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Managing The 14-Month Sleep Regression: Expert Guidance for Sweet Dreams

Sleep regression” is somewhat of a misnomer when it comes to understanding your toddler’s changing sleep patterns. In reality, these shifts are closely linked to significant developmental milestones that don’t necessarily follow a strict timeline. Around the 14-month mark, many parents notice a distinct change in their child’s sleep habits, often referred to as the 14-month sleep regression. However, this period is more accurately a reflection of your toddler’s rapid growth and learning.

In this blog, we’ll explore some of the developmental changes that occur around 14 months of age, such as advancements in walking, language, and emotional skills, and how they can impact your toddler’s sleep. Our aim is to provide you with insights and strategies to effectively navigate this dynamic phase, ensuring a smoother transition for your child and a more peaceful night’s sleep for the whole family.

Physical Milestones: Walking and Its Impact on Sleep

As your toddler navigates the 14-17 month age range, they are not just learning to walk but are becoming more proficient at it. This stage involves mastering skills like running, dancing to music, and exploring their newfound mobility. While this is a crucial developmental milestone, it can also influence their sleep patterns.

Sleep Challenges:

  • Increased Movement During Sleep: According to the study “Motor Development and Sleep, Activity, and Restlessness in Infants,” toddlers in the process of mastering walking often experience more movement during sleep. This is due to their brains actively processing and integrating these new motor skills, leading to disrupted sleep patterns with shorter and more fragmented sleep periods. The study highlights that walking proficiency, not just the ability to walk, is closely related to sleep quality. As toddlers become more adept at walking, their sleep quality is likely to return to pre-walking levels.
  • Falls and Bumps: With your little one’s increased mobility and eagerness to explore their walking skills, there’s a heightened risk of falls and bumps, both during the day and potentially at night in their crib.

Strategies to Help:

  • Encourage Daytime Practice and Physical Activity: To mitigate nighttime disruptions during the 14 Month Sleep Regression, it’s beneficial to provide ample opportunities for your toddler to practice walking and engaging in other physical activities during the day. This can help reduce their need to ‘practice’ these skills at night.
  • Foster Safe Sleep Environment: Ensure the sleep environment is safe for an active toddler. This includes adjusting the crib to the lowest setting and using appropriate sleepwear like a sleep sack with foot openings.
  • Spatial Awareness: To help your toddler with spatial awareness in their crib, you can stay close, gently tapping the rails and talking about their position. This can assist them in understanding their surroundings and reduce the likelihood of falls.
  • Guide Transition from Standing to Sitting: Rather than laying your toddler down repeatedly, encourage them to learn how to transition from standing to sitting on their own. You can do this by patting the mattress and guiding them on how to bend their knees. Over time, this will help them become more independent in settling themselves during bedtime and night wakings.

Cognitive and Emotional Development: Navigating Big Feelings and Separation Anxiety

As your toddler becomes more mobile, their ability to move away from you increases, which can sometimes trigger a new wave of separation anxiety, a common aspect of the 14-month sleep regression.

This is a normal part of development but can be challenging, especially around sleep times. As they grow tired, their clinginess may intensify, and being put down in their bed can become a distressing experience. Additionally, big emotions at this age can manifest physically, with behaviors like biting and hitting.

Sleep Challenges:

  • Increased Bedtime Resistance: Your little one’s burgeoning sense of independence can make them more determined to assert their will, making bedtime more challenging. Remember, this phase is a normal part of their growing independence and not necessarily indicative of problematic behavior.
  • Lack of Impulse Control: Toddlers typically have underdeveloped impulse control, as the prefrontal cortex, the brain region responsible for this control, is still maturing. This part of the brain doesn’t start to significantly develop until around age 3, which means toddlers often act on their impulses without thinking about consequences. For toddlers, this lack of impulse control might manifest in behaviors such as throwing objects like a pacifier or lovey, especially when frustrated or tired.

Strategies to Help:

  • Use a Visual Timer: To help your toddler with transitions, such as moving from playtime to bedtime, use a visual timer. Set it a few minutes before bedtime and explain that when the timer goes off, it’s time to start the bedtime routine. This can help them mentally prepare for the transition.
  • Consistent Routine: A predictable and consistent bedtime routine is comforting for toddlers and helps them understand what to expect next, making the transition to sleep easier during the 14 Month Sleep Regression. Such routines also provide a sense of security and stability, which can ease their anxiety.
  • Handling ‘Fetch’ Games: If your toddler throws their lovey or other items out of the crib, it’s important not to turn it into a game of fetch. Repeatedly retrieving the item can inadvertently reinforce the behavior. Instead, calmly return the item once, and explain that if it’s thrown again, it won’t be given back until morning. This approach helps teach your toddler about consequences and can discourage the behavior over time. Remember to remain calm and consistent to effectively communicate this boundary.
  • Avoid Sneaking Away: Instead of sneaking away, which can exacerbate separation anxiety, clearly announce when you are leaving the room and reassure your toddler that you will return. This builds trust and helps them understand that separations are temporary.
  • Importance of Boundary Setting and Communication: Clear boundaries and consistent communication are crucial. Toddlers are exploring their limits, and understanding the boundaries around sleep times and routines helps them feel secure and understand expectations.

Picky Eating: A Normal Phase in Toddler Development

Picky eating is a common and normal phase during toddlerhood. It’s important to remember that as parents, your role is to provide a variety of healthy food options, while your toddler has the autonomy to choose what and how much they eat. This approach respects their developing independence and helps establish healthy eating habits.

Sleep Challenges

Too Busy To Eat: Toddlers are often so engrossed in exploring and playing that they may not sit still for meals, leading to insufficient daytime eating. This can result in night waking or early rising due to hunger, a common issue during the 14 Month Sleep Regression. Avoid the temptation to reintroduce nighttime feeds, as this can create a cycle of less daytime eating and more nighttime feeding, which is not sustainable in the long term.

Strategies to Help:

  • Bedtime Snack: If your toddler eats less at dinner, consider offering a nutritious bedtime snack. Options rich in proteins and fats, such as avocado toast, peanut butter on bread, yogurt, a smoothie, or a cheese stick, can be satisfying and help them through the night.
  • Transitioning Away from Night Feeding: Continuing to feed milk at night can lead to dental health issues and fuller diapers, which can disrupt sleep. Additionally, the more milk they consume at night, the less likely they are to eat sufficient food during the day. Gradually reducing night feeds encourages better daytime eating habits and contributes to a more consolidated night’s sleep.

Changing Sleep Needs: Moving Toward a One Nap Schedule

The shift from two naps to one is a significant change in a toddler’s daily routine, typically occurring between 13-18 months. This transition is not a direct component of the 14 Month Sleep Regression, but rather a natural evolution in your toddler’s sleep needs that often coincides with the physical, cognitive, and emotional developments happening at this age. As toddlers grow, they are able to comfortably handle longer periods of wakefulness, necessitating a shift in their sleep pattern.

Sleep Challenges:

  • Gradual Transition: Moving from two naps to one is not an immediate switch but a gradual process that can take several weeks. During this time, your toddler’s sleep patterns might fluctuate as they adjust to the new schedule.
  • Balancing Daytime Sleep: Finding the right balance for the single nap can be challenging. Too long a nap might lead to difficulties in falling asleep at night, while too short a nap can result in overtiredness and night wakings.
  • Early Morning Waking or Night Waking: As your toddler adjusts to the longer wake windows, they might experience early morning waking or increased night wakings. This is a normal part of the transition and usually resolves as they adapt to the new sleep schedule.

Strategies to Help:

  • Monitor and Adjust Wake Windows: Keep an eye on your toddler’s wake windows. Gradually extending the morning wake window can assist in the transition to one nap.
  • Flexible Nap Timing: The timing of the single nap may initially vary. Observe your toddler’s cues to find the optimal nap time, ensuring they aren’t overly tired.
  • Consistent Morning Start Time: A regular wake-up time in the morning is key. This consistency helps set your toddler’s internal clock, making nap times more predictable and effective. While bedtime might vary depending on the day’s events, aim to keep it consistent within an hour. This approach helps maintain a sense of routine while allowing for the natural variability of daily life.
  • Patience and Consistency: This transition is a big change for your toddler. Patience and consistency on your part will support them in adjusting to their new sleep schedule more smoothly.

Navigating Boundaries: A Key to Better Sleep and Emotional Growth

Toddlerhood is marked by an increase in communication skills and the emergence of ‘big feelings’. Managing these feelings is a dual challenge, requiring you to not only help your toddler navigate their emotions but also to regulate your own.

Setting clear and consistent boundaries becomes crucial during this time, especially in relation to sleep. A structured approach to bedtime routines and limits provides much-needed stability in your toddler’s rapidly evolving world. It’s about striking a balance between acknowledging their growing independence and maintaining the comfort of predictable limits. 

Your role is to be the guiding force, helping your toddler understand and manage their emotions, while also modeling emotional regulation yourself. This approach lays the foundation for healthy sleep habits and emotional growth.

Navigating Your Toddler's Sleep with Batelle

Toddlerhood is a journey of remarkable growth and discovery, not just for your child but for you as a parent. At Batelle, we specialize in adapting to the evolving needs of your growing child, focusing on the interplay between emotional development, boundary setting, and sleep to help your whole family get the best sleep possible during the 14-month sleep regression.

Nurturing Better Sleep for Your Whole Family

  • Tailored Strategies for Toddlers: We provide guidance that evolves with your child’s developmental stage, focusing on communication, boundary setting, and emotional support.
  • Supporting Parents in Navigating Big Feelings: We’re here to empower you, not just with strategies for your toddler, but also with tools to manage your own emotions during this challenging phase.
  • Expert Support: Our team offers support and guidance, ensuring our strategies are in harmony with your child’s unique developmental needs.

With Batelle, you’re not just addressing sleep challenges; you’re building a foundation for your child’s emotional well-being and resilience.

This article was written by Batelle – team of sleep experts, lactation consultants, therapists, doulas, and early education specialists.   

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