By the time your child is 12 months old they will be used to routines and able to understand the patterns in the world around him. They will also have a mind of his own and know when he doesn’t want to do something!
Towards 18 months of age, your toddler will probably drop to having just one nap in the day, at around midday and should be able to sleep through the night for 11.5 hours.
You may find your toddler isn’t tired enough for a full morning nap but too tired to wait until he has had lunch. You can solve this by gradually cutting down the morning nap by 10 minutes a day and moving his lunchtime forward so that he can go down just after lunch. Alternatively, you can put him down at around 11 for a couple of hours and he can have lunch when he wakes.
Whilst many toddlers will understand the meaning of routines and keys to bedtime like story time, bath time or changing ready for bed, they won’t all want to go to sleep! If a good routine hasn’t been established it isn’t too late to introduce one and sometimes even if you do have a routine small changes can make bedtime easier for your toddler, and for you!
Sometimes it feels like there is always something to knock the routine; whether it’s teething, illness, a new sibling or even a holiday, these are setbacks that mean our babies have to relearn about bedtime and settling themselves. By this age, if you decide it’s right for you, babies are old enough to learn through sleep training and there are a range of techniques available so that you can pick one that best suits you and your family.
At around 18 – 21 months you may find your toddler especially tired and grouchy. At this age they have a huge developmental leap. Their understanding of words is large but their word production will be well behind. This can make it very frustrating; imagine if you understood most of what someone was saying but couldn’t speak back or, even worse, you did speak back and they didn’t understand you. They are also on the go all the time, discovering things around them and becoming more independent within their own little world. If you notice that your toddler is becoming very tired in the morning and is less settled at night you may want to reintroduce the morning nap for a short time and push the lunchtime nap a little later. Once they are settled again and seem less tired in the day move back to just one daytime nap (sometimes the two naps are only needed for as little as a couple of weeks, sometimes a few months).
If you are preparing to sleep train your toddler you need to be ready for a few difficult nights. Researching different sleep training techniques and confirming to yourself your reasons for wanting to try sleep training will help to give you the focus and resolve to persevere until you have a balance and routine that you are all happy with.