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The Dreaded 18 Month Sleep Regression

My husband and I were extremely blessed with an amazing sleeper, who slept through the night around 8 weeks. Sure we had a few bad nights here and there, a few rough nights around 9 months when she learned to crawl, and a small regress around 11.5 months when she first learned to walk, but overall sleep came easy in our house….

…Until it didn’t and I completely missed the signs and before I knew it… bam! We were in the middle of the worst sleep regression, the dreaded 18 month sleep regression. I should have picked up on the signs that a regression was coming, but having limited experience in this I missed the signs and by the time I realized it was happening it was too late.  

Our regression started just before my daughter turned 18 months. Prior to this nap time was easy, she would go in her crib awake, fall asleep within 5 minutes and sleep for 2 hours.  Instead she started playing in her crib or fussing, taking 45 minutes to fall asleep and then sleeping for only 30minutes or an hour, if at all. Now instead of working on naps and consistency I started giving up, letting her skip naps or napping on me, not smart.

Then the night wake ups started. My all night 13 hours straight sleeper started waking up multiple times a night. Not once, not twice, but sometimes four times a night. It would take forever to get her back in the crib as she would often wake up as soon as I tried to put her down.

I’ll be the first to admit I was completely miserable, my husband was miserable, and my sleep deprived daughter was miserable. A sleep regression with a toddler is one of the most difficult experiences you can go through, in my opinion, because you’re not just dealing with sleeping, you’re also dealing with a toddler who is pushing limits; throw some separation anxiety and language development into the mix too and you have yourself the 18 month sleep regression.

If you’re lucky this regression will last you a few short weeks, if you’re unlucky it can push into two months mark and start to become your normal. If you can I do suggest trying to let your child cry it out  (whichever method of this you choose), unfortunately my daughter inherited my stubborn gene and this does not work for us. We pushed 2 and half hours of fussing, calling “mama” and not sleeping the one night before I gave in.

After a few weeks of this regression I realized that sleep was our main goal because an overly tired 18 month old led to long days, tantrums, and a mom who barely functioned the month of December. Sometimes you just have to switch to survival mode – because there comes a point when everyone in the house needs more sleep.

For us getting through the regression meant that I held my daughter for naps until I could get back to putting her in the crib. It meant a few nights on the couch, a few nights that I brought her to bed with us, and lots of hours spent in the rocker in her room. At 20 months we are still not completely back to normal, but things are lot better. Naps are again happening in her crib (although an hour and a half is the longest she usually sleeps), and most nights she only wakes up once (we are working on this). 

So, what can you do? Consider the reasons why your child is waking up. Is it separation anxiety? Fear of the dark? Nightmares? Have they started to climb out of their crib? For some switching to a toddler bed may help, adding a nightlight, or some type of noise machine can also be great options. If you haven’t already given your child a blanket or lovie to sleep with, now would be a good time to start. I recommend that you sleep with it first so that it smells like you, this can provide comfort in the middle of the night.

Keep a solid routine for naps and bedtime. Your bedtime routine needs to have a clear end, so your toddler knows when the end is approaching. We usually do a bath (on bath nights), pjs, a snack, stories/sings, lights out, cuddles and bed. A snack can be important at this age as many children are experiencing a growth spurt (in addition to everything else mentioned).

Don’t make too many changes or be inconsistent, this was a huge mistake I made at first. Try not to let your own emotions get the best of you (this is easier said than done); and,  I would be lying if I said there weren’t nights filled with tears (mine), words of frustrating, and just overall feelings of doubt and defeat. I think when you are used to sleeping and a sleep regression hits it can be very challenging to accept it and get used to disjointed sleep. 

For me, I have to remember that she’s only going to be little for so long, and if this stage includes answering calls of “mama!” In the middle of night then that’s just where we are at. I remind myself often that this too shall pass…

Did the 18 month regression hit your house? How did you handle it? Share with us what worked and what didn’t work for you! 

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2 Responses to The Dreaded 18 Month Sleep Regression

  1. Leigh Ann February 15, 2017 at 6:28 am #

    Going through this now with my 19 month old! Looking at the signs it probably started halfway through the 18 month mark. It started with naps… it has now progressed to waking up at night at least once. She will go to her room when it’s time for “night-night” but is definitely fighting sleep, when she used to curl up and be asleep immediately. I’m going to try the snack before bed for her… I’m starting to feel the effects of sleep deprivation and my house is reflecting her reduction in naps!

  2. Peter Kourtsounis February 15, 2017 at 2:35 pm #

    How about a 10 month old that just doesnt sleep. 2-4 hrs as soon as we put him to bed around 7-7:30. then its 2 hrs and up back down
    2 hrs later up again. Might squeeze in a 4 hr strech but its usually 2 hrs.
    He started walking around 9 months 1 week and now hes all over the place. Naps come between 30 min and 2:30 hrs. But it depend what time of the day it is. Sara and I have jist resigned to fact We have what I like to call a Heathen Sleeper. He probably says SLEEP IS FOR THE WEEK.

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