Your little one is 15 months now! You have been enjoying restful nights with your baby, enjoying a whole night’s sleep, then out of the blues. They start waking up at night, upset, and having a difficult time going back to sleep. Welcome to 15 month sleep regression.
Regressions can be frustrating and cause panic on the parent’s part. Your otherwise calm and peaceful night-time sleeping baby is suddenly waking up crying. They either want to feed or are simply seeking your attention, sometimes even several times a night. They almost revert to their new-born sleep schedule.
However, we need to understand regressions are temporary. They only last between 2-4 weeks. We know that this feels like a lifetime, but we are here to help you get through this phase and get your tot get their sleeping habits back on track.
What causes the 15 month sleep regression?
Your 15 month-old is growing and going through several developmental milestones. At this age, your little one’s brain is developing rapidly, and their small bodies are also growing at almost the same pace. They are developing speech, mastering language, and interacting with other people and the environment around them.
They are learning how to walk as well, which is a significant milestone. Some babies learning to walk as they hold on to your hands or the furniture around the house, while others are already running across the room.
You will also likely notice that once you put your little one to sleep, all they want to do is climb out of their crib (another skill they pick up at this stage), making it difficult for them to stay put and calm enough to fall asleep.
These new skills they are learning to do by themselves keep their brains so active that they find it difficult to go to bed at night. They want to practice the new skills well into the night, causing them sleepless nights.
15 month sleep regressions also happen because it is at this age that most babies transition from two daytime naps to one nap. During this period, you may notice your little one is more awake at night when they take two daytime naps. Or, probably, they dropped one nap, and they are overtired when it’s bedtime.
15 month sleep regressions also happen because it is at this age that most babies transition from two daytime naps to one nap.
Other causes for the 15 month regression could be:
- Separation anxiety
- Growth spurts
Your baby at this age has also started experiencing nightmares. At this age, they cannot tell the difference between a dream and reality, causing them to wake up at night. If your 15 month-old was sleeping well through the night and is having nightmares, be there to reassure them.
Tell them the dreams aren’t real. Yet, be prepared for this to carry on for some time because their comprehension is still limited. Though with time, they come to understand what is going on.
How can I tell my baby is going through a regression?
The main sign that your munchkin is going through regression is their sleeping pattern, which seems to be suddenly out of whack. Other tell-tale signs are:
- Increased fussiness
- Multiple night wakings and staying awake for long
- Difficulty in self-soothing back to sleep (If they were previously able to)
- Refusing to nap or fewer/short naps
- Refusing to nap or crying during naptime or bedtime
- Changes in appetite
How to deal with the 15 month sleep regression
Thankfully, regressions are temporary, and your baby can get back on their schedule with a little help. Once your little one has also got used to their nap transitions, they will be well on their way to having a full night’s sleep in no time. Here are some ways to help your baby through this regression period:
Maintain a sleep routine
When your baby is going through 15 month sleep regression, it is easy to lose the sleep routine they are accustomed to. However, maintaining a routine will help your little one fall asleep, stay asleep, and wake up rested.
Bedtime routines enforce a baby’s natural circadian rhythm, helping them tell the difference between day and night. It also helps them to slow down from the day’s activities and prepare themselves mentally for bedtime. During regression phases, it creates a sense of comfort for the baby.
A bedtime routine could be as simple as;
- Have dinner
- Give your baby a bath
- Let them have 15-20 minutes of quiet play
- Read a book
- Cuddle your baby and kiss
- Put baby to bed
Foster good sleeping habits and sleep environment
Creating the right environment for your little one is key in dealing with a sleep regression phase. Start by giving your child ample time to settle down with quiet activities. Then put your baby to bed when he is drowsy, not sleepy. Babies who learn to drift to sleep on their own can soothe themselves back to sleep when they wake up at night. Ensure the lights are dimmed out when the baby is sleeping.
If your baby wakes up at night, don’t carry him to a brightly lit room. This shift tells his brain that it’s time to play. Instead, soothe him in the dark room and leave immediately.
Avoid screen time or any form of excitement before sleep time. If you read one night-time story before bedtime, stick to it. During the night, when they wake up, avoid cuddling them, or engaging them in any playful activity. Offer a reassuring pat on the back and let them fall back to sleep by themselves.
Also, leave sometime between your baby’s mealtime and bedtime. Feeding your baby to sleep makes your baby link sleep to food. Every time they wake up at night, they will expect a feed.
Limit Screen Time
Having too much excitement keeps your little one too active to fall to sleep easily. Your child may be unable to fall asleep easily or stay awake for too long before they sleep. The content they are watching stimulates their brains instead of having a calming effect necessary to fall asleep quickly. Screen time before bed also affects your little one’s circadian rhythm because of the light emissions from the devices.
Instead of making your little one relaxed, it increases their alertness while reducing melatonin (sleep-regulating hormone), which helps to regulate the sleep-wake cycle.
At 15 months, your child can move a lot. Encourage as much play as possible during the day and regular naps. If your child does not have a sibling, you could consider a playgroup with children with as much energy. The more they get their energy out and get quality naps, the more rest your little one will get.
As a parent, when your child is going through a regression, you are tired, frustrated, and most likely sleep deprived. Try to stay as calm as possible when managing your child. Do not raise your voice at your little one or speak harshly to them. They are going through a phase they too cannot understand and need you now more than ever. If you feel like you are too tired or frustrated, seek another family member or friend’s assistance if you can. It helps your baby remain calm as they sail through the 15 month regression.
Do not allow your baby to eat or drink anything with caffeine before going to bed. Taking sodas or energy drinks should be avoided.
How do you deal with separation anxiety?
Your child could be going through separation anxiety, causing the 15 month regression. As your baby grows, they are now more aware of separations. Some children get hysterical when mommy leaves the room even for a few minutes, while others demonstrate ongoing anxiety when mommy is out of sight. Whatever spectrum your little one lies, they need lots of reassurance during this phase.
There are some simple ways you could help your little one overcome this phase:
- Let your child know when you are leaving and coming back. Avoid hiding and sneaking out of the house. When you go, create a quick goodbye ritual. It could be a simple kiss on both cheeks. Keep it as short and brief as possible.
- Try and be consistent. If you are dropping off your little one at playgroup or leaving him in the house, maintain the goodbye ritual, and try to keep the same time you do the drop-off. Your baby can develop trust and independence with a routine in place.
- When separating, give your child your full attention. Be loving and reassuring. When leaving, give your quick goodbye and ensure you leave the room with a smile on your face, despite the crying or antics to want you to stay. Stay positive to avoid becoming anxious yourself, which could rub off on your baby.
- When you come home, make more time for snuggles and activities to do with your child before bedtime.
Sleep regressions take a toll on both the baby and you, the parent. Try to remain as calm as possible and be consistent in your routines as you wait for the phase to dissipate gradually. Help your child through this challenging transition, and you’ll be well on your way to napping through the night in no time.