How to Deal with the 12-15 Month Sleep Regression

Is your child waking up at night crying, or going through separation anxiety and early waking? Get tips on the 12-15 month sleep regression!

12-15 Month Sleep RegressionSee if this sounds familiar:

Within the last couple of days, your toddler refuses to sleep. She screams her head off the second you put her in the crib. In fact, she’ll stand up and clutch the crib rail, crying hysterically. The bedtime routine has gotten longer, with plenty of protests peppered in.

And while she’d sometimes cry during night wakings, she’d always go right back to sleep with no problem. These days? You’re not exactly getting as much sleep as you used to.

Instead, you find yourself asleep on the floor next to her, afraid to move an inch because she might wake up. You know how much worse she’ll be if she’s overtired, and you’d rather she not skip a nap altogether. At the same time, you’re not exactly keen on starting old habits again, like rocking and co-sleeping.

How to deal with the 12-15 month sleep regression

At this age and stage, no parent wants to return to the newborn days of sleep deprivation. You may have gotten used to reliable naps you can always look forward to as a time to get everything done. Predictable bedtimes allowed you a few hours at the end of the day all to yourself.

But with the fussiness of the 12-15 month sleep regression, you’re getting anything but.

Your baby-turned-toddler may be going through a few developmental milestones, from gross motor skills to eating more solid food. She more than likely still needs two naps during the daytime, although many toddlers do switch to one at around 14-18 months old.

Still, you’re wondering how to survive these sleep problems, especially when she has stopped sleeping or has been waking up crying. Behavior like early waking from a nap or in the morning has made your days worse.

As difficult as these last few days may have been, rest assured that this is temporary. With a few tweaks, you can go back to good sleep habits once again. Besides checking in with your pediatrician (which should you be your first go-to move), here’s what else you can do:

1. Extend your child’s wake times by 15 minutes

As toddlers get older, they can likely stay awake longer between sleep times. And if yours is still awake too briefly, she may not be sleepy enough to welcome her naps and bedtime.

See if you can extend her wake times by 15-minutes each. For instance, if she wakes up at 7am and normally naps at 10am, see what happens if you put her down at 10:15am. By extending her wake times, you’re allowing her to tire herself out and actually feel ready to fall asleep.

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2. Address milestones your child is going through

Many changes are likely happening in your toddler’s life, from being able to drink milk to developing separation anxiety. Dig deep into which milestones might be affecting her sleep.

For instance, could she be teething, disrupting her sleep and making rest uncomfortable? Is she more interested in learning a new skill like crawling and walking than staying in one place to sleep? Has the darkness of her room become a source of fears and tears?

Once you can identify a likely culprit, you can then find solutions to address it.

Pain medicine or teething tablets could ease sensitive gums and molars. Allow her to crawl or walk instead of keeping her confined in her infant seat or stroller. A night light can address her fear of the dark and separation anxiety at night.

See if you can spot milestones that could be contributing to the 12-15 month sleep regression and address their specific issues.

3. Ramp up your routine

Even if you’ve had a consistent bedtime routine for a whole year now, it’s time to ramp it up and stick to it as much as possible.

A predictable routine helps ingrain events and habits in your child’s day, making each transition automatic. You’ll have fewer power struggles when she knows it’s time to nap after you come home from the park.

Try to do the same things in the same order, roughly at the same times every day, for the time being. And even within those routines, do the same activities or rituals. For instance, if it’s bath time, start by rubbing her hair with shampoo, scrubbing her body with soap, and toweling off to dry—every single time.

The more you stay consistent with your routine, the less likely she’ll resist going to sleep. After all, naps and bedtime are simply what you do every day.

4. Don’t enable habits you don’t want

First, I totally get it. I know that rocking your child to sleep, lying with her on the floor, or holding her in your arms wasn’t your first choice. They were last-ditch efforts to finally get her to sleep and stop her from crying.

Sometimes, we have to do whatever it takes to help our kids catch up on lost sleep. And other times, we comfort them when they need it most, like when they’re sick or teething.

But, as I’m sure you’ve realized, these habits continue to grow. Unfortunately, they’re not sustainable or long-lasting, even if they started off as a temporary fix.

Once you know she probably doesn’t need to be rocked or held to sleep, commit to doing away with habits you no longer want to continue.

Check out these 14 month sleep schedule examples.

14 Month Sleep Schedule

5. Check in briefly at set times

But what do you do if you put your child down in the crib and she simply cries? Try sleep training her and checking in at set times.

If she cries because she’s in the crib instead of your arms, check in and let her know that it’s time to sleep. Keep this interaction brief—30 seconds at most, really—and have a calm, confident manner.

Then, set your timer for about 10-15 minutes. If she’s still crying when the timer goes off, check in again, bearing the same message and keeping it just as brief. You’re not checking in to calm her down—in fact, she might get more riled up. Instead, you’re reassuring her that you’re here, and that it’s time to sleep.

Repeat the cycle of setting your timer and checking in until she eventually falls asleep. Should she wake up mid-nap, in the middle of the night, or early the next morning, do the same process.

And don’t get her up earlier from her nap or before you’re ready to start the day because she cries. Set a designated “wake up time” and repeat these check-ins until that time. For instance, if she’s supposed to nap for 1.5 hours but woke up after an hour, check in during the last 30 minutes.

This will help her learn how to self-soothe when she wakes up from nighttime sleep.

Conclusion

However steady your toddler’s sleep may have been, disruptions the 12-15 month sleep regression can disrupt it. Thankfully, you can do plenty to steer her back on track.

Experiment with extending her wake times by 15 minutes to help her welcome sleep. Address milestones she may be going through, from separation anxiety to teething. Ramp up your routine, as the familiarity and consistency will help her expect sleep.

Stop enabling habits you don’t want to continue, and instead, check in at set times to let her know it’s time to sleep. This will help her learn to fall asleep on her own instead of relying on unsustainable habits that keep everyone awake.

No more lying on the floor afraid to move an inch, friend—now you can finally get the sleep you need!

15 Month Old Separation Anxiety at Night

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2 Comments

  1. My 15 month old sleeps at 7pm through the night and goes down awake. Lately, she’s been waking up early around 5:30am. She used to wake up at 6:30am, then it was 6am, and now this.

    Naps are another issue. I have to put her in the crib asleep, not awake. She takes the first nap at 9:30am but wakes up 30-40 minutes later.

    She doesn’t want to take the second nap, so by the time she finally falls asleep, it’s already 4 or 4:30pm and she is exhausted. Sometimes she’s so overtired that she skips the second nap entirely.

    Some days she has just one nap around 11:30am or noon. She can sleep 1.5 hours when it’s just one nap, but never longer.

    Would love to hear your thoughts and advice. I so appreciate your time!

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Hi Pat! One thing that can help with early morning wake ups is to not get her up for the day just because she’s awake at that time. When she stirs, go in and let her know it’s still sleep time. Then, check in again at 15 minutes if she’s still crying, and every 15 minutes thereafter until the official wake up time. That way, she adjusts to waking up and being up for the day at the time that you set.