Why It Happens and Tips from a Sleep Expert

Babies and toddlers go through several sleep regressions during the first two years. Just when you thought your baby would sleep through the night and take great naps, another sleep regression seems to hit. During one of these exhausting time periods, your baby will wake frequently at night, wake too early for the day, and/or take short naps. In this post, I’ll discuss the 15 month sleep regression, explain why it happens, and give you tips to get through it based on over years’ experience as a sleep consultant.

What is a Sleep Regression?

During a sleep regression that lasts an average of 3 to 6 weeks, a baby or toddler who was sleeping fine suddenly starts waking at night, taking short naps, and/or skipping naps for no apparent reason. Typically, these time periods start without warning and leave parents exhausted and confused. The good news is that it means your baby is developing properly and if you handle them properly, they don’t have to last forever. Sleep regressions happen around 4 months old, 6 months old, 8 to 10 months old, 11-12 months, 15 months, 18 months, and 2 years old.

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15 Month Sleep Regression: How Is It Different?

Most sleep regressions happen during developmental milestones. However, the 15-month sleep regression isn’t a change in how a baby sleeps like the 4-month sleep regresson. And, although some toddlers start walking around this age, it’s not as much tied to developmental milestones as the 8-10 month sleep regression.

At 15 months old, this regression typically occurs because your toddler is likely changing their schedule. This is especially true if they’ve already been walking for a while. My older son started walking around 11 months old, for example. When a toddler first starts walking, it can be exhausting. But, once they’re up and running (literally!), their schedule often changes.

How to Get Through the 15 Month Sleep Regression

If your toddler is struggling with the 15-month sleep regression, there are a few ways to get through it. Here are my tips:

  • Increase Wake Windows – If you’re still using a typical 12-month old schedule, consider increasing your baby’s wake windows to 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Although it might feel like there’s not much different month-to-month, schedules can change quickly. Check out our toddler schedules by month here. Also, keep in mind if your toddler is still taking two naps, nighttime sleep could decrease down to 10 to 10 1/2 hours. But, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad schedule. You might simply need to shift it forward by an hour or so.
  • Increase Solid Food – Active toddlers who are also growing at lightning speeds have very fast metabolisms. I know many of us worry about healthy weights for our children but keep in mind that it can feel like your toddler is eating more than you are on a regular basis! Be sure to offer three solid meals plus 2-3 snacks AND 16-20 oz of milk a day. Your toddler will indicate when they are done with their meal by signaling or refusing to eat. Toddlers also tend to graze a lot. You’d be surprised how often we figure out a toddler is hungry at night and that’s why they are waking up!
  • Promote Independent Play – Separation anxiety has peaks and valleys throughout childhood so if your toddler is exhibiting uneasiness, be sure to promote independent play throughout the day. If you are only separating from your toddler at night, this can have negative consequences. Try leaving the room during the day for short durations so you can show them you always come back.
  • Transition to One Nap – If your toddler is already awake 3 1/2 to 4 hours between naps and waking frequently at night or for a long period of time in the middle of the night, it might be time to transition to one nap altogether. Transitioning from two naps to one nap can be bumpy but within 2-3 weeks, your toddler should be sleeping much better at night.

Can I Do Sleep Training?

What about sleep training? Keep in mind that sleep training is NOT the answer to every sleep problem! There are many reasons babies and toddlers wake up at night. If you do sleep training such as Ferber or Cry It Out, you run the risk of having long periods of crying without success.

However, if your baby or toddler has always been a troubled sleeper, adding sleep training into the above-mentioned tips can help your child sleep through the night.

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