Sleep Regression Concessions
Hi, I just read some of your articles on the 18 month sleep regression (thank you for those, we hadn’t even heard of this). We are definitely experiencing it with our 18-month-old. For several weeks now. I’m mostly composed of coffee.
We have just been getting up with him and going to bed when he does, but we also have a 3-year-old and they share a room, which is becoming an issue as our youngest wakes up our oldest at 4 a.m. and I have two cranky toddlers all day.
Do you think it would be okay to put the youngest in the pack n play in our room until he starts sleeping again so our oldest can sleep? Or will we be stuck with him in our room if we do that?
I think that is a perfectly fine plan. I typically like to advise that parents not make major routine changes during sleep regressions, but that applies more to changes made out of sheer desperation, like “oh, we’ll just co-sleep for a couple of nights” or “fine, I’ll just spend all night holding him in the rocking chair.” Basically, don’t let a temporary sleep blip trick you into bad sleep habits that can quickly become permanent, or at least are Very Very Hard To Undo.
But your three-year-old needs their sleep! And you need your three-year-old to sleep! So this is definitely one of those cases where you need to find a compromise between two competing sleep routines. So by all means, relocate the baby to where his wonked-out sleep schedule will wreak the least havoc.
I don’t think you’d be permanently stuck with your youngest in a pack n’ play, provided you 1) remain consistent in your response to his night wakings, and 2) don’t notice that your close-by presence is actually inspiring more or longer night wakings. If that happens, move the pack n’ play to somewhere more neutral, like just outside your door…or even into the living room.
Remember that just because the 4 a.m. waking is likely rooted in a growth and/or developmental spurt, that doesn’t mean you need to be overly accepting or indulgent of it. He’s old enough to be told no, go back to sleep or be otherwise re-settled down without a ton of intervention or attention from you.
4 a.m. is not playtime, song time, extra-book-time, etc. It’s still night time. If he’s waking up absolutely ravenous, by all means, settle him back down with some milk as quickly as possible, and then see if you can boost his protein intake at dinner or add in a healthy, hearty pre-bedtime snack. Otherwise, I’d try to hold down some basic older-baby sleep-training rules — don’t pick him up, encourage him to lie back down, offer him a lovey or musical crib soother, rub his back/head/feet for a minute and then REMOVE YOURSELF. Exit. Hands off. Repeat as needed every five, 10, etc. minutes if he continues to protest or escalate, keeping the level of interaction as low as possible each time.
That last bit IS more difficult when he’s right there in your room and he can clearly see you, but if you can still otherwise consistently get him settled back down to sleep somewhat quickly (in his own sleep space, NOT your bed) without a ton of extra YAY IT’S A NIGHTTIME ATTENTION PARTY, I think you can successfully keep this as a temporary arrangement. And again, if you suspect having him in your room is causing more wakings or an increased demand for your attention at night, move him to a neutral third location for the time being.
THIS TOO SHALL PASS.