How To Survive Your Toddler's Sleeping Problems
You’d think that after years of not sleeping, your toddler would be peacefully dreaming the night away. But life can be cruel, and so is the 24-month sleep regression. Thankfully, sleep consultant Hadley Seward is here to help you survive this tiring time.
As you approach your little one’s second birthday, you may think you’ve got it all figured 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 comes to an end. Your little one suddenly starts waking up several times during the night or super early in the morning. They may stop taking their nap; leaving them exhausted and irritable by bedtime. And, more than likely, your once-calm bedtime routine will turn into a series of negotiations of ‘one more cup of water, one more kiss…!’
What is going on?
It’s not you. It’s the 24-month sleep regression.
Like the previous ones, this sleep regression is caused by a variety of 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 around you all the time. At the same time, children this age are much more verbal and use their newfound skills to request everything as a way to extend their time with you. All of this is more pronounced for toddlers who are experiencing changes such as welcoming a new sibling or starting to potty train (more tips for that process here).
So, what can you do?
Check your child’s sleeping schedule. Most 24-months-olds should be going to bed between 7 and 7:30 pm, sometimes earlier if they’re not napping much during the day. Trust me that a later bedtime does not mean a later awakening time. Also ensure that your little one isn’t taking a monster nap in the middle of the day, for most toddlers, 1.5 to 2 hours should suffice.
Tighten up your bedtime rules. At this age, toddlers love pushing boundaries - it’s their favourite thing to do, not because they don’t like boundaries, but because they’re checking that they exist. Have a chat with your partner and decide what you want the rules around bedtime and sleep to be. Explain these to your child and be consistent in enforcing them (even when their being looked after by a babysitter or family member).
Hang onto the nap. A lot of parents prematurely drop the midday nap because their child suddenly stops taking it. Don’t be fooled! Many toddlers (mine included) have a nap strike around this age, during which they play - or scream - throughout it. Stay strong and keep offering the nap. Chances are, after a week or so of fighting it, they’ll start to nap again.
- Don’t ditch the cot. Another common issue is parents tend to contemplate transitioning to a toddler cot at this age. I advise you to wait a while. Most children aren’t developmentally ready for this big move under they’re about 3. Just remember, as annoying as their sleep is now, it’ll be even worse if they can hop out of bed and find you at 2 am.
Most important, don’t fret. 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 toddler should go back to their long nights and easy bedtimes within a few weeks.
Hadley is a certified sleep consultant, working to help families get a better night’s sleep. She focuses her time on gently guiding babies to sleep whilst offering solutions for parents to get a better night’s sleep too. Find out more about Hadley and her work at Bonne Nuit Baby.