Ask SIFTW: 18 months is not a time for sleeping

A writes to us:

Well, I have a sleep problem to ask you about, like everyone else… I have a wonderful and very active 18 month old son. He was breastfed until about 8 months.

He has no problem at all being put to sleep initially. He drinks his bottle, finishes it, and drifts off in his cozy crib with no protesting. He even seems to enjoy being put in his crib when he is sleepy. He also takes good naps.  He has a great attitude and during the day is super mellow and easygoing.

The problem is this…. He goes to bed between 7 and 8. All is fine. Until… Anywhere between midnight and 2 am is his first wake up. Then he wakes up like… every 30 minutes to every hour.  Totaling anywhere from 4 to 10 wakeups a night.  This all started a few weeks ago. I have heard that there is something about the 18 month thing… He’s also had some behavioral changes. He all of the sudden has separation anxiety which he never seemed to have before. He is also getting more molars in (he seems to be teething constantly!!) I can see them coming in all red in the gums, hands in mouth, etc.  He also just started saying real words, all of the sudden… So there is a lot going on.

What have we been doing? Well I don’t feel right doing any form of “Cry it out” method while he is experiencing this new separation anxiety, so… he comes into the bed with us. He is soothed and falls right back to sleep, but the wakeups KEEP happening even in our bed. We have TRIED The cry it out method in varying “Strengths” But it definitely seems to leave him more tired and agitated than anything else.  He is very persistent.

Tonight I have decided to not bring him into our bed, because nobody can sleep, but instead bringing a small mattress into HIS room for ME to sleep on. I will soothe him and try to put him back in HIS CRIB
afterwards.  At the very worst he’ll still be in his room, not our bed. Ugh. Any ideas?

My son is 13 months and so I am dreading the onset of the 18 month sleep regression. I haven’t been there yet, but I’ve heard it is oh so common. And oh so annoying. But the good news? It will pass. It will apparently pass whether or not you try to do anything about it.

And you’ve said it yourself. There is a hell of a lot going on. Molars, talking, separation anxiety, physical accomplishments and god knows what else in that magnificently developing mind and body of the 18 month old.

I’m no expert on the 18 month thing, so I’ll defer to my preferred font of all wisdom, Moxie who says:

“Your kid may have a serious, mind-blowingly awful sleep regression at around 18 months. It’s not your fault, and it will pass.”

Hopefully by 20 months, this phase will just be a vague memory of a horrid sleepless time. In the meantime, it’s probably a great idea to take turns camping out in his room so at least one person in the house can be getting some rest. Take turns, offload some responsibility if you can for the short term. And count down the days. And maybe dare I say the occassional shot of calpol in the night if molars seem to be really getting the better of you both.

Can anyone comment of their 18 month sleep deprivation and how long it lasted?


15 Responses to Ask SIFTW: 18 months is not a time for sleeping

  1. finngarianmama says:


    My son’s 18 month sleep regression lasted from birth til almost 2 years old. My daughter is only just about 12 months now so I don’t know yet about her. But she has never slept through the night, not EVER, not once! It’s a good night if she nurses only twice and lets me sleep 3 hours in between waking me up for who knows what.

    I guess I’m not a very good person to provide much of a helpful answer to your question! (Sorry.. *snicker*)

  2. finngarianmama says:

    I forgot to add, there seems to be a 3 year sleep regression too. We just found out about that one. We’re going on 2-3 months now and counting. Sorry.

  3. amberjee says:

    finngarianmama, ever the optimist! 😉

  4. halfpintpixie says:

    interesting! Seen as we’ve never experienced a sleep progression, I really really hope we don’t get a regression in 2.5 months!!

  5. amberjee says:

    The one upside to having a baby that doesn’t sleep is that it’s difficult for things to get worse…

  6. swizzler says:

    I am getting seriously worried about this one – will try banking up on sleep now…

  7. My word, how quickly I’m forgetting episodes that only happened a few months ago. See? Sleep deprivation can work FOR you!
    I think Pitter began a real cranky period from about 17.5 months (he was 2 weeks overdue and I think all of his developmental stages have been 2 weeks early because of it) and lasted about a month total. Once he got through that month of being really unpleasant to be around and waking up maybe one more time during the night than ususal, he suddenly had 3 new teeth (including molars) and is talking up a storm.
    So there is a noticeable payoff, I suppose.

  8. amberjee says:

    we’ve got fever, a new tooth, general crankiness and a 10 minute nap (?!) to contend with today. ooooh, 18 months, i just can’t wait to see what you can throw at us.
    to add insult, i’ve somehow injured my foot, so will now have to hobble to the cafe for my coffee, i should probably just stay at home, but after only 10 mins of naptime respite, i think i’m going to go mad.

  9. Christy says:

    Its all a phase…it passes, but we might die before it does!!

  10. swizzler says:

    Arse. I think we’ve definitely hit this one now. Loudboy was up every couple of hours last night and ended up back in bed with us. Please don’t let it last a couple of months!

  11. exhausted says:

    We got through our 18 month sleep regression by limiting her naps to 2 hours exactly. She had been sleeping up to 4 hours before, and I think this combined with extra stuff going on meant she couldn’t sleep. I was so tired I felt physically sick! So the 2 hour think really helped. SHe was more tired but crashed easily at 10 pm (yes we have a late household) and all came right.

    So maybe try this?

  12. mammabear says:

    We are in the middle of this aweful thing called sleep regression but I am sooooo glad that I can categorize this form of toddler terrorism (poor guys! I know that they don’t mean to make us all wacky)! I thought we did something wrong but as I am researching, it turns out that it is very common and that it will pass. I just made myself a mantra (it will all get better soon), which I say to myself over and over again when the days without a nap become really long. It helps and I hope that soon we will be back to normal again – whatever that is:).

  13. Jenny says:

    My 15 month old daughter has only “slept through the night” once or twice her whole life. I’m totally exhausted. I can’t bring myself to letting her cry it out. Shes normally so independent but has a terrified cry if I put her in the playpen and walk out. She’s slept with us pretty much from day one and this was mostly cuz I couldn’t move very much after the c/section. I mean, we practice Attachment Parenting but I think I would’ve tried from the beginning to see if she at least fell asleep in a crib for the first part of the night!

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  15. leanne says:

    Hi, I am glad to know I am not the only one, my little boy used to be a great sleeper,he used to grab my hand and lead me up stairs on a night so he could go to bed. Then last week two days before he turned 18 month everything changed. He now screams blue murder as soon as I put him in his cot. I have tried the cry it out thing as this is how I got him to start sleeping on his own,it works when I first put him to bed,he eventually goes to sleep after up to 2 hours, then he wakes up in the early hours and I try let him cry it out again, he won’t give in and I end up lying on the floor in his room until he falls asleep. I don’t really want to be there when he is going to sleep as I am scared he will get used of be being there and it will never go bk to how it used to be. If I give him his dummy and walk out the room he throws it across the room, he also has started to throw out his quilt and pillow. Fingers crossed this is just a phase and will be over soon, – feel for yous all.

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