Ask SIFTW: 18 months is not a time for sleeping

February 11, 2008

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?


55 weeks and the Imp can’t get back to sleep

January 21, 2008

Whatever bad patch  you are going through, someone has always been through it before. I take a little comfort in that thought during these marathon night wakings. Just as well we are going on another holiday next week which would have sent the sleep haywire anyway. Might as well enjoy the sleep regression as best as we can by enjoying the snow and building lots of snowmen.

So I would be completely justified in bringing the Imp downstairs and watching TV at 3am? Better load up on some dvds that I would love and would bore the Imp to death ….

Good times, bad times

January 17, 2008

Thinking back over the last year and a half of being a parent and talking to other mothers, there are definite times when babies are easier: 15 months is an obvious one for me at the moment (one waking last night!  hurrah!).  10 months is often a good window to change things, although I don’t remember it being great for us.  20 months to 2 years (depending on the child) is supposed to be much easier as well.  These are probably good times to alter things (night weaning, moving to own bed etc.).

Conversely, there are bad times you have to grit your teeth and get through however you can.  There seem to be far more of these, or maybe I am remembering the bad times more than the good.  Moxie has a great summary of some of these spurt times (I found growth spurts the most difficult times to get through as sleep was replaced with the need to feed constantly).  My own memory of months 1-15 goes like this:

Day 3: just before milk comes in, feeding ALL THE TIME. No sleep.  Still shell-shocked.

Week 3: first big growth spurt, constant feeding for a week.  Most people tell you spurts last for a few days, well not for us.

Week 6: another one.  Grrrrrrr.

Week 12: getting bored of this now…

Month 4: even more disruption as a big sleep regression kicks in

Month 6: I thought starting solids was supposed to help with sleep!  Not in this house, baby is waking more because he’s unsettled.  Going back to work probably doesn’t help.  This is the point where we give up on the cot completely and co-sleep to preserve what little sanity I have left.

Months 7/8/9: at least one growth spurt, feels like lots.  Sleep is disrupted for a looooong time.  Also teeth popping through constantly.  Not good.  Sanity lost a long time ago.

Month 12/13: another ****** growth spurt.  Baby is behaving like a newborn again.  Tempers fray.  Molars breaking through.

Month 14: things start settling down and a few 3 hour blocks of sleep keep us away from the loony bin.  Naps settle down.  Bedtimes start to be an issue.

Month 15: action taken on sleep (getting baby alseep before midnight, into cot and not feeding at night).  Rather shocked when it actually works. Good thing too, because

Month 18: things are supposed to go belly-up again.  Time to bank some sleep now…

Ask SIFTW: Developmental hell

December 28, 2007

Janelle from Athens, GA writes:


Our daughter is six and half months old. She slept with us for the first three months and then we gradually moved her into a crib right next to our bed. She did great in it for a couple of months. We had several nights where she would sleep three hours, then five, then three more. We got used to this. Now, she is crawling, trying to pull herself up in her crib and teething. She is waking up every thirty minutes or so and needs to be parented back to sleep. My husband and I are fried today after her waking every 25 minutes last night. We don’t believe in crying it out and are into attachment parenting. We had a home birth and are trying to be compassionate conscious parents, and frankly, we’re both a little forlorn right now. Any help, suggestions you can offer would be more than welcome.


Oh god, yes, developmental milestones may be amazing to see but they are a total pain in the arse at night when baby decides there’s far too much going on to sleep. Combine this with teething and it’s no wonder you’re feeling knackered. Here’s a few of my thoughts.


On the teething, some people swear by homeopathic powders like Ashton & Parsons. They might not work for everyone but they’ve gotta be worth a go — and you can use them alongside conventional pain relief. Then I would rub Bonjela on the gums at bedtime and give Calpol if necessary. 


On the frequent wakings, how about taking her back into your bed for a while until she gets through this stage? As she slept fine in her crib up til all this kicked off, I’m sure it won’t be a problem to get her back in the crib once she’s settled down again.


Just another thought, presumably you’ve started weaning her pretty recently, and this could also be causing discomfort. Might be worth keeping a food diary and seeing if she’s more unsettled after eating a particular food, or if she has solids too late in the day. 


As for the developmental spurts, well, there’s sadly not much you can do apart from wait until she’s learned the new skill and stops needing to practise it in the night. At which point hopefully she’ll start sleeping more again… until she starts working on the next skill.

Not sleeping. Standing.

December 5, 2007

Dear Baby,

Why will  you not give yourself a chance to fall asleep? You cannot fall asleep if when I put you down in your cot, you immediately stand up holding onto the side. Is it because of developmental imperative – you cannot help but stand up? Your poor frustrated mother trying to catch you every second from slipping and smacking your head on the taps because you insist on standing up for the whole of bath time. And now this standing mission is translated to bedtime too. Please lie down and go to sleep. You used to go to sleep so nicely while feeding. You used to go to sleep with daddy rocking you. Now there is just standing. And with the standing comes the yelling.

I once heard of a mother putting her baby in his cot standing up. At least then, there was only one direction for him to go. 

Ask SIFTW: Baby waking at 7 months after sleeping through

November 30, 2007

David writes:

Our 7 month old has been sleep trained for about a month (what took us so long?) and now he goes to sleep at 6:30 or7pm and is fine. But today he had an odd day and had an extra nap. So, although he went to sleep fine, he has woken up. What should we do? Let him cry it out or go comfort him, take him out of bed, play for a while, night feed and then put him back? Or something else?

Firstly, sounds like you’ve been getting a bit of sleep in the last month David, so well done, that’s not an easy achievement in itself. Firstly, crazy nap days are going to happen. We’re off on holidays tomorrow and the Imp does not nap so well in the pushchair, so I think we are in for an interesting time with loads of overtiredness. For some babies, naps really do seem to dictate the flow of nighttime sleep, for others the connection is somewhat dubious at best.

Your baby has woken up in the night after sleeping through for a month or so. There’s a couple of ways you could take this (off the top of my head). Hopefully it is a one off for you and he will go back to sleeping soon.

  1. Baby had too much sleep in the day and is now awake at some ungodly hour thinking about playing and entertainment. As tempting as it is to play a bit of hide and seek at 3am, I tend to think keeping the mood dull and sleepy with the lights low is key. Even if baby won’t nod off straight away, at least you may be instilling the message that nighttimes are very very boring and it is way better to keep sleeping. When the Imp really insists on doing stuff at ungodly hours, I usually lie down and feign sleep while he climbs over me, pulls my hair, pokes my eyes until he lets out a little yawn and then I try to rush him off to bed again.
  2. Since Baby has been sleeping through for a month, I would consider whether there is something new that might be waking him up, teething, illness, that kind of thing. He might need a little more comfort than usual until this passes. The Imp is a terrible co-sleeper, but will happily sleep with us if he’s sick or teething.
  3. At this age, you might want to consider if Baby is going through some developmental spurt, such as learning to crawl as this can cause them to wake up at night rocking on hands and knees and such and such.
  4. Concede that you don’t know what the hell is causing this night waking and get your baby to sleep by any means possible and hope that it’s just a phase.
  5. If this waking becomes a habitual night after night, then you are back to considering the way forward. Can you live with some interrupted sleep for a bit, or do you need to revisit the sleep training?

What do our readers think? Post your thoughts/advice in the comments.

Going pear-shaped at a year (or so)

October 16, 2007

Thanks to Amber for pointing this out:

So we have a good reason why our nights are really, really awful at the moment.  This reason makes a lot of sense to me: Loudboy is definitely starting to work out that things follow on from each other (mainly that bedtime = milk!).  Any tips for getting through on hourly wakings or worse?