Ahhh yes. another sleep regression is on the horizon when your child is around 18 months of age. Some parents term this one "the worst!" to deal with. Rest assured that it does pass within a couple of weeks.
Let's take a look at what is really going on with your child at this time and put a positive spin on this.
Around 18 months you will start to notice that your child is not napping for as long as they used to, there may even be some night wakings that have not occurred for a LONG time, you have a fussy toddler on your hands, more bedtime drama and sometimes even a change in appetite. Frustrating I know but, there are reasons for this.
Your 18-month-old is going non-stop from morning to night running, jumping, playing and learning new skills. Their language development takes off like a rocket and you are suddenly realize that your little one is changing ever so fast and can comprehend more that you thought! We can even throw in teething (canine teeth and molars at this age) and separation anxiety to the mix! If you think about it....it is no surprise that their little brains cannot shut down as quickly for sleep as it used to. The Developmental Leap begins.
Many parents notice that their child is now using the word "no" more often and showing signs of becoming more independent. With this growing independence sometimes brings out a bit of defiance as well and they like to "test the waters" to see where their boundaries are. Being overtired (due to them refusing their naps) and their new found independence creates a vicious circle and it can be very challenging to deal with.
Solid Bedtime Routine: Make sure your bedtime routine is short and consistent. You want to try and end with the same thing every day to send a clear message that it is time for bed.
Offer Extra Naps: You may need to offer extra naps during this time due to them missing a few along the way. Some children will actually revert back to having 2 naps on occasion to help them through the day. The main goal is to help them not to be overtired for bedtime.
Watch Out For New Sleep Associations: Many parents have worked hard to have their child finally sleeping though the night so you want to be careful not to create NEW sleep associations or bring back old ones. Try and find ways that comfort your child when they need it but keep it short and sweet. Allow them to use those independent sleeping skills they have previously mastered.
Talk About It: Explaining the importance of sleep and why they need to settle down will in some cases often help. If there is some separation anxiety, explain that you will not be far away. It is ideal to develop key phrases such as "It's nap time/bedtime now and you need to sleep” “You need energy to play when you wake up". You can repeat these kinds of phrases to them when needed. Some parents have had success introducing a "lovey"/stuffed toy at this age to help with night disturbances as well.
Practice....Practice...practice!!!: While going through their Leap practice their new skills that they are learning during the day. Give them an opportunity to master their new skills to help their little minds relax at night.
Growth Spurt: At 18 months there can be a growth spurt that overlaps this sleep regression. (I know what you are thinking - are you kidding????) Yes it is true, but you can offer a high protein snack before bed to keep them full and to help figure out if it is the growth spurt that is causing the sleep disturbances or it is actually the developmental leap.
Be Patient: I know...sometimes it is easier said than done but knowing what is actually going on with your child will help ease the anxiety a little. This is a tough developmental leap on everyone but....this too shall pass.