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8 expert tips for managing the toddler sleep regression

Sleep regressions aren't just for babies.

toddler sleep regression
Crystal Sing/Twenty20

So your previously perfect sleeper has just turned 18 months and is suddenly battling bedtime. Or, your already-challenging night-waker is now 2 years old and naps are newly non-existent while nights are an even bigger struggle. Brace yourself, mama: Your little one has likely just hit the "18-month sleep regression."

Why the quotation marks? Because, much like other sleep regressions, this one doesn't necessary happen in the precise months the books told you it would. Instead, sleep regression is likely to rear its head whenever your little one is going through her first and biggest phase of learning control and independence.

While other sleep regressions, like the one that often occurs between 8-10 months, were often about physical development (crawling, pulling to stand, cruising), the toddler sleep regression is about your child learning and exerting control and independence, and testing boundaries to determine how the world really works.


Not to worry, tired families—this, too, can be managed. It will take some time, it will take consistency, and—like everything else with toddlers—it will inevitably take loads of patience.

Here are my top tips for managing the toddler sleep regression:

1. Bedtime timing is key

Many parents will assume that because their child is now a bit older, bedtime should be later. This is not necessarily the case so the first place to look when trying to solve those bedtime struggles is the timing of when your child goes to bed to ensure they are not overtired. Most toddlers who wake for the day around 6 or 7 am and nap for a couple of hours at noon each day should be in bed for the night at 7 pm to avoid over-tiredness.

In some (more rare) instances, toddlers aren't having quite enough awake time before bed and it could be that they are not quite ready for sleep when mom or dad is tucking them in for the night. If your toddler is having a later nap of, for example, 1 pm to 3 pm each day, it's likely that they can handle a bedtime of 7:30 pm. This will help them to be more ready for rest when they hit the hay.

2. Consider your toddler's room environment

Distractions in your child's room environment can play a key role in toddler bedtime struggles. Avoid loads of toys piling up in your child's room to keep distractions and early morning Lego parties at bay.

Ensure the room is very dark, to avoid street lights causing bedtime challenges, or sunlight causing napping struggles.

If your toddler has expressed a fear of the dark (this is a learned thing, so some toddlers express this fear while others do not) then you could consider a small night-light to calm their worries, but ensure it is quite dim so as not to be distracting (and I recommend an LED option so it does not get too hot and become a safety issue).

3. Your 18-month old should be in a crib

I suggest that children sleep in a crib until at least the age of 3 and do not transition to a toddler bed or bigger bed before that time. The reason for this is related to your child's level of comprehension at this age. While it's certainly not always a breeze to "reason" and "negotiate" with a 3 year-old who is constantly getting out of bed, it can be a piece of cake compared to attempting to rationalize with a 2-year-old who does not have the same comprehension level and reasoning skills as an older child.

4. Kick the bedtime screen time

Your toddler's amazing little mind is already running at about 100 miles per minute, so no need to add to this in the minutes leading up to Snoozeville! Avoid any screen time at all at least 1.5 hours before bedtime. On top of the colors, the cartoon characters, and everything else on the screen that stimulates your little one's brain, the bright light emitted from screens inhibits the production of melatonin, which is the naturally occurring hormone that helps our bodies fall asleep at our proper, age-appropriate bedtime.

5. Strengthen your nightly routine

If you already have a bedtime routine in place, that's great! But even the best bedtime routine may need some tweaking in the toddler phase.

Toddlers thrive in situations where they know what is coming up next, so consider creating a bedtime chart to help your child visualize and prepare for each step of their routine. Find fun images of each element of the routine—bath, PJs, story time and in to bed—and put them on a chart, and then check them off with your little one as you complete them. Or consider taking pictures of your child doing each element of the routine and putting stickers on the chart as they complete each item each night.

Let your toddler have some decision-making power, as this is generally what's at the root of the bedtime struggles. Let them choose from a few options of pajamas. Let them pick the books, but ensure you limit it to two books, and only two books, every night. If your toddler knows what to expect and you never deviate from this, it will reduce the protesting for "One more book! Pleeeeeaaasee, just one more book!"

6. Consider a comfort object

Children at this age often experience a new level of separation anxiety, so in addition to ensuring you fill up your little one's love bucket during the day, and spend ample time on cuddles, talking and bonding during the bedtime routine, you may wish to consider giving your child a comfort object for sleep. Most recommendations suggest nothing of this nature in the crib earlier than the age of one, but as a toddler it may be helpful to allow your child something small and soft and safe to provide extra comfort for sleep. Though I do suggest only one sleep object, to reduce stall tactics ("Froggy tonight! No, Bunny tonight! No! Duckie tonight!") after the lights are out.

7. Keep it simple

Toddlers are growing and changing rapidly. By 18 months, they learn one new word every two waking hours; however, just because they understand the words doesn't mean they speak them or that you can reason with them—that comes closer to the age of 3 (another good reason to keep the crib until at least that age). Any attention is good attention to a toddler. Your little one will need boundaries, but expectations will need to be reasonable and the language you use to communicate those expectations needs to be very simple using few, calm, even-toned words.

8. Don't stray from usual sleep habits

If you do not allow your child to sleep in your bed, if your family's sleep habits don't include lying with your little one while he dozes off at night, or if your sleep practices involve waiting five minutes before responding to your child's midnight tantrums, I don't recommend changing these habits to try to get through this regression. Instead of helping you cope, they are likely to lead to much longer-term sleep challenges even once this "phase" has passed.

With this being said, of course you will need to respond to your little one during night wakes or manage those bedtime battles in a way that he feels supported and loved. Perhaps this looks like holding your child during a night wake, but not holding them all the way to sleep; or lying with your child at bedtime, but leaving the room while they are still awake so they can drift off independently. This is much more likely to get you through this regression and out the other side with good sleep habits in tact than throwing your old practices out the window!

Build a better bedtime for your toddler with these sleep helpers.

The perfect pajamas

toddler sleep regression

Cozy, cuddly and practically indestructible, these pajamas are designed to be passed down from sibling to sibling.

$37

Plush lamb

toddler sleep regression

Oh, hi new best friend. Science shows your toddler's favorite lovey actually helps develop their independence, so curl up and snuggle away.

$15

Bedtime bath milk

toddler sleep regression

Moisturizing, all-natural bath milk makes bath time a soothing, calming pre-bedtime ritual for your toddler

$36

This post was originally published on The Happy Sleep Company blog.

By its very nature, motherhood requires some lifestyle adjustments: Instead of staying up late with friends, you get up early for snuggles with your baby. Instead of spontaneous date nights with your honey, you take afternoon family strolls with your little love. Instead of running out of the house with just your keys and phone, you only leave with a fully loaded diaper bag.

For breastfeeding or pumping mamas, there is an additional layer of consideration around when, how and how much your baby will eat. Thankfully, when it comes to effective solutions for nursing or bottle-feeding your baby, Dr. Brown's puts the considerations of mamas and their babies first with products that help with every step of the process—from comfortably adjusting to nursing your newborn to introducing a bottle to efficiently pumping.

With countless hours spent breastfeeding, pumping and bottle-feeding, the editors at Motherly know the secret to success is having dependable supplies that can help you feed your baby in a way that matches lifestyle.

Here are 9 breastfeeding and pumping products to help you no matter what the day holds.

Customflow™ Double Electric Breast Pump

Dr. Brown's electric pump

For efficient, productive pumping sessions, a double electric breast pump will help you get the job done as quickly as possible. Quiet for nighttime pumping sessions and compact for bringing along to work, this double pump puts you in control with fully adjustable settings.

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Hands-Free Pumping Bra

Dr. Brown''s hands free pumping bra

Especially in the early days, feeding your baby can feel like a pretty consuming task. A hands-free pumping bra will help you reclaim some of your precious time while pumping—and all mamas will know just how valuable more time can be!

$29.99

Manual Breast Pump with SoftShape™ Silicone Shield

Dr. Brown's manual breast pump

If you live a life that sometimes takes you away from electrical outlets (that's most of us!), then you'll absolutely want a manual breast pump in your arsenal. With two pumping modes to promote efficient milk expression and a comfort-fitted shield, a manual pump is simply the most convenient pump to take along and use. Although it may not get as much glory as an electric pump, we really appreciate how quick and easy this manual pump is to use—and how liberating it is not to stress about finding a power supply.

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Nipple Shields and Sterilization Case

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There is a bit of a learning curve to breastfeeding—for both mamas and babies. Thankfully, even if there are some physical challenges (like inverted nipples or a baby's tongue tie) or nursing doesn't click right away, silicone nipple shields can be a huge help. With a convenient carry case that can be sterilized in the microwave, you don't have to worry about germs or bacteria either. 🙌

$9.99

Silicone One-Piece Breast Pump

Dr. Brown's silicone pump

When you are feeding your baby on one breast, the other can still experience milk letdown—which means it's a golden opportunity to save some additional milk. With a silent, hands-free silicone pump, you can easily collect milk while nursing.

$14.99

Breast to Bottle Pump & Store Feeding Set

After a lifetime of nursing from the breast, introducing a bottle can be a bit of a strange experience for babies. Dr. Brown's Options+™ and slow flow bottle nipples were designed with this in mind to make the introduction to bottles smooth and pleasant for parents and babies. As a set that seamlessly works together from pumping to storing milk to bottle feeding, you don't have to stress about having everything you need to keep your baby fed and happy either.

$24.99

Washable Breast Pads

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Mamas' bodies are amazingly made to help breast milk flow when it's in demand—but occasionally also at other times. Especially as your supply is establishing or your breasts are fuller as the length between feeding sessions increase, it's helpful to use washable nursing pads to prevent breast milk from leaking through your bra.

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Breast Milk Storage Bags

Dr. Brown's milk storage bags

The essential for mamas who do any pumping, breast milk storage bags allow you to easily and safely seal expressed milk in the refrigerator or freezer. Dr. Brown's™ Breast Milk Storage Bags take it even further with extra thick walls that block out scents from other food items and feature an ultra secure lock to prevent leaking.

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Watch one mama's review of the new Dr. Brown's breastfeeding line here:

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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There is rightfully a lot of emphasis on preparing for the arrival of a new baby. The clothes! The nursery furniture! The gear! But, the thing about a baby registry is, well, your kids will keep on growing. Before you know it, they'll have new needs—and you'll probably have to foot the bill for the products yourself.

Thankfully, you don't have to break the bank when shopping for toddler products. Here are our favorite high-quality, budget-friendly finds to help with everything from meal time to bath time for the toddler set.

Comforts Fruit Crisps Variety Pack

Comforts fruit snacks

If there is one thing to know about toddlers, it is this: They love snacks. Keeping a variety on hand is easy when the pack already comes that way! Plus, we sure do appreciate that freeze-dried fruit is a healthier alternative to fruit snacks.

Comforts Electrolyte Drink

Comforts electrolyte drink

Between running (or toddling!) around all day and potentially developing a pickier palate, many toddlers can use a bit of extra help with replenishing their electrolytes—especially after they've experienced a tummy bug. We suggest keeping an electrolyte drink on hand.

Comforts Training Pants

Comforts training pants

When the time comes to start potty training, it sure helps to have some training pants on hand. If they didn't make it to the potty in time, these can help them learn their body's cues.

Comforts Nite Pants

comforts nite pants

Even when your toddler gets the hang of using the toilet during the day, nighttime training typically takes several months longer than day-time training. In the meantime, nite pants will still help them feel like the growing, big kid they are.

Comforts Baby Lotion

comforts baby lotion

Running, jumping, playing in sand, splashing in water—the daily life of a toddler can definitely irritate their skin! Help put a protective barrier between their delicate skin and the things they come into contact with every day with nourishing lotion.

Another great tip? Shopping the Comforts line on Comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices—and follow along on social media to see product releases and news at @comfortsforbaby.

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that newborns, especially, do not need a bath every day. While parents should make sure the diaper region of a baby is clean, until a baby learns how to crawl around and truly get messy, a daily bath is unnecessary.

So, why do we feel like kids should bathe every day?

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