Just when you think you have finally gotten a routine down, you are actually getting a full night of sleep and you think “man, I am rocking this mama thing!” the kid just has to change things up on you! This usually happens right around the 18 month mark and it is the beginning of the dreaded 18 month sleep regression! I hate to break it to you mamas, but this is a tough one and seems to come as soon as you feel like you have it figured out! Don’t fear though! Now that we are on the other side of this regression, I put together a few tips that I feel really helped us to get through it and even minimize it’s effects.
Get a new bedtime “toy”
When we initially started going through this sleep regression, my mommy gut told me that Elliott needed a little bit more soothing/distraction when trying to fall asleep. We already played music when she was going down, which was a big help in establishing good sleeping habits, so I started looking into other items that might give her something to focus on as she was trying to fall asleep instead of the fact that I wasn’t in the room anymore. I eventually purchased her one of these Light-Up Turtles. I thought the stars projected on the wall would give her something to look at while she was falling asleep and the colors rotated so even though the stars weren’t moving, it was changing enough to not be boring. I also looked at this Stars Projector which moves and has the constellations. I’ll probably upgrade her to that when she is a little older. The turtle worked like a charm! The first night there was still a little crying when I put her down but by the second night, she was back to her normal self! If she wakes up during the night, I comfort her and then turn her turtle back on before walking out. She’s even started asking for me to turn the turtle on in the middle of the night now! I think it is important that this toy be for bedtime so we only bring it out during our bedtime routine.
I know it is so tempting to want to do whatever it takes to get your child back to sleep as quickly as possible. You’ve gotten used to getting more sleep and the sleepless first year is supposed to be behind you. Whatever you do, stay consistent with any “rules” you tried to abide by in the first place. For me, one of my rules was that Elliott was not to sleep in our bed. It’s not that I didn’t love snuggling with her or that I was against co-sleeping. It’s that I knew I would not get a good nights sleep and my back problems would be even worse if she got in bed with us. Another rule, I have for myself is not to pick her up out of her crib if she wakes in the middle of the night. This was really the key to establishing good sleeping habits for us in the first place so I knew that I needed to stay consistent with this throughout this regression. I would go in to comfort her, remind her that I was there, and rub her back a little but I would not pick her up.
Establish or Maintain Your Routine
If you haven’t already established a nighttime/bedtime routine, now is the time to do it! It doesn’t really matter what your bedtime routine looks like but at this age, children can anticipate what comes next, so it is important to create some structure for them. This makes the process feel less unknown to them. Our bedtime routine consists of bath time (most nights), brushing teeth, lotion, pjs, then a few minutes of play time before going downstairs to gather her “bottle,” paci, and lovie, and to say goodnight to daddy. We then go back to her room, turn all lights except the lamp out and her sound machine on, read two books while she drinks her milk, turn the lamp out and sing the same two songs while we cuddle. I think put her in the crib, turn her music and turtle on, kiss her forehead and leave the room.
Push back bedtime by 15 minutes
As children get older, they need less sleep. Your child might be fighting bedtime because they are just not quite tired. Pushing back bedtime by about 10-15 minutes will help your child slowly wind down for the evening and may help them settle down into sleep more easily and stay asleep throughout the night. Use this extra time to read a few more books or have some quiet, low-light play time or cuddles together before bed.
Give yourself and your child a little grace
Regardless of how short or long this regression lasts and regardless of how little sleep you feel like you are getting again, give both yourself and your child a little grace. This is only a phase and you both will get through it. Try to remember how much longer and harder those middle of the night feedings were just a year ago. You survived that phase and you’ll survive this one too. If you need an extra cup of coffee in the morning or if you child needs an extra snuggle, kiss or song at night, it’s ok! I’m trying to enjoy the snuggles while they last because I know one day she won’t fit in my arms anymore.
I hope you found these tips helpful and please feel free to reach out if you have any more specific questions about how we made it through this regression! You can find all my contact information in the “Contact Me” tab at the top or by clicking here. Make sure you pin the picture below so that you can find this post when you reach this stage and so other moms can find these tips too!