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(Written originally in 2018, updated October 2020)
I’m not gonna lie, this month has been tough.
I try not to pay much attention to all the hype around “leaps” and “regressions.” Why? Because I don’t want the expectation that my baby is going to be fussy and have multiple night wakings just because he is “x” months old. Expecting night wakings and expecting extra clinginess ensures that it will actually happen because as the time ticks away we wait nervously and anxiously for the regression to start. Our baby senses our anxiety, which in turn gives them anxiety. Thus, a regression or leap or sleep suck or whatever the heck you want to call it.
Also, if multiple night wakings are an indication of a regression, that would mean my 15-month-old has been in a regression since the day he was born. 😆
I’m not saying they aren’t real. The four-month sleep regression of my youngest waking up every 30 minutes ALL night long definitely proved that they are real. I’m just saying I don’t think it’s smart to go into each new phase of your baby’s life expecting them to sleep worse or be cranky.
If these issues arise, so be it. I’ll deal and I know you will, too. You wouldn’t be here trying to figure this all out if you couldn’t.
Anyway, these issues definitely arose for my toddler this month. The 15-month sleep regression is just as real for us as the four-month one. The night wakings are more frequent, naps are under protest, any form of schedule is out the window, and my shirt is constantly being tugged at for one more feeding – or “bobs” as my little one calls them.
So, how do you deal the 15-month sleep regression?
#1: Stay consistent with routines
Like I said before in “Breastfeeding: month 13,” I cannot handle schedules. Every day is a new adventure, and schedules make me feel tied down, worried about time constraints, and stressed out. But routines can be so helpful in dealing with leaps or sleep regressions.
You don’t have to follow a schedule. Just keep consistent routines, especially for sleep times and mealtimes. The actual times these routines take place can vary, but try to stay consistent by keeping the sequence of events the same.
For example, the time we wake up in the mornings varies, but it’s usually sometime between 6:30 and 8:00, depending on if my older kids have school, if we had a rough night from teething or sickness, etc.
But once we’re up our routine is:
- Nurse in bed
- Get up and tell daddy, brother, sister, and our pets good morning to (usually this involves giving everyone a good morning hug)
- Diaper Change
- Feed the pets (He loves “helping” make their breakfast)
- Empty dishwasher (Another task he loves helping with)
- Brush teeth & get dressed
- Outside time & walk a dog
It’s not always perfect but for the most part, I stick with this routine. My little one loves it because it helps him to know and expect what comes next, and it makes our mornings run a lot smoother. In fact, I don’t even tell him when it’s time to feed the pets, anymore. He just runs over to the pet food and starts trying to get out their food.
Routines help toddlers:
- Establish healthy habits: Bath time, tooth brushing, diaper changes- we do these anyway, why not incorporate them into a routine?
- Predictability: Toddlers need to know what happens next.
- Security: Consistent routines help toddlers feel safe and secure because they know what happens next.
- Less anxiety: Toddlers with routines are more relaxed and less stressed.
So, if your days feel chaotic due to sleep regressions definitely consider incorporating some daily routines. You may be surprised at how much they help you and your little one cope with day to day life.
#2: Get outside
Make an effort every day to get outside, even if just for 30 minutes. I know the weather can make it hard sometimes, but outside time can be a big help for you and your little one during a sleep regression.
Outside time helps toddlers sleep better and improves their circadian rhythms.
Outside time also helps toddlers:
- Stay active and fit
- Build a strong immune system
- Be happier
- Spend less time on screens
- Build motor skills
- Grow their imagination
Also, I get it- you are tired. So tired. And going outside to chase your toddler requires even more energy that you don’t have. But do it anyway. I know you can- you are a mom. You’ll feel better, and your toddler will, too.
To make it easier, here are a few easy outside activity ideas:
- Play barefoot in the grass: You should try it too- it feels so good!
- Bubbles: Practice blowing and catching- or letting them play and splash in the bubbly mess when they eventually tip over and spill.
- Balls: Catch, rolling, or kicking- simple, but active and will wear your toddler out.
- Search your yard for interesting things: Toddlers are natural explorers. Help them find sticks, bugs, leaves, pinecones, and puddles- they will have so much fun!
- Go for a walk: Short walks around the neighborhood are great, or if your little one prefers a stroller that works too. Outside time is outside time.
- Bring a push toy outside: Activity walkers`, toy strollers, and toy lawn mowers are all great options for encouraging movement and outside play.
- Water tables: Toddlers love water, and water tables are great for outside independent play. This water table is my toddler’s favorite!
- Stomp in the snow: Maybe it’s cold outside, but playing in the snow is such a fun sensory activity for toddlers.
- The Outdoor Toddler Activity Book: This is a book of more great outside playtime ideas for any season and any type of weather.
#3: Follow the sleepy cues
This is a phrase I get SO tired of hearing because sometimes it’s hard to read our little’s cues! Especially during a sleep regression or leap.
But if you do see the signs that your toddler is sleepy, it’s a good idea to act fast and help your toddler fall asleep.
A few common toddler sleepy cues are:
- Slowing down/being a bit more still
- Staring off into space
- Rubbing their eyes
Why are these sleepy cues important?
Because if you miss them, toddlers move on into the overtired stage. This means:
- More fussiness
- Becoming more energized or “hyper”
- More easily frustrated, which means more tantrums or meltdowns
- Clinginess or constantly wanting to be held
These can be considered somewhat normal behaviors at 15 months old, but they’re more extreme when they’re overtired.
The point here is that if you can catch your toddler’s sleepy cues, encourage them to stay sleepy and fall asleep. Maybe that means doing your nap time or bedtime routine, even if it’s a bit early or not the right time. Maybe that means just holding them in your lap and helping them relax with snuggles or a book. Or maybe that means laying down with your in bed for a breastfeeding session. Whatever works for you, just do it!
When I’m able to catch my little one’s sleepy cues I help him fall asleep quickly by breastfeeding or laying down with him in bed. I know some babies can fall asleep on their own at this age, but other babies (like mine) still need help, and there’s nothing wrong with continuing to parent your baby to sleep as long as you and your little one are still happy with the situation.
#4: Lowering/letting go of expectations
Another way to cope with the 15-month sleep regression is by lowering your expectations or letting go of them altogether.
My stay-at-home mom expectations before I was actually a SAHM (or maybe society’s expectations?):
Stay-at-home moms have all the free time in the world, therefore the house must always be perfect, clean and organized, kids must be constantly engaged in educational non-electronic activities, every meal must have kale and quinoa and be made from scratch, and of course, a stay-at-home mom must always look fresh, clean and put together.
Free time?! I can’t even use the bathroom without my little one trying to climb in my lap. My house is far from perfect, my kitchen sink doesn’t stay clean for more than 5 minutes, my carpet is usually extra fluffy from the layer of pet hair, and “being caught up” on laundry is not a thing – as long as there are tiny humans and furry beasts in this house, there will always be more laundry. Also, I’m not against letting my kids watch TV or use electronics, I don’t cook every meal from scratch (or with kale and quinoa), I don’t wash my hair as often as I should, and I live in yoga pants or leggings.
Perfection is only on Instagram (or whatever other social media you use).
Perfection is not real.
Perfection does not exist.
Lower your expectations and freakin’ enjoy these precious moments with your babies.
It’s okay that we don’t have much free time. It’s okay that the house is messy. It’s okay that every meal isn’t made from scratch. And it’s okay to live in leggings, yoga pants, sweats or whatever your choice of loungewear is.
Being a SAHM is not about perfection. It’s about taking care of your family and your home. It’s about loving your husband and supporting him. It’s about loving, teaching, and nurturing your kids. They don’t need perfection, they just need YOU.
When you let go of these high expectations, it’s easier to relax and enjoy life, and enjoy your family. You don’t have to worry about how you should be doing this or how you have to do that or how your kitchen has to look a certain way. Just take a step back and enjoy the beautiful mess of motherhood.
After all, this won’t last forever. There will be a day that our homes will be clean, the fingerprints will be gone, and toys won’t be scattered everywhere. And our hearts will crave to have these chaotic days back.
#5: If all else fails, boobs.
Seriously, I don’t think I would survive these sleep regressions without boobs.
Boobs are the instant calm for toddlers, and moms. They fix almost any emotional state your toddler is dealing with, which in turn gives you a chance to fix your own emotional state. Resting, connecting and breastfeeding your toddler doubled with the fact that oxytocin is released to both mom and baby, means even more calmness and restfulness- which is exactly what you and your toddler need to cope with these sleep regressions.
Also, breastfeeding is still so healthy- even at 15-months old!
Breastfeeding your toddler:
- Strengthens their immune system
- Provides them with the best, highest quality nutrition
- May boost their IQ and cognitive development
- Supports their emotional growth
Breastfeeding especially helps our toddlers through their sleep regressions. But, what about us moms?
Even though, it comforts our toddlers I know it doesn’t always comfort us. I mean, we get the oxytocin which is relaxing but…sometimes we just need a break!
It’s easy to feel touched out or just plain tired of not having your body to yourself, especially during a sleep regression. I get that a lot, too! Even though breastfeeding is healthy and comforting for our babies, it’s can still be very hard for us moms.
Here are a few ways to cope with your toddler wanting to breastfeed when your feeling touched out:
- Distract or redirect your toddler: Try offering a drink in a cup or a snack- sometimes they’re just thirsty or hungry, and just need a reminder that there are other options. If that doesn’t work try distracting with a fun activity you know they’ll love. My current go-to distraction is playing music on our Alexa and having a 5-minute dance party.
- Shorten the nursing session: Let your toddler nurse, but try shortening the nursing session. Your little one might not like this, but if you give a positive spin, sometimes it works. For example, you could let them nurse for a couple minutes and when you’re spent say, “Oh that was yummy milk! But now it’s time to go play Ring Around the Rosie!” Then, gently unlatch your toddler and start singing the song. You can replace Ring Around the Rosie with whatever song or activity you think your baby will love.
- Self-care: What do you need right now to get to a better place? A shower? Fresh air? Movement? Food? Sleep? Think about what your body is craving and act on it. I know self-care isn’t always easy with a toddler in tow, but do your best to do something that will get you in a happier place (and watch for a blog post about this coming soon!).
- Ask for help: I know this seems obvious, but I also know it’s a real struggle for a lot of us moms. We feel like we have to do it all. But the thing is, you don’t! It’s okay to reach out to a friend or a family member and ask for help. Would you help your friends or family if they needed it? Of course! So, why wouldn’t they do the same for you?
How to deal with the 15-month sleep regression in a nutshell:
- Stay consistent with your routines: Your toddler needs to know what to expect, what comes next. You don’t need to stick to a rigid schedule but form some routines around sleep times and play times, and this will help keep them on track to have healthy sleep habits and get through the sleep regression faster.
- Get outside: This will get your toddler moving and active and will help regulate toddler’s circadian rhythms, both of which mean better sleep.
- Follow their sleepy cues: If you catch your toddler showing signs of sleepiness, go ahead and start the bedtime or nap time routine. You want to encourage sleep before that yucky overtired, overstimulated stage happens.
- Lower or let go of your expectations: A lot of stress and overwhelm is due to needing everything to be just right or even perfect. But perfect does not exist and “just right” might be unachievable- or only achievable through a ton of frustration. So, why not lower or even let go of these expectations? Motherhood is messy and will not always go as planned. Let your expectations go, even just a little, and maybe you’ll find yourself a bit happier and a bit more able to cope with sleep regressions.
- If all else fails- boobs: My go-to for all the toddler and baby problems. Boobs fix everything, but they especially help through the sleep regressions. Also, know that breastfeeding won’t cause dependency- breastfeeding actually helps our babies become more independent.
Sleep regressions are so challenging, and even though you might be rolling your eyes at this list of ways to help, I hope at least one idea resonates with you.
If nothing else, remember they’re only little for a little while.
You are Mom. You are strong. You will get through this.
Anyone else out there dealing with a 15-month sleep regression or any other age sleep regression? How did you cope?
Thanks for stopping by! Have a beautiful day!