It all started with the early morning wakings.
My normally-perfect-sleeper was waking up at 5am, which was two hours earlier than normal, READY TO PAAAARRRTY. Which led to skipping naps. Which led to the token toddler meltdowns around dinnertime. Which led to Mommy feeling like she was going to literally pull her hair out. Four weeks later….all went back to normal. What just happened???
Toddler sleep regressions are real, people. Often times these regressions are a combination of age/development, and major changes in a toddler’s life, such a potty training, transitioning to a toddler bed, or even expecting a new sibling to arrive soon. Toddler sleep regressions are so common, that nearly every household will experience some type of pushback when it comes to naps, bedtime, or night time. But what do you do when you can’t get your two year old to nap? Or go to bedtime at a normal hour? Or what if you’re not even sure if your toddler is going through a regression or just being difficult? In today’s post, we are talking all about Toddler Sleep regressions and solutions, and the parents that make it all possible.
What is the Two Year Sleep Regression?
The two year old sleep regression is much like that of the 18-month regression (did you miss that one or notice some strange things happen around this time as well??), where with absolutely no changes within a household, your child will wake 2-3 hours EARLIER THAN NORMAL and seem as though they are up and ready to start their day. If kept in their room (with or without a parent present), this night waking- YES IT’S A NIGHT WAKING- typically will last 30-60 minutes, for 3-4 weeks. The cause? Exploding language and communication, cognitive development, physical growth spurts (running vs. walking suddenly) all help your child understand and perceive the world a bit differently. Can you imagine as an adult suddenly learning to fly, only to be put in your bed and told not to leave and sleep all night instead?? This overall excitement causes toddler sleep regressions due to the level of excitement surrounding these new found abilities. Often times naps will suffer, bedtime will be stalled, and night wakings will increase, causing parents all around the world to wonder how to solve their toddler’s two year sleep regression.
HOW TO HELP YOUR TODDLER DURING THE SLEEP REGRESSION:
Unfortunately, like all other sleep regressions, this one can’t be “stopped”. Regressions last 3-4 weeks, and typically longer if new, undesirable sleep habits are formed and/or introduced. Here are my top recommendations and solutions for the Toddler Sleep regressions:
Keep the crib. Don’t assume that your 18-month or two year old toddler that is refusing to nap or go to bed on time just “needs a bigger bed to be comfortable”…..this usually leads to even MORE issues surrounding bedtime and nap time especially, particularly for toddlers under two and half years old. If it’s a safety issue, download this guide ASAP before making the switch, and read more about my toddler big-kid bed recommendations on this blog post.
For early morning wakings, toddler must stay in his/her room. This is a big one!! The toddler sleep regression for either 18M or 2YRS is highly characterized by this early morning wakeup, which leads to scheduling issues, early rising over time, or toddler meltdowns if you assume that your child really is ready for the day, when it’s more than 2 hours earlier than they usually wake up. This is a night waking- treat it like one! Allow child to roll/sing/play in his or her crib, with or without you present in the room. If you are in the room, keep the room extremely dark, and have minimal interaction. For children that require an adult to fall back asleep, parents may have to camp out in the room until regression has passed, just so you too can have a good night’s sleep. In most cases, toddler will end up falling BACK ASLEEP within the hour.
Refusing to nap: If you can’t get your two year old to nap, take a look at his or her day. Has it been 5-6 hours since they woke up for the day (the recommended wake window for toddlers, see more about schedules here) , have they had enough physical play, are you giving into their sudden increased nap time requests? We can set the stage for sleep, but we can’t force it. My recommendation here is to highly encourage child to spend at least 30-60 minutes in his or her room in the complete darkness with the white noise machine, with minimal toys in room or crib. If your child needs you in order to fall asleep, try bringing in a small light to read a book, no interaction if possible, or lead by example and lay down for your own nap! After 3-4 weeks, napping should return to normal.
Bedtime Battles and Increased Night Wakings: Toddlers often figure out around this time that they DO have a voice, and they are more than happy to use it. And negotiate. And negotiate. I even read once that “negotiation is a toddler’s only currency”. At this stage in a chlid’s life, you have to be a bit firmer when it comes to your expectations, not only at bedtime, but during the day as well. If you give in all day long to whatever they desire (I’m guilty of this a lot), then it’s going to be difficult to be “bad cop” suddenly at bedtime. Stay consistent. Let your child know ahead of time what is going to happen. Move through the routine like normal. If the bedtime battles increase, read more TODDLER SLEEP TRAINING HERE on my blog post here, or schedule some time to chat with me one-on-one about setting up a customized toddler sleep program (we never lock doors or leave them alone to cry, don’t worry!)
Can't Get Two Year Old to Nap?
Once the regression has passed, many families still struggle with toddler sleep issues that have seemed to increase or arise during the process, or as a child gets older and/or drops a nap. Here a few steps you can take to help your toddler learn to love his or her room, and the sleep they need!
Invest in a gentle toddler sleep training program. If your toddler has struggled with sleep for a long time, or issues around nap time and bedtime have recently popped up and you’d like to get it solved before it gets worse (which, guaranteed, it will, unfortunately!), invest in a toddler sleep consultation by contacting me here. In these full consultations, we cover bedtime battles, short naps, schedules, getting out of their beds at night, how to keep them in their room all night, how to fall asleep independently, how to react to nightmares & night terrors, night weaning (from milk, juice or water), pacifier weaning, transitioning to a big-kid bed, daycare issues and more. No two clients are alike, and all full toddler sleep consultations have daily support and emergency text support with our founder.
Update your child’s room to a “big kid” room! Some children are ready sooner than others to transition to a toddler bed or big-kid bed. This is a big deal, and should be used as a reward for good sleep behavior(s) if nothing else. Have your child pick out new sheets, a new animal friend, maybe even some new room paint! See more about my bed size and mattress recommendations here.
If you do decide to move your child to the big-kid bed, invest in toddler bed rails! This is so important for children that previously felt safe and secure by the tall walls of their crib, and vital for children that move, toss or turn in their sleep. The worst thing that could happen is that in the middle of the night, your child repeatedly falls out of bed even with the best sleep plan!! I highly recommend using the Regalo swing down Toddler Bed rails, see in our video below using the extra-long version for extra busy bodies. No tools are required for assembly, the rails are made from a sturdy metal frame, and the rail cover is machine washable and easily slides on and off. If you’re headed to an overnight at grandma’s or traveling to a hotel, the bed rail is easy to assemble and disassemble, and once disassembled can fit in a suitcase even!
When will the toddler sleep regression be over? Help!!
With the upmost consistency with your responses and routines, the toddler sleep regression should resolve on it’s own with 3-4 weeks. If you aren’t seeing any improvement after this time, be sure to reach out to us before it’s too late and your toddler develops even worse habits- hello bedsharing for life (unless you’re into that of course). Contact us here to schedule some time to brainstorm a healthy & gentle sleep solution and program for your child, or download the Pre-Toddler sleep survival guide to attempt toddler sleep training on your own time, at your own pace. Hang in there everyone!!
This post was sponsored by Regalo Baby. All thoughts and opinions are my own.