By the time your baby is 1.5 years old, you’ve probably gone through at least one phase of sleep regression with them. Whether it was at 4 months, 6 months, or another point in their growth, babies commonly regress in their sleep progress, seemingly inexplicably. The 18-month sleep regression poses a similar dilemma for parents. 

It’s obviously a frustrating turn of events when you’ve already gotten into a groove with your baby’s sleep; maybe they’ve been sleeping through the night and suddenly became restless without a clear cause. Now, you’re left scratching your head and wondering what can be done to return your bouncing babe to sound sleep. 

Luckily, I can help! Here are some tips to navigate this hurdle as a family and restore your little one’s sleep habits to a predictable pattern.

1. When in Doubt, Plan It Out

I cannot overemphasize the necessity of a bedtime routine with your child! A reliable sleep routine makes everything more manageable for you and your kids. If they’ve gotten by without a sleep schedule until now, the 18-month sleep regression is your sign to establish a consistent framework for your baby’s evening routine. This tends to be the culprit for 18-month-old babies struggling to sleep well since their days are active and exciting compared to previous stages. A routine relaxes them and helps their brain to prepare for sleep. Toddlers love the security that a routine provides and there is no more important time in the day to establish a routine that makes your kiddo feel safe and secure. 

Just like how adults sleep better (and healthier) by actively preparing for sleep, babies benefit from an intentional wind-down prior to being put to bed. Structure the night around calming and repetitive activities—such as running a warm bath, singing a lullaby, reading a book, or cuddling together—to create a predictable format and signal to baby that it’s time to get ready for sleeping. This kind of ritual sets you both up for success each evening. It also keeps melt downs to a minimum as kids that have predictable routines tend to have fewer meltdowns.

2. Naps Have an Impact

Too much or too little sleep throughout the day impedes a baby’s ability to sleep well during the night. It’s important to balance your baby’s nap schedule in tandem with their primary sleep routine since napping plays a direct role in maintaining healthy sleep habits in general. Designing a nap schedule that complements your baby’s nightly sleep routine helps prevent regressive sleep patterns. Too much day sleep can cause night time wakes up as can too little day sleep. 

At 18 months old, your baby has likely transitioned to a 1 nap per  day routine. Typically at this age kids are going down for their nap around 12:00. Duration and time vary, but they should be getting a minimum of 2 hours of day sleep. Many toddlers at this age are sleeping up to 3 hours and that’s great as long as it doesn’t impede night sleep. Less than 2 hours isn’t enough to make it through the day without the dreaded crankiness that results from an overtired toddler.

If your kiddo is either napping a lot or not enough, it may be that providing them with an attachment object is all it takes to help them feel comfortable, relaxed, and secure. A lovie like a soft blanket or cuddly plush toy can instantly become their best friend when it comes to taking a trip to dreamland. 

3. Comforts Go a Long Way…

Your baby’s environment has a definite effect on how quickly they fall asleep, how deeply they sleep, and how well they sleep overall. Double-check to confirm that the nursery is as comfortable as possible to facilitate quality rest. This may require adjusting the room temperature, making sure there is no light sneaking in, or using a sound machine to limit sensory distractions. 

18-month sleep regressions could also be due to “growing pains” such as teething, increased mobility, or exploring new skills in the crib. Babies begin missing their parents and experience separation anxiety around this time too, so there might be other issues going on in their little bodies and minds that are disrupting their rest, most of which are perfectly normal.

4. … But Don’t Become a Disruption Yourself!

While comforting your baby is a natural, gut-instinct reaction, they do need to learn how to self-soothe or self settle, which is a crucial skill in childhood development. At 18 months old, babies are at the precipice of toddlerhood, when they become more independent and realize that it’s okay to be away from mom or dad for periods of time. That includes overnight sleeping!

It can be difficult to discern whether or not you’re needed if your baby is awake, fussy, and/or crying at this age. Figuring out the why behind the cry provides valuable insights about what our response should be as parents. Consistency in a sleep routine is key, so coming into the room unnecessarily can completely upend a baby’s normal sleep patterns. Remember to always pause before going in to make sure your toddler is truly awake and needing you. 

5. Consider Other Common Discomforts

There’s usually a solvable explanation for an 18-month sleep regression. If the discomfort isn’t due to their environment, teething, movement, or simple distance from mom or dad, there may be something else that’s troubling your little one. For instance, it could be gas or stomach upset from certain foods in their diet keeping them awake.

Nightmares can also occur in kids as young as 2 years old, putting your 1.5-year-old near that threshold. Weaning from bottle feeding, though typically completed by this age, is another factor to take into account, or any other major habit change. No more pacifiers? A new house? Adjustments to the crib? These transitions are tough for babies to manage, but not impossible! They’re truly so much more resilient than we give them credit for. 

Need More Help? Consult with a Sleep Specialist!

Suffice it to say, the answer to why your growing baby doesn’t stay sleeping isn’t always obvious, but with a bit of investigating, you’ll find a reason for the restlessness. Still, the 18-month sleep regression isn’t for the faint of heart. 

As with most challenges, it can require time and patience to overcome as a family. There may be some crying (hopefully not from both of you!), and you might start feeling like your child will never know consistent, regression-free sleep for longer than a few months at a time before the next regression hits. But I promise—it gets easier. This is just a phase that has a beginning and an end, and your little one will come out of it sooner rather than later. The goal is not to prolong it by starting new habits that you can’t sustain. Be mindful if your kiddo is waking up consecutive nights in a row. It’s so easy to take the path of least resistance  when it’s 3 a.m. and you’re exhausted, but it never pays off in the long run! 

And if you’re in need of further support for your baby’s sleep health, look no further than Your Sleeping Baby. I help families achieve the restful sleep they’ve been dreaming of, using tried-and-true methods I’ve perfected over years of experience working with parents of newborns and toddlers. You’re not alone in this! I’ll be there every step of the way so you and your baby can sleep well going forward.

Reach out for a consultation today and sleep better tonight!

10 Simple Ways to Get Your Baby to Sleep Better Tonight

These tips are simple, easy to implement, and created to help your baby slowly step into a healthy, secure relationship with sleep!

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