Updated: Feb 6
Having a toddler can be a fun-filled, yet exhausting stage for parents. The toddler years can come with more power struggles and changes in sleep, resulting in what I know as the 18- month regression.
You might be wondering, will things get better? Yes, of course. With consistency, predictability, and boundaries, you can handle this stage like a champion!
So why does this happen?
To start off, when your child reaches the toddler years, they may develop FOMO (fear of missing out), which then results in bedtime battles. Toddlers also have a strong desire for control and independence and tend to test limits. Not only this, but they may also reach a peak of separation anxiety, which then puts a bump in their sleep because all they want to do is be around you.
This can be tough to accept, considering that your toddler may have once been a good sleeper. Below are some of the most common toddler sleep issues along with some tips on how you can approach the most common toddler obstacles around sleep.
THE TRANSITIONAL PERIOD: Typically your 15 to18-month-old toddler will go from 2 naps to just 1. This transition can be difficult for your toddler, and it may result in a bit of over-tiredness as your toddler gets used to this change. I recommend waiting about a week to ten days to see if they are not consistently taking their second nap before you make the final switch to just one.
Once you know for sure that your toddler is finished with their second nap and ready to transition to one, try your best to push their nap as late as possible without allowing them to enter an over-tired state. If an earlier nap is not possible, you can always compensate with an early bedtime (even as early as 6 pm if needed).
EARLY RISING: Toddlers are continuing to explore the world around them and are more active. Along with this, their sleep needs are changing and may not need as much sleep as they did before. You want to ensure that your toddler is meeting their sleep needs for their current age so that they are not getting too much or too little sleep.
It might also be helpful to reassess their sleep environment. Is your child sleeping in a quiet and dark environment? At this age, sound machines are great to block out any excess noise and many of my clients have found toddler clocks to be extremely beneficial at the toddler age. Toddler clocks give your child a visual wake-up cue so that they know when it is or isn't time to get out of bed.
STALLING AND OVERALL BEDTIME BATTLES: Why would they want to go to bed when staying up is MUCH more fun. When bedtime rolls around, ensure that you are giving your toddler some time to wind down by avoiding active play at least an hour before bed.
You can also give your child a cue that it will soon be bedtime through simple warnings. You can make this connection by saying "We are in our jammies, it is dark outside, and it will be bedtime soon". Toddlers benefit from warnings, consistent boundaries and predictable schedules, so be ready to set limits to avoid bedtime battles and overall power struggles.
GETTING OUT OF BED: This is the most common issue I see among those toddler years. Often time’s, parents make the switch from a crib to a bed a little too soon. You might be thinking; "But she loves my bed and I think she would benefit from her own" or "He is not a baby anymore".
If you can, avoid the crib to bed transition until your child is around 3 years old. There are younger children who have transitioned successfully, however, it is just not worth the rush. The reason why I make this recommendation is that toddlers just don't have the developmental capability to understand the rules and boundaries that come with an open bed. You could be stuck with a nightly visitor, over-and-over again.
This age can really test your patience as a parent, but you can get through it with some planning and limit setting to avoid future sleep or behaviour struggles. Knowing your child's sleep needs and having actionable tools to deal with power struggles, can make all of the difference in making positive changes. However, you will see the most success as long as you are consistent in the way you respond to your child, both in the middle of the night and at bedtime. Toddlers will push boundaries from time-to-time and will regress occasionally. Just stay consistent and they are guaranteed to get back on track!
I hope you find these tips to be useful in your own household.
You can book a free 15-minute consultation with me and tell me about your sleep or behaviour goals. Wishing you and your family many restful nights ahead!