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The 18-month sleep regression


Diary of a First-Time Dad
Edwin McGreal

Google can be great. It can also be depressing.
Two mornings in a row Frankie woke a couple of hours earlier than normal.
We could find no natural reason for it so out came the smartphones. I keyed in ‘18 month child sleep’ and was automatically promoted with the next word – ‘regression’. Uh oh.
It is quite a thing, Google told us. It’s also one of the hardest sleep regressions, several websites informed us.
Well it definitely was for us because it was the first such sleep regression.
Frankie had no issues with sleep from the beginning. On her first night home she slept the full night, only for us to be told that she needed to be woken for a feed during the night. It was an inconvenience for the three of us.
Frankie has always loved her sleep and we’ve been very grateful for this.
But a couple of weeks ago, we hit this speed bump.
After being down for three or four hours Frankie would start crying around midnight for a couple of minutes but fall back asleep. She might do it once or twice more during the night and then wake early.
Now early is a relative thing. Frankie would typically wake anytime between 8am and 9am which, believe me, is manna from heaven.
Suddenly, that hour-long window shifted to the ungodly hours of 6am and 7am. I’m sure loads of parents reading this will curse us – that is everyday wake-up time for them, and might even represent a sleep-in for a few lively toddlers.
But if all you know is sleeping until at least 8am, it is quite the setback! We would take turns getting up to take Frankie down to the sitting room and start her day while the other tried to get back to sleep.
Google informed us that there are three possible causes to the sleep regression – teething, the start of separation anxiety and, paradoxically, the start of a toddlers’ sense of independence.
The regression could last for anything from two to six weeks. So we prepared for the worst.
It was, we were told, the most difficult regression, because previous regressions have nothing to do with defiant behaviour but this one does. Like I say, it was all new to us so this last warning was worrying. Having to play mind games with an 18 month old was not something we were looking forward to. I could see Frankie having a field day there against her beleaguered parents.
But while we were formulating a plan and strategising for toddler warfare, Frankie waved the white flag.
After just a few days she went back to her old ways and returned to a full night’s sleep. Now it might have something to do with the fact that we had her outside in the evenings during the good weather wearing herself out. She was in no mood to be defiant after all that.  

In his fortnightly column, first-time-father Edwin McGreal  charts the ups and downs of the biggest wake-up call of his life: parenthood.

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