As parents, we all know the immense peace and relaxation that comes at night when your child is finally asleep. Maybe it was a long day, maybe it was a regular day, but either way there's that little switch that goes off in your brain that is like a rush of endorphins that signal you to kick up your feet and turn on the Netflix. Now picture that feeling when that switch gets turned back OFF, in the middle of your favorite show, because that peacefully sleeping child is suddenly, inexplicably...AWAKE AGAIN. To add insult to injury, let's pretend like you've been coasting down the great sleep highway for a while now and have only suddenly come to this rather unpleasant fork in the road.
Welcome to the hell that is toddler sleep regression, my friends.
Maybe you are one of the lucky ones who hasn't experienced sleep regression in their children, or maybe you just haven't experienced it...yet. Let me give you a little info to get you up to speed...
One of the most common baby and toddler sleep regression times is right around the 15 to 18 month mark. Around this time, toddlers go through a big period of development. They're learning how to talk, they're mobile, maybe (UGH) they've even dropped a naptime during the day (find solace in that here). Making it through a nap transition can be tough enough, but add in a little bit of a sleep disruption and you have a ticking toddler time bomb that you are probably nervous will go off in the soup aisle at the grocery store leaving at least one of you (or both) in tears. But wait it gets better, because...
This is also when those lovely little non-sleeping angels will start testing behaviors and seeing what the limits are. This can also be when separation anxiety can pop up out of nowhere or just become completely unbearable. Oh but wait again, because it still gets better because...
You can't fix it! Okay before you guys all turn on me and accuse me of rubbing salt in an extremely sleep deprived wound, let me explain. These types of sleep regressions are totally normal, and are directly related to developmental milestones that your toddler is experiencing. Since you can't really "fix" these sleep issues, the best thing is to just hunker down and try to get through it the best you can. Here are a few tips to help you weather the storm until you get back into some hopefully calmer sleep waters for the whole family.
Keep in mind, you DO NOT want to introduce any new sleep patterns at this point, like rocking your child to sleep because this will only cause problems in the future when you need to remove this pattern. This might FEEL like a long term problem but in reality it is a short term period and you don't want to create any bad habits to get through the rougher nights.
Does your toddler have a stuffed animal or a "lovey" yet? Now might be the time to introduce one to give your child some comfort. Another tip? Buy more than one. Or more than two. Stash the extras away to avoid any lovey disasters (been there, done that, we have FOUR "Hedgies". Four).
PLAN B: NIGHTTIME SNACK
Since your toddler might also be going through a growth spurt and this can also effect their sleep patterns, consider giving them an extra snack to fill up their tummies before bed. Yogurt, milk, and cheese are all good options, something low in sugar but filling and healthy.
PLAN C: BEDTIME STORY
Introducing a new bedtime routine might help do the trick here, and it is never too early to start reading to your child. Keep consistent with your regular routines to establish a pattern to your child that signals to them that it is time to go to bed and keep it positive and upbeat, brushing teeth, maybe a song, doing a story and then tuck in time. Having the same routine can be soothing for toddlers and can help them through a tough transition. Don't let them drag it out though, keeping it short and sweet is key here.
PLAN D: WINE
For you, not the baby. Hang in there.
Try a sleep turtle or a nightlight that projects something onto the wall, maybe a music player or a white noise machine. Sometimes this little bit of a distraction can be what gets your child through those natural wakeful periods during the night and help them self soothe to get back to sleep.
PLAN F: TOUGH LOVE
No, I'm not talking about crying it out, but I am talking about remaining firm and consistent. Just keep in mind that this is a phase, and this too shall pass. Remind yourself that you don't want to introduce new bad habits or crutches to help you through this phase, and while you might need an extra latte in the morning, you will get through this, just stick it out and remain firm. These disrupted sleep patterns usually only last a few (really love, eternity-like) weeks.
Good luck, guys. Need some comic relief? Click here. xoxo