The 18 Month Sleep Regression

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Sleep regressions are a bitch.

My son has never been a great sleeper (or even a good sleeper.) On the other hand, I quite literally can’t function without 8 hours of sleep. If I don’t sleep well, you’ll likely see me throwing dishes in the trash can, putting on tennis shoes with dress clothes and losing things because I put them in the fridge instead of in the cupboard. I go to Target and totally forget what I needed there (and end up leaving without the things I needed and about $100 worth of home goods that I didn’t need.)

So, tiny human… please. Please for your Momma’s sanity, try to snooze. 

Every time that I get into a groove and my son starts sleeping well, he hits a sleep regression. It seems like these regressions happen at fairly regular intervals and usually mean that something is up (new brain development, new mobility, new teeth) or they’re actually tiny dictators that like to show their power when they think things are running a little too smoothly.

A few weeks ago, we hit this new sleep regression and I’m going to tell you how we’ve gotten through it without murdering one another.

My son sleeps on a very regular schedule: Naps at 10:30 and 3, bed at 8, up at 6. Typically he goes down for a nap/bed with minimal fussing. A few weeks ago that all changed. I put him in his crib and he was pissed. Instantly. I mean, hyperventilating at the thought of me leaving him in his crib to fall asleep. He would cry before we even got to his bedroom. He even climbed out of his crib. Bedtime was absolutely the most dreaded event. I’m not someone that can deal with “cry it out” for very long before I feel like crying myself…

So a good two weeks of this went on. I felt my sanity slowly slipping away more and more each day (and my husband certainly did too). It strained our relationship and I was short-tempered with everyone I came in contact with. I was tired. Almost the kind of tired you feel the first few weeks of having a newborn: that absolute sleep-deprivation, exhaustion that comes with keeping a tiny human alive and happy.

I realized that something had to give. And thankfully, we’re doing much better lately thanks to these changes:

  1. I stopped banking on every day being the same. Instead, I took his cues. If he only seemed tired once a day, we went upstairs once for a nap instead of twice. I didn’t try to put him to sleep when he was obviously not tired. This is the age when a good number of toddlers switch from two naps to one. Generally, he’s still napping twice a day, but most often his naps are a bit later.
  2. I calmed myself down and it helped calm him down. Before naps, I really try to get him into a mellow mood. I turn down any sound, disengage from any really crazy play and try to instead do some reading or something that doesn’t require much exertion.
  3. Bedtime has changed quite a bit. About a half hour before bedtime, we turn down the lights, turn down any sound (TV, radio, etc.) and get him into his PJs. We read, snuggle and sometimes watch one of his favorite movies. No drinks or snacks that might boost his sugar levels before bed.
  4. We’ve realized that teething is a nightmare, for us and for him. He’s getting all four of his first set of molars in right now. His gums are bloody quite often and he obviously hasn’t felt well because of them. When it’s bad, we give him some Tylenol and a teether to help ease his pain.
  5. We’ve started playing in his room. Before, his bedroom wasn’t a play place and instead only somewhere he slept. Because he associates his crib with being upset and having to take a nap, we’ve tried to introduce more play into his bedroom so that he makes different associations.
  6. We take our time putting him to bed. We talk, brush his teeth, lay him down, tell him goodnight and give him a few stuffed animals to play with. The stuffed animals really have kept him entertained until he falls asleep.
  7. If he is upset in his crib during naps for more than 15 minutes, we nix the nap and continue playing. If he seems tired, I try to lay him down again after another hour or so has passed.
  8. During the day, we keep him totally engaged. Running, playing, reading, etc. Wearing him out has most certainly helped us get him to sleep, even if it’s taxing on us sometimes!

Sleep regressions are so mentally exhausting on everyone in the household. It’s so important to remember that each regression is a phase that will pass. It’s helped for my husband and I to each have time alone, like working out at the gym, shopping, doing yard work, taking turns napping… just anything to get some quiet “alone” time. But it’s also important to get time as a couple, even if it’s after you toddler goes to bed and you binge watch OITNB.

Stay calm, parents. This too shall pass.

– Katie

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