Establishing good sleep habits: 12 to 18 months
What will my toddler’s sleep pattern be at 12 months?
Although your child’s growing more independent each day, he still has many of the same needs as when he was a baby, especially when it comes to sleep. From 12 months to 18 months, your toddler will need around 13 hours to 14 hours of sleep a day, with 11 of those hours being at night.
At 12 months, your toddler may still need two naps during the day. But by or before the age of 18 months, he may be ready to condense this into one longer nap of one and a half hours to two hours.
Look out for signs that your toddler may be ready to make this transition. He may start to take longer to nod off during the day or sleep well in the morning and then resist the afternoon nap. Or he may start waking up earlier than usual from his naps.
There are lots of ways you can approach this transition from two naps to one nap. The most important thing is to find an approach that suits you and your little one.
You could try to cut out your toddler’s morning nap as soon as you think the timing is right. Your little one may adapt swiftly to the new routine, or he may have a few days of fussiness before settling down to one longer nap in the afternoon.
Or you could do try phasing out the second nap more gradually, watching your toddler for signs of tiredness. You could try alternating between one-nap and two-nap days, depending on how much sleep your toddler got the night before. Or it may help to try putting your child to bed a little earlier on one-nap days, until he settles into the new routine.
How should I encourage good sleep habits?
Have a consistent bedtime routine
A great way to help your toddler understand when it’s time to wind down is to have a consistent bedtime routine. It’s never too late to start one. By knowing what to expect, your toddler will feel safe, content and calm, which is important when preparing for a good night’s sleep.
If your little one needs to work off excess energy, it’s fine to let him run around for a little while. However, don’t let this go on for too long or you may run the risk of him becoming over-stimulated. Move on to something more calming, such as his evening bath, or favourite bedtime story or lullaby. Keep your evening routine simple and activities short, calm and soothing. If it’s too complicated or it takes too long, your toddler may become overtired and find it harder to settle down.
Treat the bedtime routine as a special time that you, or your partner, get to spend with your little one. Follow the same pattern every night, even when you’re away from home if possible. He’ll soon learn to understand that a warm bath, a gentle massage, putting on his pyjamas and a quiet song or story, means sleep will follow.
Some studies have shown that watching television before settling down for the night may disrupt normal sleep patterns, although more research is needed to be sure. If you do like to watch a favourite show with your toddler before bedtime, try to allow for some time to wind down afterwards.
Follow a daily routine
A consistent daily routine helps your toddler feel safe and secure. If he naps, eats, plays, and gets ready for bed at about the same time every day, he may be more likely to fall asleep without a struggle.
Just as for bedtime, it’s a good idea to establish a regular naptime routine to help get your child ready for a rest. This can be a shorter version of the one you use at night, such as reading a story or having a cuddle. By going through a familiar routine, your toddler is less likely to resist a nap during the day.
If your toddler is getting too much sleep during the day, then this could have an impact on how well he sleeps at night. Try making sure any naps he does have are before 3pm, so that he’s tired enough when bedtime comes around.
Avoid giving your toddler a dummy at night
If your little one still depends on a dummy to fall asleep, he may wake up if he loses it during the night. Try substituting it for a favourite cuddly toy or blanket to snuggle down with.
Although it may be tough for a few nights, going cold turkey is better than trying to remove the dummy gradually. Stick with it. Before long, your toddler will forget all about it.
What sleep problems happen at this age?
Your toddler is learning all sorts of new skills at this age, such as standing, climbing and walking. He’ll be eager to show off and practise his new-found abilities at all times of day. So you may suddenly find yourself dealing with a wide-awake toddler in the middle of the night. The best approach is to make sure that when your little one does wake in the night, he knows how to settle back down by himself.
Sleep training may help you encourage your toddler to learn to self-soothe. There are a variety of different methods you can use for sleep training, from controlled crying to a number of no-tears approaches. What’s most important is to choose a method that works for you and your family.
You may also find that your toddler is waking too early in the morning. It may be tempting to move his bedtime to later in the evening to see if he sleeps for longer. However, this may make your toddler overtired, which in turn makes it harder for him to settle at night. Try to be patient with early mornings, as it won’t last forever! If you can, take turns with your partner to get up with your toddler, so at least one of you has a good night’s sleep.
As your toddler discovers the wonderful things his body can do now, he may be tempted to test them out during the night. Find out what to do if he starts climbing out of his cot.