Caroline is 19 months old, now. For the last couple of weeks, she's been giving us some difficulties when it comes to bedtime. She's also been extra clingy and fussy, and now is starting to wake at 2 am and call out for us. Luckily she simply needs a hug, or to go potty, and then quietly returns to her bed.
I wanted to put together a full post on why this sleep regression can happen at this age, and what to do about it.
At or around the 18 month time-frame, a few things happen...
1. A growth spurt
There is a legitimate growth spurt around this time. It can easily lead to night wakings.
2. First Molars and even the start of 2nd Molars (closer to 20 months), along with the Eye Teeth (canines)!!!!
Ouch just ouch. From what I've read, these are the hardest teeth for our youngsters to get, and they really
can happen all around the same time. The pain can cause extra fussiness, lower appetite, night wakings, and more!
3. Independence and testing boundaries
Your toddler is moving into more of the "terrible two's" and testing things out. This is the time to be consistent, and also get creative!
4. Potty Training Obstacles
If you are potty training at this early age, as we did, they may start to ask to go potty, and even take advantage of this around bedtime, and if/when they wake at night. This is always Caroline's go to. Unfortunately, she produces poop about 80% of the time, so we are kind of stuck having to believe her when she tells us!
5. New Fears
Their world simply continues to change. They can have nightmares, start to be afraid of the dark, random objects, and simply not want to be left alone. It is essential that we calm their fears, and let them know that we are here for them- all while staying consistent and not giving in to their every whim.
Easy right!??! LOL Yeah NOT. AT. ALL!
WHAT TO DO:
1. Room Time
To combat the clinigness, I highly suggest implementing daily independent play: "room time". See my full post about it, here. It has helped tremendously for us!
2. Clear Expectations
Caroline has always been a great sleeper and goes to bed without complaint. So, this is a new thing we are tackling over here! We are now explaining to her what it "looks like" to go to bed like a big girl. We've gotten her excited about doing things that "big girls" do (using the toilet, room time, and big girl bed time). We go so far as to explain that she should lay down, close her eyes, and stay quiet.
3. New "Big Girl/Boy" Methods
We are trying to get creative over here with our methods and changing things up. I simply can't stand to let her CIO for very long at this age. She is calling my name, and, while she is taking advantage at times, I am in more of a middle ground stance with this age than I was when she was younger. She understands so much more and is trying to tell us something, so I want to comfort her as she gets through this phase if at all possible.
Some things we are doing:
- Asking if she needs a hug: This sounds so silly, but Caroline is using the "potty" as a way to get out of bed. I'm now telling her that it's ok if she just needs a hug. She can tell us that. Now, when I ask if she needs a hug, she says "yeah". I am glad to give her one, of course! We are also using this throughout the day. Often when she's upset, giving her a hug stops a tantrum! If she still tells us she has to go potty, we taker her. As I mentioned above, this girl produces poop 80% of the time that she asks to go at bedtime. So, we err on the side of caution and go ahead and take her.
- Setting a timer: We are using this because Caroline asks to use the toilet to avoid bed. She often insists, and since we just got through potty training her, it is hard to ignore this request. So, she now has a timer in the bathroom before bed. When it goes off it's time for bed (unless she's actively going potty). This is working great as of now. She even says "YAY!".
- Not socializing: Caroline loves to sit on the toilet and talk, read books, be quizzed on her alphabet, and more. I don't mind during the day, because it keeps her there long enough to finish going. At bedtime, she is clearly taking advantage, however. So, we've started leaving the bathroom to "give her privacy". She focuses in more and does what she needs to do, if she needs to go. If not, she gets bored and it's easy to get her down when the timer goes off.
- OK to Wake Clock: I am so excited to get this. The clock turns blue for bedtime. It turns yellow when it's ok to wake and get up. I was planning on using this closer to when Caroline turned two, in preparation for her toddler bed transition. This seems like the perfect addition right now, however, due to the sleep obstacles we are now dealing with. I did a lot of research on these clocks, and really feel that this one is worth the money! Update: Since writing this post and publishing it, we've been using this clock and LOVING it! When it turns blue, Caroline points and says "blue". We ask her what it is for and she says bedtime. She caught on after one use. We use this for naps as well, and have the clock turn green during independent room time! It is working very well!
- Sticker charts: Caroline LOVES stickers. She gets super excited about them. So, I am implementing this at the same time as the ok to wake clock. If she goes to bed like a big girl and stays in bed quietly all night, she gets a sticker in the morning. We are using a basic calendar. She gets a sticker each day for good bedtime behavior. I remind her about it at bedtime. In the mornings, we discuss how it went. Our first night trying it she did really well. She only woke us when she needed to truly go potty. So, I told her that I was proud of her being such a big girl for bedtime, and explained why. Then she got to put a sticker on her Calendar. She just loved it! Update: We saw a HUGE improvement. After 22 days of this, she's earned 19 stickers! If she asks to go potty, and actually goes potty, that does not count against her sticker rewards.
The best thing we can do for our toddlers is be consistent. They will know what to expect and will be more successful as a result. If you plan on letting your toddler cry for 5 minutes, don't give in sooner. If you plan to only go in if they call for you (instead of crying), do that consistently (this is the method we use at this age). Change things up if you think things aren't working as is, but then stay consistent so they know what to expect.
Don't forget to praise, praise, praise when they do something right. Tell them what you want them to do, instead of focusing on what you don't want them to do. Focus on the positive, and when it happens, let them know that you are proud! Give a sticker if you want, a hug, lots of smiles and praise. Get the point across that they did a good job!