17 Month Sleep Regression Tips
Around 17 months, parents can consider their baby a toddler. While there are a whole host of milestones to watch out for at this time, one common occurrence at this time is the 17 month sleep regression.
At this time, your child will experience difficulty as their body adjusts to having one nap, as well as all the effects of emotional and cognitive development.
This period of development will reveal itself during bedtime and nap time. With sleep regression, toddlers often want to assert their independence and avoid sleeping at all at nap-time or have difficulty adjusting to just one nap during the day and become overtired at night. When bedtime rolls around, this over-tiredness can make it difficult for them to falls asleep.
If it’s clear that your toddler is experiencing this sleep regression, it’s important to take action. Consider the following tips to help your child adjust to these life changes:
1. Avoid Significant Sleep Changes
Part of what triggers sleep regression is change. With the many milestones toddlers make on a daily basis, it can be difficult for them to adjust to their new life.
To avoid further compounding these sleeping issues, try to put off making any major changes to their sleep schedule. Parents should wait until the biggest changes around the 17-month mark are over (like pacifier weaning, sleep location transitions, and more) before making other changes to their sleep schedule.
2. Provide Your Toddler with Clear Limits
Another element that drives the 17 month sleep regression is a lack of limits. Children crave routine as they need stability to help them adjust to all of the changes in their lives. Without clear boundaries and limits, they will continue to test their parents to see what they can get away with.
While it may seem as though this 17 month sleep regression is your toddler trying to push you to the edge, the reality is that they are simply trying to assert their independence. The best way to reinforce these limits is to remain consistent after clearly defining the rules.
For example, when parents want toddlers to sleep in their own cribs or cots, it’s imperative for them to stick to this rule. When children see that they can get their mom or dad to cave into letting them sleep in their bed, they will think it’s okay and will learn to keep pushing the boundaries.
To make sure your child knows what’s right and wrong, be sure to stick to a solid bedtime routine. As toddlers experience the same routine every single day, they will understand what they’re allowed to do and what boundaries are unacceptable to cross. This will help them understand that when it’s time for a nap or bed, that is exactly what they must do.
3. Respect Your Toddler’s Desire to Participate
When children experience the 17 month sleep regression, it often occurs as a result of a toddler’s need to belong. Oftentimes, children will fight sleep because they want to be active and participate in anything and everything that is happening at the moment.
While your child still needs to go to sleep when it’s time to do so, giving them a choice in certain decisions regarding bedtime and nap time can help them feel as though they play a role in the process. For example, parents can set out two pairs of pajamas, allowing their toddler to choose one. Similarly, giving them a job to do like move their stool towards the sink or get their toothbrush will help them to feel more independent and more at ease with the fact that they have to go to bed.
4. Determine the Best Biological Bedtime
While parents often try to get their toddlers to stick to a set schedule for bedtime, the 17 month sleep regression can throw a wrench in an otherwise perfect routine. At this time, parents learn that they must adapt to this schedule to best meet their child’s needs.
This is especially true when helping your toddler transition from two naps to one. Though it will take some trial and error, creating their ideal sleep schedule at this age will work best when parents develop this routine around their child’s biological bedtime.
This is the time when your child is naturally ready to sleep. By identifying this time and making the sleep schedule around it, your toddler will be able to fall asleep when they’re tired, guaranteeing a more agreeable experience for all involved.
If your child’s biological bedtime is too early or too late at night, don’t worry. Start this sleep schedule at this time and as your child adjusts to it, gradually make the bedtime earlier or later by 20 minutes each day. Eventually, you’ll reach the best time for you and you and the rest of the family.
5. Create a Definitive End for Bedtime
As toddlers tend to test their parents at this time, don’t be alarmed if you find that your toddler fights back during this 17 month sleep regression.
This is where the structure of the sleep routine comes in. A successful sleep schedule must include a defined end that parents reinforce every single night. This routine should include calming activities like bathing the toddler, snuggling, reading a book, and the ending the night with an “I love you, goodnight.” This will immediately signal to your toddler that it’s time for bed and they need to go to sleep at this time.
Even if your toddler fights this, keep reinforcing this routine, even after they wake up at night. Simply repeat the phrase and leave them to fall asleep. Eventually, they will understand that no amount of whining, crying, or begging will force their parents into changing their routine.
6. Determine What’s Causing the Anxiety
17 month sleep regression can also result in bouts of anxiety. At 17 months, toddlers often experience separation anxiety, especially if their parents won’t sleep in the same room as them.
While adults know that this fear is irrational, it’s important for parents to work with their children to help them overcome this fear. At this age, children are learning how to control their symptoms and may not understand why they feel anxious in this situation.
If your child is experiencing separation anxiety, be sure to give them ample reassurance by interacting with them at least once after they wake up during the night to help alleviate their fears.
If you notice that this 17 month sleep regression is causing your toddler to be anxious, it’s important to avoid using leading questions like “Are your afraid of the dark?” or “Are you having bad dreams?” Let your child tell you what’s wrong and deal with their response accordingly.
Common Questions for 17 Month Sleep Regression
Parents with 17-month-olds that have slept soundly for the majority of their lives are often shocked to experience this 17 month sleep regression. Likewise, parents that have worked through other sleep regressions are often aggravated to learn that their toddler is having trouble sleeping again.
If your child is experiencing the 17 month sleep regression, the following questions and answers may help you:
Why does the 17 month sleep regression happen?
This sleep regression often occurs as a result of teething, separation anxiety, and a desire to be independent. Around 17-months-old, children begin these important milestones that can lead to uncomfortable sleep, as is the case with teething. With separation anxiety, toddlers often need to adapt to sleeping away from their parents and will learn to accept this over time.
Toddlers’ desire to be independent occurs during this time as children are learning to do more “grown-up” activities like feed themselves, drink without a bottle, build using blocks, and even dress themselves.
Why is this the most challenging?
Many parents believe this 17 month sleep regression to be one of the most challenging regressions. This is due to the fact that your child’s new independence introduces a new discipline factor. With the desire to be defiant, toddlers will say “No!” regularly during this period.
Coupled with the sleepless nights that accompany changing your child’s sleep schedule, it’s no wonder parents find this time to be the most difficult to deal with. If you’re faced with a defiant toddler, it’s best to try to minimize their sleepiness as this will at least keep temper tantrums to a minimum.
Life with a 17-month-old is certainly not short of excitement. However, much of this tumultuous time will involve working through the 17 month sleep regression and helping toddlers adjust to their new life. If you’re dealing with a 17-month-old in the middle of their own sleep regression, be sure to keep this guide in mind.