid rate. This is both physically and mentally.
They’ll suddenly appear taller, bigger, and show a lot more personality.
At this time, the production of growth hormones will be accelerated to support rapid development. One downside about these hormones is that they can disrupt sleep.
Therefore, your toddler will have a hard time falling and staying asleep during the day and night.
As a result, they’ll start resisting naps and will keep waking up in the middle of the night.
The good thing about this growth period is that it doesn’t last for long. With time, the growth spurt will slow down, and these hormones will be produced more steadily.
This will make it possible for your baby to get back to having an undisrupted sleep once again. Unfortunately, things may not be as easy as that since there are other factors that contribute to sleep regression.
Your child may experience separation anxiety at certain points, including at 18 months.
When they do, they’ll be unable to sleep in your absence. They’ll have a fear that you’ll leave once they fall asleep, so they’ll fight against it as much as they can.
If they happen to wake up and you’re not there with them, they’ll get upset and start crying.
While separation anxiety can manifest at other ages, such as 8 months, it’s more severe at 18 months.
So, does this mean that you should always be there to ensure that your baby sleeps soundly?
If this was not the case before the 18-month regression began, it could be a bad idea. This is because habits that are formed during this time will be hard to break.
Therefore, you need to maintain previous sleep settings that were in place before the regression hit while still reassuring your child.
18-month old babies can do a lot of things on their own. They can walk, talk, play with their toys, and maybe even spoon-feed themselves.
As they keep developing these motor skills, they realize that they can do many things on their own, and a sense of independence grows.
This quickly extends to their sleeping schedule, where they only want to sleep when they want to. The result is that you’ll have a harder time getting them to sleep when all they want to do is play or engage themselves in some other way.
How Long Does The 18-Month Sleep Regression Last?
Luckily, the 18-month sleep regression is temporary and will be gone soon after it happens.
Usually, this period will last between 2-6 weeks. It’ll vary with each kid, with some only experiencing it for several days, while others take several weeks to get back to their normal sleeping habits.
There are also babies who don’t experience this regression at all.
So you shouldn’t be worried about it until it happens. And when it does, keep in mind that if you deal with the sudden changes well, they’ll be gone in a matter of weeks.
How to Deal With the 18-Month Sleep Regression
During previous sleep regressions, maybe all you needed was an extra cup of coffee to get you through the tiring days and sleepless nights
But with the 18-month regression, you need to take various cautions to ensure that your child doesn’t come out of it with some undesirable habits.
Here are a few things you can do to get through it without losing the progress you’ve made over the months:
Stick to the Established Sleep Schedule
It’s crucial to stick to the established sleep schedule during a sleep regression. This will make sure that once the period is over, your child will be able to sleep as soundly as before when expected.
But if you let them have their way during the regression, you’ll have a harder time getting them to sleep in the future.
Maintain Your Sleep Training Methods
If there’s a certain sleep training method that you have been using to help your baby sleep, keep using it. Of course, you’ll face a lot of resistance during this stage. But if you keep using it, you’ll get results, albeit not as easily as you usually do.
Stick to the Bed Routine
Did you have a bed routine in place before the regression hit? If so, it’s important to stick to it.
At a time when your child is developing a sense of independence and wants things to be done a certain way, it’s important to maintain practices such as these to insist on their importance.
Once they get used to it, you’ll face less resistance in the future.
Give Your Toddler Some Leeway
So your baby wants to decide when to sleep, but you shouldn’t give in to that. Instead, try allowing them little freedoms, such as choosing their pajamas.
This’ll give them a bit of control over their sleep without allowing them to develop habits that can affect their routine in the long run.
Seek Helpful Resources
You may also want to look into some resources that can help you deal better with your baby’s sleep issues. One such resource that has helped thousands of moms is the Baby Sleep Miracle.
This is a system developed by Mary-Ann Schuler, a child psychologist who used scientific research to create a system that can help your baby sleep better. With the Baby Sleep Miracle, you can learn the best techniques to use to get your baby sleeping soundly when the 18-month regression comes knocking.
The 18-month regression is a normal part of your child’s growth. It’s a sign that they’re growing and developing well and will only last for a short period.
How you handle this stage is crucial to your child’s development later on. Therefore, be careful not to encourage bad habits at this time.
Relax, use some of the points I’ve pointed out, utilize well-researched resources, and before you know it, you’ll be back to your restful nights.