A sleep regression is a period of time when a baby or toddler goes through a developmental leap. Your little one who has been sleeping great, on a consistent schedule, napping like a pro, and maybe even sleeping through the night, may suddenly start waking up at night, skipping naps or even waking early from naps for no apparent reason. And it typically happens just when you think you have this sleep thing all figured out.
What is the 2 year regression?
Similar to previous sleep regressions you've likely gone through already, your toddler will suddenly begin waking up during the night after previously sleeping through the night on a regular basis. They may even begin to resist naps, take shorter naps, wake earlier from them, or skip them all together.
Why does the 2 year regression happen?
This regression is a little less straightforward than the others. A lot is happening in your toddler’s life at this age - they might be transitioning to a big kid bed (read THIS POST on why you should wait until at least 3 years old though!), potty-training, another round of separation anxiety can come into play, there's often an explosion of language that occurs at this age, and your little one might even be expecting a baby brother or sister!
If your toddler is still working on cutting those painful molars, that can sometimes play a role in this regression as well, however doesn't typically last more than a couple of days.
During this age your toddler is working on stretching their wake times during the day, meaning they’re staying awake longer before naps and bedtime. And around this age, many toddlers begin having very real nightmares (and even night terrors)
How does sleep change?
As with all the other regressions, this one is temporary as well and will last about 2-6 weeks (although that may feel like an eternity).
How do we survive?
Lots of intentional attention. Give your growing toddler all the attention you can during the day. Validate their fears by acknowledging them and talking about them. This is huge in helping them understand that they’re safe and you’re here for them. You are their source of comfort, reassurance and security.
Stay consistent! If your toddler knows how to fall asleep independently, then that doesn't change here. But allow for a little more time in the bedtime routine to provide additional comfort and reassurance if needed. During overnight wake ups, go into the room and make sure everything is okay.
If your toddler is scared and is voicing this to you, get them up, turn the lights on and show them everything is safe. If they've had a nightmare, you can help them reset by having a small, calm distraction, such as reading 1-2 books, role playing the dream (if they remember and are able to) with their stuffed animals, and showing them everyone is safe. Again, this is a very real fear that needs to be validated before your child can feel comfortable going back to sleep.
If you have an already independent sleeper, then the key to maintaining that during this regression, is for your child to always falling back asleep independently. That doesn't mean you're not right nearby if needed. If they've had a scary dream, it's totally okay to sit in a chair right next to their bed until they're asleep! This is temporary. We want to be gentle and understanding, while holding boundaries where needed. Such as in asking for 17 more sips of water before going to bed. ;)
Nap refusals and regressions
Your 2 year old may suddenly stop napping and even spend the entire nap giggling and playing, or even screaming. This nap refusal could be your toddler becoming more independent and expressing that they don't want to nap, it could be them practicing their new skill of language (for us it has been!) or it could be them not wanting to miss out on anything. FOMO (fear of missing out) plays a big role in our toddler's ability to sleep sometimes.
Treat this nap refusal as a regression and not a nap transition. Most toddlers still need to nap until sometime between 3-4 years old, at which point I recommend transitioning to one hour of quiet time.
On no nap days, move bedtime up by at least 1 hour to help prevent your child from becoming overtired. This will also help to prevent overnight and early morning wake ups!
If you need help sorting through your baby's sleep, set up a free 15-minute consultation with me to discuss my sleep solutions!