Toddler Nap Strikes & Sleep Regressions
You gave such great advice with regards to my 10 month old needing only one nap a day. It worked perfectly! She took one 2.5-3 hour nap a day and slept about 12 hours a night (although still up to nurse).
Things have been wonderful … until now.
She’s now about 16/17 months old and has been refusing naps. Wide awake and just chilling in her crib. She’s now only sleeping about 11 hours at night (but no more nursing!!). She’s tired. So, so, so tired. She cannot make it from 6:30AM-7:00PM without something. But she refuses that something.
Not much has changed. Daddy is deployed (he left in December) and I’m pregnant again and feeling horrible mom guilt that my child is suffering because of me. She’s eating just fine and we do plenty throughout the day and week (zoo, play dates, story time — generally one activity per day).
Molars are through and canines are almost through. Ear infections were ruled out a week or so ago when we were checked because of bad colds. Her sleep environment and routine hasn’t changed and she still nurses before her nap. So unless she’s getting her two year molars super early, I doubt that it’s teething.
I have no idea what else to do. Keep trucking on and hope she sleeps soon? She’s so cranky if I just get her up after an hour. Doesn’t want to play and cries if the dogs and cat so much as glance in her direction. And she loves them in the morning. She looks tired.
Any ideas I might have missed out on? She literally went from 2.5 hour daily naps to nothing. We can’t do it anymore!
GREETINGS, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN! A VERY SPECIAL HELLO TO ALL MOTHERS, FATHERS AND LOVERS OF SLEEP! WELCOME TO THE 18-MONTH SLEEP REGRESSION!
A couple common misconceptions about the 18-month sleep regression:
- First, it’s actually more like the 16/17/18/19/20-month regression, and
- Secondly, it’s not always just the nighttime sleep that goes all sideways and kablooey. Nap strikes are an INCREDIBLY common issue at this age, as your child starts the developmental leap from babyhood to toddlerhood.
- There’s so much going on right now, between new physical milestones and emerging communication skills, not to mention a more fully formed sense of self and independence that are all kinds of geared up for some good ol’ fashioned power struggles and irrationally stubborn behavior.
The problem with nap strikes is that there honestly isn’t all that much you can DO about them. You cannot MAKE your toddler sleep. You can (and should) continue to provide the opportunity to sleep and do whatever you can to facilitate a good environment for sleep, but beyond that…it just kind of is what it is. Hopefully they nap. Some days they won’t. On those days, they will be cranky little pains-in-the-butt who will need an earlier bedtime to make up for it, or at least to give you a break from their (self-inflicted) misery.
Very few toddlers make it through the 16-20 month window without some aspect of their sleep getting temporarily disrupted.
The one thing NOT to do during the sleep regression (nap or nighttime) is to start changing a million things in an effort to “fix” it. Consistency is key. (I can’t tell you the number of post-regression letters I get from parents who are trying to undo the bad sleep habits they fell into out of sheer exhaustion or frustration.) At some point she will start napping again (I promise!), so continue to stick with your nap routine as-is, every day. The only way through it is through.
That said, common nap troubleshooting advice can apply: Get some blackout blinds in her room to make it as dark as possible. Play some soft, quiet music. If nighttime sleep is predictable, try playing the same music (in the same order) at night so a sleep connection forms. (We used to play a few songs from the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack for our oldest at night and pre-nap to help him settle down. He would sing/hum along to the first couple songs and then the final song was his signal to close his eyes and sleep.) Make sure she’s getting plenty of physical and mental activity in the morning, and above all, DO NOT BLAME YOURSELF IF SHE REFUSES TO SLEEP.
Seriously. You have NOTHING to feel guilty about. You are doing NOTHING wrong. Even if she breezed through every one of the common infant sleep regressions, the 18-month one is a BIGGIE. Very few toddlers make it through the 16-20 month window without some aspect of their sleep getting temporarily disrupted.
But “temporarily” is the key descriptor here. Sleep regressions are marked by the baffling realization that everything that “worked” before suddenly isn’t, which no clear underlying cause (teething, illness, though those can certainly make things worse). But most of the time, those things WILL start “working” again, which is why I’m not recommending you make any major changes. At least for now, while she’s so solidly in the sleep regression window. For some toddlers, the regression lasts just a week or two, while others struggle for several months. Keep nap time in place. Even if she’s awake, she stays in her crib. (At least she’s “wide awake and chilling” as opposed to “screaming her face off”, which would complicate things.) Let her at least stay there and rest for as long as she’ll tolerate it. If she can’t make it until 7 p.m. without her nap, try putting her to bed earlier. On days she does fall asleep during the day, she can go to bed at her usual time. And remember, as always: THIS NONSENSE TOO SHALL PASS.