The question: Is there a 15-month-old sleep regression?
The quick answer: Yes and No!
Okay, THAT wasn’t helpful… so let’s dive into it!
Some families will experience a sleep regression at 15 months! However, it is a rarer regression to experience. It’s not a regression I would count on! And, if you do experience it, then I will give you some tools to help you weather this regression!
True regressions are a bit of a waiting game, they normally take 2-3 weeks to resolve and there is not much you can do to speed up the process (besides being consistent with your sleep habits). While some babies WILL have a true regression at this age, others will simply need a small fix. (Like needing to drop a nap or making a quick tweak to the last wake window!)
Common Symptoms of a 15-Month-Old Sleep Regression
· Big emotions at bedtime OR resistance going to bed (i.e. escalated crying)
· Additional night wakes
· Early morning wakings
Reasons Why You May Experience a TRUE Regression at this Age:
1. Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety will regularly peak around 18 months, but you may start to notice some symptoms emerging as soon as 15 months! Separation anxiety is not something that develops overnight; in fact, it’s in almost a constant state of development from the time your baby is born until they are two years old!
If you notice more tears at bedtime or a resistance to falling asleep, then your child may be peaking in their separation anxiety. Here is your three-step plan to respond to this:
1. Increase physical contact throughout the day and during your bedtime routine: Offer physical touch as MUCH as you can. Physical touch can range from offering a high five when passing by your child to offering some much-needed snuggle time on the couch. Filling their needs for physical touch will help immensely with separation anxiety at bedtime.
2. Enforce planned separation: It seems almost counterintuitive that one of the best ways to battle separation anxiety is to separate from your little one, but it’s true! Separation is a normal part of life, and the way to work through this anxiety is to continue letting separation be a normal part of their daily routine.
3. Start your bedtime routine 10 minutes earlier than normal and fill those 10 minutes with one-on-one play in your child’s room. Let them choose the activity and follow their lead! Don’t worry about being too restrictive with this activity – our goal is to fill their cup! It can be rowdy, or cuddly: Whatever your child wants to do is fine! We have a whole bedtime routine to wind down afterward if we need to!
2. New Skills Emerging
A number of physical milestones may be present at this age, but the most common ones are walking and climbing! Give your little one LOTS of floor time to practice these skills during the day in a safe space. Your goal is to fill their cup so that they do not feel the need to practice these skills when they should be sleeping!
Communication is a huge new skill that may be starting to explode around this time! While most children will not be saying full sentences yet, they will be finding one way or another to communicate! Verbal AND non-verbal communication are both essential to building that vocabulary.
Examples of Verbal Communication:
1. Babbling that sounds like a conversation
2. New words
3. Following Directions
Examples of Non-Verbal Communication:
2. Showing you toys or other objects
3. Showing affection (kissing and hugging)
With any new skill set emerging, you may see a regression regarding sleep. New skills cause a lot of excitement in your little one, and this may make it hard to sleep! Not to mention that they may want to use their new-found communication as a tool to help delay bedtime! Hold your boundaries here and return to your sleep training method if needed!
If excessive requests from your child at bedtime are becoming… well… excessive…, you may find this blog helpful!
3. Big Life Transitions
Any big life transition, no matter when it occurs can cause a sleep regression! Changes in life, whether they are good changes or bad changes, cause stress! Increased stress leads to less sleep. If this is the case, then I want you to focus on one thing: Extend your bedtime routine by 10 minutes to give your little one some individualized attention before bedtime.
Life transitions that you may be facing right now include:
1. Welcoming a new baby
2. Starting daycare
3. Moving to a new home
4. A parent going back to work after parental leave
5. Weaning from breastfeeding
Other Issues that may Disguise Themselves as a Sleep Regression
Don’t worry, parents! Not every sleep disruption is a regression! These issues listed below are either a short-term setback or an indicator that your little one is ready for a change in their schedule! They are likely to occur around this age and can cause some major disruptions to sleep!
If your little one has not gotten their one-year-old molars yet, now might be the time! Molars are those big teeth that come in at the back of the mouth. It can be hard to see back there, but try to get a peek inside if you can! You may notice redness, swelling, or white spots right underneath the gum line!
The symptoms for molars coming through are often a bit more intense than other teeth, simply because these teeth are so much larger! Symptoms can vary per child, as well. Some children may be extremely fussy, upset, and unable to sleep, and other children may be tired and lethargic.
If you are ever concerned about symptoms, don’t hesitate to call your pediatrician. Otherwise, don’t worry about using your sleep training method through this process. Instead, provide comfort as needed and pain medication as advised by your pediatrician. Teething is hard, but temporary (usually lasting around 48-72 hours), and when our little ones are in pain, it is important that we respond in a timely manner.
2. Needing to drop down to 1 nap
This is the average age of needing to drop down to one nap, which means that MOST babies will be ready at this age! If you have noticed one or all of the following symptoms then it may be time to drop down to one nap:
1. Skipping naps or only taking short naps
2. Taking a long time to fall asleep at bedtime
3. Bedtime has gotten to be VERY late
4. Early morning wakings
5. Split nights (long wakings overnight!)
This is a HUGE shift in your child’s schedule, and I don’t want you to make this move too early. I’ve written an entire blog post JUST on this transition and you can read about it below!
3. Recently dropped down to one nap
If you JUST made the transition to one nap, then this can also be a cause of sleep disruptions, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that transitioning to one nap was a bad idea! As mentioned above, this nap transition is a BIG one! We need to give your little on time to settle into their new schedule and routine.
It is completely normal for the transition to one nap to take up to 3 weeks to fully settle in. Things might feel a bit wonky for a while (with short naps or early morning wakings), but be consistent and stick with a time-based schedule (as opposed to wake windows). This will get better!
4. Last wake window is TOO long
One of the biggest mistakes I see parents make with the transition to one nap is that the last wake window is TOO long. It’s common for parents to assume that the last wake window needs to be the longest in order for their child to sleep well at night. This is a big misconception.
With the one nap schedule, we usually see that the last wake window functions best as a shorter wake window, or at a minimum a wake window that is the same length as the morning wake window.
Your biggest giveaways that your last wake window is too long are:
1. Increased emotions at bedtime (screaming or crying during the bedtime routine or once placed in bed)
2. False starts (waking up 45 minutes after initially falling asleep)
3. Early morning wakings (waking up before 6:00 AM most days and typically being VERY upset)
This is a funky age for sleep! MANY parents will second-guess themselves during this time and will be unsure about whether they need to make changes or not. As parents, we always have to make our best assumptions based on what we know and move forward with that. You may make the right call, or you may find out that it wasn’t the best decision. Either way, you did the BEST you could with the information you had at the time. That alone makes you the perfect parent for your baby!