how to survive your toddler's sleeping problems
You'd think that after years of no sleep, your toddler would be peacefully dreaming the night away. But life is cruel, and so is the 24-month sleep regression... Sleep consultant Hadley Seward is here to help you survive this tiring time.
As you approach your child’s second birthday, you may think that you’ve figured it all out. Sleep is under control, nappies are on their way out, and you’ve probably managed to reclaim some “me” time once your child is in bed. You’re living the dream!
Then, one day, this all ends. Your child may start waking up several times per night or super early in the morning. He may stop taking his nap, leaving him an exhausted mess by bedtime. And, most certainly, your once-calm bedtime routine will turn into a 2-hour negotiation of “one more cup of water! One more kiss!”
What’s going on!?
It’s not you. It’s the 24-month sleep regression.
Like previous ones, this sleep regression is caused by various developmental milestones that all converge to create the perfect, sleepless storm. For starters, this age marks a curious tension between your child wanting to be more independent but also wanting to be with you all the time. At the same time, children this age are much more verbal and use their newfound skills to request more X and more Y as a way to extend their time with you. All of this is even more pronounced for toddlers who are welcoming a new sibling or starting the potty training process.
So what’s a tired parent to do?
Check your child’s sleep schedule. Most 24-month-olds should be going to bed between 7-7:30pm, sometimes earlier if they’re not napping much during the day. Trust me on this, a later bedtime does not mean a later awake time. Also ensure that your little one isn’t taking a monster 4-hour-nap in the middle of the day. For most kids, 1.5-2 hours should suffice.
- Tighten up your sleep rules. At this age, toddlers looooooove pushing boundaries. It’s their favorite thing--not because they don’t like boundaries, but because they’re checking to ensure that they exist. Have a chat with your partner and decide what you want your rules around bedtime and sleep time to be. Write them down somewhere visible to keep you honest, explain them to your child, and then consistently enforce them.
- Hang onto the nap. A lot of parents prematurely drop the mid-day nap because their child suddenly stops taking it. Don’t be fooled! Many kids (mine included) have a nap strike around this age, during which they play (or scream) throughout it. Stay strong, keep offering the nap. Chances are, after a week or so of naptime shenanigans, they’ll start to take it again.
- Don’t ditch the crib. It’s also common for parents of kids this age to start to contemplate transitioning to a toddler crib. I advise you to wait. Most kids aren’t developmentally ready for this big move until they’re 3. Just remember: as annoying as their sleep is now, it’ll be even worse when they can casually hop out of bed and come find you at 2am.
Like any big sleep regression, the 24-month one will pass. Stay strong with your existing boundaries (or create some if you hadn’t previously) and your child should go back to his long nights and easy bedtimes within a few weeks.
Hadley Seward is a certified sleep consultant and founder of Bonne Nuit Baby. Based in New York City, she gives exhausted parents in Europe and North America the tools to get their child’s back on track, once and for all.
Get sleep tips and follow her adventures at @_bonnenuitbaby