Sure, there have been other times when your previously sound sleeper turned into a raging nocturnal beast. But those sleep regressions have nothing on the 18-month sleep regression, when your child is sufficiently mobile to turn the house into her own nighttime playground during her midnight wakeups.
Jolandi Becker, managing director of Good Night, explains that sleep disruptions are common around this age because of a growing sense of independence, issues like teething, and emotional development, including separation anxiety.
The good news?
If your child was a good sleeper before this regression, those good habits will return. It’s simply a question of setting boundaries and implementing discipline – and, above all, being consistent. “Consistency builds security,” Jolandi says, “and it helps develop independence.”
Other important things to know about the 18-month sleep regression:
“Bedtime isn’t just about rules and routines. You also need to be clear about what sleep entails,” Jolandi says. “Often, because children of this age can’t talk, we assume that they don’t understand. But they do – so, rather than saying, ‘Are you going to sleep nicely?’, tell them that they have to close their eyes, stay in the cot and keep quiet until the sun comes up.” And, yes, it really should be a cot. Jolandi is a firm believer that toddlers of this age shouldn’t have moved to a big bed just yet, mainly for safety reasons. “After all, you don’t want your child to be roaming the house while you’re sleeping.”
If she’s constantly climbing out the cot, however, the move to the bed is important to avoid safety issues. Once they’re in that bed, Jolandi suggests that you think of the room as a cot, or at least a place to contain them. Put up a baby gate, or close the door, so that they’re not able to leave the room. Don’t feel you have to put on a night light, though, as doing so may create the fear of the dark that you’re trying to avoid. “Give a night light only if your child has asked for one,” Jolandi advises.
Finally, she says, include calming activities during the bedtime routine, like basic breathing or meditation. “When your little one is lying down, touch their head and say, ‘Calm in your head’; touch their neck while saying, ‘Calm in your neck’, and so on, encouraging them to breathe in and breathe out.”
More about the expert:
Jolandi Becker is managing director of Good Night child and baby sleep consultancy. Learn more about Jolandi Becker here.
In her 16 years as journalist, Lisa Witepski’s work has appeared in most of South Africa’s leading publications, including the Mail & Guardian, Sunday Times, Entrepreneur and Financial Mail. She has written for a number of women’s magazines, including Living & Loving, Essentials and many others, across topics from lifestyle to travel, wellness, business and finance. She is a former acting Johannesburg Bureau Chief for Cosmopolitan, and former Features Editor at Travel News Weekly, but, above all, a besotted mom to Leya and Jessica. Lisa blogs at whydoialwayscravecake.blogspot.com and lisa.witepski.blogspot.com, and tweets at @LisaWitepski.