Between 18 and 24 months, a seismic shift usually occurs in a baby’s sleep habits: Their morning nap disappears, cutting their daily schedule from two- to one-a-day. This can suck for new parents who aren’t ready to lose that window of peace every morning.
Say goodbye to lingering over that second cup of coffee, catching up on the morning’s news and checking email. Multiple naps are a thing of the past.
What should I be doing?
Childcare experts advise letting the morning nap drop naturally. Your child will give you cues that they don’t need it. Elizabeth Pantley, author of the book The No Cry Nap Solution, says toddlers may fuss or stay awake even during surefire nap settings like a car ride and then later show no signs of fatigue despite missing their morning snooze. If they consistently give you these signals, it’s probably time to go strictly afternoons.
Even after dropping the morning nap, your toddler still needs lots of sleep. He or she is growing rapidly while spending all of his or her waking moments in a frenzy of exploration and/or destruction. They can make it through the morning awake, but they still need 13 to 14 hours of sleep over the course of the day.
How do they make up the lost nap time?
The afternoon nap picks up some of the slack, lasting up to an hour. But, by 18 months, toddlers should be sleeping for long stretches overnight — and be able to sooth themselves back to sleep when they wake up. This means drifting off on his or her own, with no parental rocking, feeding or shushing necessary.
To encourage this, parents should create and maintain a steady bedtime routine. If your child wants make decisions at this point, let them pick out pajamas and bedtime stories. But you should stick to the basics (e.g., bath, bottle, lights out). This will encourage autonomy without sacrificing beneficial rituals.
The more harrowing experience is when your toddler decides to pull a “jailbreak” and climb out of the crib. To prevent escape and possible injury, lower the mattress as far as it will go. If your baby does get out, avoiding giving the incident too much attention. This can encourage repeat performances.
I’m exhausted just hearing all this. Anything else I should know?
At this age, children can make bedtime a chore for their parents. But it’s usually just for a couple of weeks. After sleeping through the night consistently for months, the pattern can be interrupted by what’s often called the 18-month sleep regression. Due to teething and a burgeoning sense of independence, your baby might refuse to go to sleep.
You can make up for their loss of night sleep with naps, but otherwise, remember — sleep troubles are temporary. Try to avoid falling into bad habits.