18m-2y Sleep Regression turned sleep deprivation

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Desperately trying to show Little Miss how to sleep…

In September, Little Miss turned 18 months. It felt quite the milestone. What we didn’t know then, was that this milestone also brought with it another sleep regression.

Earlier in the Summer, The Wonder Weeks had come to an end, and to be honest, somewhat naively / hopefully, I had thought perhaps that was the end of these dreadful episodes of developmental leaps and lack of sleep.

Oh Amie. How wrong can one Mama be…

It started off slow, as it always does. A few extra night wakings here and there, needing a little pat to get back to sleep. Totally manageable.

Little Miss hates bed covers, she always has. Even as a newborn she would wail if we swaddled her. And around her first birthday, she figured out how to get out of her sleeping bag and throw it out of the cot. So after a month or so of battling, we gave up and started just snuggling her in a blanket after she’d fallen asleep.

Image 5But the nights were getting cooler, and unfortunately, with the extra wakings, there was more opportunity for her to kick off the blanket and have a strop. So we introduced a 4 tog temperature control duvet in hope that this would be too heavy to kick off but allow her the room to wriggle she craved.

While she liked her big girl bedding, on the whole, three months on we still have to wait until she’s asleep to place the duvet over her. But at least it’s too heavy for her to throw out of the cot.

In early October, we visited my in-laws in Surrey for the weekend. We were having a particularly arduous bedtime. I was stood outside her room, doing the usual, ‘pat pat shush shush, walk away, wait a few minutes, pat pat…’ when suddenly everything went quiet. After a minute, I turned to peek round the door to be met by a little face peering up at me. To be honest, Little Miss looked as surprised as me.

‘Ooh,’ she was clearly thinking, ‘I didn’t know I could do that…’

She managed to climb out of the cot later that evening too only this time, she didn’t quite nail the dismount and thumped head first onto the wooden floor, resulting in mild pandemonium and what I’m pretty sure was a mild concussion.

Luckily, she hasn’t climbed out of the cot since then. Perhaps the purple lump on her forehead put her off a bit…

But slowly and surely, the last two months have seen me and the OH reach breaking point. The wakings have increased from needing a pat and readjusting the duvet to full on two hours of screaming through the night.

In November, she had Hand, Foot & Mouth, requiring paracetamol and cuddles through the night. And last week she had a bad cough and a cold, resulting in more cuddles.

But the week before, with no illness in sight, she woke at 3am and didn’t go back to sleep until nap time at midday. How she was able to function I will never know. Because lord knows I was struggling. A few days later, she woke at 2am and didn’t go back to sleep until nearly 6am.

We’ve tried everything from our usual ‘pat pat shush shush’ to even bringing her into our bed on occasion. But we learnt very quickly that doesn’t work for Little Miss. Apparently our bed is a trampoline…

I started looking for answers.

The Baby Sleep Site explained that the 18 month sleep regression is the most difficult one to date. Between teething, an increased sense of separation anxiety and a need to exercise their new found independence – “I do it!” – the 18m regression is a doozey. But what really takes the biscuit is the fact that your toddler is not yet old enough to reason with.

We’ve been enjoying the fact Little Miss can communicate more than ever. At night, if we can get her to calm down, she’s usually able to tell us what’s wrong – hungry, cold, hurt, cuddle… But the problem at this age is there isn’t always a reason. During the previous regressions, they didn’t have the ability to be defiant. Now, Little Miss definitely does.

My Baby Sleep Guide also spoke about the The Age of Great Resistance between 14 and 24 months. This lasts at least six months, bringing with it, self-assertion, testing behaviour and protesting.

It’s no wonder sleep often goes downhill during this stage… Kids start to resist more and parents start to give in. And then a tiredness cycle sets in and things just keep getting tougher…

All of this rings true for us. We’ve had numerous nights where Little Miss will only sleep in our arms – just like a year ago during her 8/9/10 month regression. (Only she’s a lot heavier this time round!)

At the same time, she has point blank refused dinner many nights in the past few weeks, meaning she wakes up hungry at 2am. What do we do? Leave her to be hungry until 6am to ‘teach her she can’t refuse dinner’? Or give her a snack so we can all get some sleep and risk perpetuating the behaviour? We still don’t have an answer to this one. The same goes for sleeping in our arms.

And basically, this is where we are at the moment. Grumpy and delirious going round and round in circles in the dead of night.

A few have said she might be ready to move into a bed, but that just strikes terror into our hearts. Little Miss is so active and head-strong, we just don’t think she’d stay in bed and then we’d spend our nights chasing her round the apartment…

Perhaps she’s teething. Perhaps we’ve cuddled her too much. Others have said she’s not getting enough sleep… (no shit Sherlock!)

All in all, we’re reaching breaking point. And I don’t have a solution for you yet. Just a very large pot of coffee.

What about your little ones? Are they experiencing the 18m-2y sleep regression? Do you have any tips? (Please!) 

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5 thoughts on “18m-2y Sleep Regression turned sleep deprivation

  1. Rachael says:

    Aw Amie, it’s a hard one! Mushroom was never a great sleeper, waking from 3 – 5 times a night up until he was around 17/18 months so I have no advice for you, only sympathy! If she was usually a good sleeper before, it will probably pass once she settles into this new stage of emotional development. Until then, do whatever feels right (and works for all of you! Mama needs enough sleep too). On climbing out of the cot, maybe put down an adult duvet or spare mattress in case she climbs out again, until you feel she’s ready for a big girl bed, and on cuddles – I don’t think you can give too many of those! Xx

  2. melodyshouse says:

    Hi Aime, I hope the sleep has gotten a little better? I sadly never found a solution that worked for us. But that whole experience is the reason I’m doing a research project with mothers who are dealing with or have been through sleep training or sleep deprivation as part of a thesis in Visual anthropology. If you have the time it would be great to speak to you, the aim of the research is to gain a deeper understanding of what mothers go through during this time in the hope that it can generate more support and empathy for parents. You can reach me on this email address: melodyhowse@zedat.fu-berlin.de

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