How to Deal with 18-Month-Old Sleep Regression

Has your 18-month-old baby been waking up in the middle of the night? Are they tired, cranky and distraught as a result of this? It doesn’t have to be this way forever! Perhaps your baby is going through the infamous 18-month-old sleep regression phase. This article will help you understand what this entails and help your baby have a good night’s sleep, waking up energized and refreshed each morning.

What Happens in 18-Month-Old Sleep Regression?

Sleep regression can have many manifestations. Even "easy" babies who have never been fussy with their sleeping routine can become very demanding when the sleep regression phase starts. Some of the signs are as follows:

  • Being restless during nap times
  • Waking up continuously when put to bed at the end of the day
  • Becoming unexpectedly fussy and rowdy
  • Demanding constant attention and asking to be nursed and held all the time

The things you do to comfort your child may have little beneficial effect, making you more anxious and worried. To help yourself and your baby go through this, it is essential to understand why sleep regression is especially intense at 18 months. 

Why Does 18-Month-Old Sleep Regression Happen?

A change in sleeping patterns can happen for a number of reasons. 18-month is a crucial developmental stage for children. They have to adapt to a number of physical and psychological milestones that can trigger regression, such as:

1. Behavioral Changes

At 18 months, you will notice the changes of the baby’s behavior. At this age, children start to become more independent. They are often able to feed themselves, play alone and generally begin to develop relationships with people other than their mothers and fathers. This can make them more willful and less compliant to their parents' wishes.

2. Teething

Children are still teething at this stage in their lives with many molars and canines sprouting out, causing mild irritation at best or constant pain at worst. This can make them fidgety and restless. Teething is a major cause of 18-month-old sleep regression especially if oral soothing techniques do not ease their discomfort.

3. Separation Anxiety

Although children will become more independent as they age, they still very much need to maintain strong emotional ties with their parents. Separation anxiety may actually be the most acute between 10 to 18 months of age and children can become troubled when parents are not around them at all times. This feeling of insecurity can be manifested as trouble sleeping, as the child may want to be with you rather than go to sleep.

How to Deal With 18-Month-Old Sleep Regression

If you are worried about your child’s lack of sleep and concerned about the ill-effects this may have on their development - do not fear! This is something you can learn to manage by keeping a few key moves in your mind:

1. Don’t Get Stressful

Your own stress levels can adversely impact your child’s. It is helpful to surround both yourself and your baby with things that comfort you – stuffed animals or calming lights for the child and a relaxing bath or cup of coffee for you. The best thing to do in situations where your child refuses to sleep or wakes up constantly at night is to relax, take a deep breath and understand that this phase will soon pass. Remember, this is the 18-month-old sleep regression phase and it won’t last forever.

2. Stick to a Schedule

We know it is hard to enforce rules when it feels like they are futile, but insisting on schedules will make your child realize that there is nothing they can do to worm their way out of naps and bedtime. A steady schedule will also establish a sense of security and familiarity for the child.

3. Take Care of Your Child’s Diet

Sugary food should not be given to your child right before bed as that can make your kid hyper and resistant to sleep. In addition, make sure you add a lot of greens and protein to your child’s regular food plan. A balanced diet can give your baby the strength and energy to negate the adverse consequences of issues like teething and the lack of sleep.

Watch the following video to learn more surviving tips for sleep regression:

Other Mothers' Experiences

As a parting thought, remember that you are not alone. Here are some stories from mothers who also experienced the frustrating 18-month-old sleep regression and how they were able to overcome it:

"My little girl would always wake up in the middle of the night, screaming every time I tried to put her to bed. After many emotional days of the same thing over and over again, I finally tried changing her dinner to cheese and mushy vegetables. I saw a noticeable change in her over the next few days!"

"I remember going through the 18-month-old sleep regression phase with my son a few years ago. He would spend half the night crying his eyes out, getting so stressed out that he would actually throw up. We tried everything and the only thing that eventually helped was not giving in to his tantrums and adhering to routine strictly."

"Sleep regression is so taxing on both the mum and the baby. I was up most of the day and night, trying to get her to sleep. We would both start the next day on little sleep, fatigued, drained and with very little energy to do anything except start the whole process of trying to get her to sleep again. I was finally able to get around this by using various soothing techniques like singing lullabies and whipping out her favorite nap blanket".