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The 18-month Sleep Regression

If I could describe this regression in a few words, I would say:

‘Welcome to Toddlerhood!’

If you are experiencing this regression, there is no doubt about it, your little one is no longer that unaware little baby, but now a clever, determined little person!

Surprisingly, the BEST sleepers with independent sleep skills are often the ones who are hit the HARDEST by this regression.


If you’ve taught your baby to sleep well from the beginning when this regression hits and your toddler starts hysterically crying at bedtime or randomly throughout the night, the first thing Mum and Dad think is ‘there is something wrong!’ and they rush into their child’s room.

This is completely understandable.

If your little one has spent the last 18 months self-settling and happy in their sleep environment, then it’s going to come as a bit of a shock when they start protesting hard.

So naturally, you are going to get in there are quick as you can as this is unusual, and you want to make sure they’re okay.

You’ll probably check your toddler’s temperature to rule out sickness and offer them some pain relief before leaving the room again.

20-minutes goes by, your little one is still letting you know she isn’t happy.

You go back in.

This time you check to see if there are any teeth cutting the gums. You think you can feel something, so you grab the teething gel before leaving again.

It's another 20-minutes later and there is no sign of your little one settling, despite the pain relief and teething gel.

Back in you go.

Now you’re checking everything and anything. You do a nappy change, check the temperature of the room, wonder if your toddler ate enough today, or maybe she’s thirsty?

You offer water, or some people may go down the dangerous path by re-introducing a bottle.

Now we’re coming on to 2-3 hours and bub is still going and you’ve been in their room every 20-minutes and ticked absolutely every box you can to ensure your little one is well and comfortable.

Then the penny drops.

You’ve been the problem.

You’re confident there is nothing physically or medically wrong with bub and this whole process is your little one trying to get you back into the room. They love you! Why wouldn’t they want to see you again after they’ve gone down at bedtime. However, your frequent 20-minute visits have just taught baby ‘if I do a little bit of loud protesting Mum and Dad will reappear!’

Damn it.

And just like that, your beautiful little sleeper has gone way off track.

So, what happened? Literally a week ago everything was fine. No push back at bedtime and consolidated nights.

You can call this a developmental milestone. Your baby has transitioned into a toddler, and they have discovered they can push some boundaries. It’s their natural development of autonomy.

Now you think about it, it makes total sense. You’ve actually seen other areas of development recently. Your little one now understands simple statements and requests like ‘Where is Dolly?’ and off they go to bring you their dolly. They point to things that they want and can all of a sudden communicate with you quite well without having the ability to have a conversation. They are clever and can now comprehend a lot more than they could only a month or so ago.

Welcome to toddlerhood.

So, how should you handle the sleep regression?

Hold on tight and stay consistent to your usual routines and responses. Show your toddler your responses are the same even when they push the boundaries. This will leave no room for confusion and within a few weeks, this regression will pass.

If you know your little one is well, you may need to push out your time between visits. You need to bear in mind that your presence is what they are looking for and the more frequently you go in, the longer the waking or bedtime process will be drawn out.

Do not be tempted to introduce new sleep props. This will see you land far of track with a big journey to get back.

For example, resist the urge to help bub back to sleep by rocking, patting or offering them a bottle. If you are concerned about hunger or thirst, make sure you offer your little one enough for dinner, maybe even a snack afterwards and sip of water before you commence the bedtime routine.

You want to stay 100% consistent with your usual routines and responses. I cannot emphasise this enough. This is what will see you survive the regression.

Toddlers need structure, routine, and consistency. It makes them feel secure as they like to know what to expect and what it is coming next. So, remember, although toddlers may push the boundaries, they don’t actually want to see them shift. They feel worse for it.

“Toddlers are like night watchmen. They go around checking all the doors, but they don’t really want to find any that open.”

If you need some support navigating your way through the 18-month sleep regression, please reach out! I’m always happy to help!

Contact our sleep consultant today to book your free introductory consultation.


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