How to Survive the 2 Year Old Sleep Regression Like a Pro

You may have thought your little one’s sleeping problems were behind you.

Waking up with a newborn guzzler is no joke, but now your bug-eyed toddler seems to be going through the dreaded 2 year old sleep regression. And like me, you could be waking up with a kid’s foot in your face.

Although you may have thought this was the time to reacquaint with your partner, catch up on romance novels, or binge Netflix shows, think again!

But don’t worry – we’ve got some answers for you here.

A little background on sleep regressions

If you’re unfamiliar with the term “sleep regression”, The Baby Sleep Site defines it as a time when a baby or toddler starts refusing or waking up during naps and bedtime — Fun!

Okay minus the fun part, but you get my drift.

And what makes this regression different than the others, are the variety of factors that can cause it. Your little nugget is learning to sleep longer, partaking in some major milestones, and beginning to understand (and fear) more. BOO!

And it’s not like you’re a lucky winner – a blurry eyed toddler parent is surprisingly ordinary. Google 2 year old sleep regression, and you’ll find tons of threads on parents (usually in the middle of the night) trying to find answers and sympathizers.

I know because I was that Googler.

My son had been sleeping like an angel for about a year then suddenly started refusing naps and bedtimes. He would often wake in the middle of the night and rise like a rooster at the lovely time of 5 a.m.

Every. Single. Day.

I longed for those two-hour naps when I would sit and stare at a wall. But my defiant toddler had other plans like taking crayons to the floor and pretending to be daddy shark.

My life was exhausting, and you might relate. So if your little Napoleon is trying to dictate when to sleep, we’ve got a few tips to help you survive the 2 year old sleep regression.

How to Survive the 2 Year Old Sleep Regression Like a Pro

1) Comfort objects work wonders (even if they’re weird)

My son’s comfort object wasn’t a cute and fluffy teddy bear; it was a spatula.

You heard me correctly: a spatula.

Although that sounds strange, the spatula was what my son needed to go to sleep at night. For some reason, it soothed him.

And comfort objects are nothing new. D.W. Winnicott studied them in 1953. He argued that toddler’s obsessions with transitional objects are a natural part of growing up and a healthy part of development. And another study of 1,122 young twins found that 33% developed an attachment to an inanimate object.

Your kid may or may not prefer a teddy bear but as long as the object is safe, go for it! Who cares if it’s a spatula or a potato masher (we went through that phase too.)

It doesn’t matter – if it helps your tyke sleep.

2) Revamp your routines

When your pint-sized marathon runner decides he’d rather run laps around your kitchen instead of going down for the night, you may want to give up on a routine. But there are many benefits of keeping consistent naps and bedtimes. You just might need to modify the routine to keep up with your toddler’s age.

For example, you may be an avid reader and love those Stinky Face books before bed, but your independent kid wants to read 10 of them.

So, consider letting him choose two or three but give him a number. This allows both of you to be somewhat in control. Plus, allowing your munchkin to pick out the books will make him feel oh so powerful.

3) If your little Energizer Bunny won’t nap, enforce quiet time

Losing my son’s nap time made me want to pull my hair out and cry. So how can you survive nap loss like a champ?

What saved me was a quiet time.

Yes, your toddler may refuse to nap, and that sucks more than your Hoover. However, you can still squeeze in rest time.

Your jumping circus monkey might not know that he needs to stop, but he does. According to The Cleveland Clinic, your toddler needs 12-14 hours of sleep in 24 hours as well as rest time – even if your kiddo doesn’t nap.

We’re all different, but I made my bouncing son stay in his childproofed room with the option to play quietly or sleep.

What did I do during that time? I rested my eyes. My son ended up playing quietly with blocks or his imaginary friend Pickles, and sometimes he gave up after 10 minutes to snooze.

4) Put the brakes on other major transitions

If your kid is going through a 2 year old sleep regression, it’s probably in your best interest to hold off on transitioning to a toddler bed, beginning potty training, or promoting any other significant milestones.

Toddlers have a lot going on their noggins. As you know, their focus is equivalent to those Mexican jumping beans, so tackling nap time and/or an evening routine could be more than enough to fill your growing child’s brain.

How about waiting to bust out the Elmo toilet seat and holding off on introducing your kiddo to a big boy or girl bed? You may end up with less grey hair that way.

5) Get your kid outside

It’s no mystery that your toddler has more energy than Speedy Gonzales, so getting your kid outside could work miracles.

If my son stayed in all day, his sleeping was horrendous.

But when the weather was decent, I let him loose in the yard. Sometimes we played soccer together, and other times I sat on my porch and breathed while he ran around like an escaped convict.

These were the nights when that little bundle dropped like a fly, and I reveled in the fact that I could finally take a shower. Getting my small road runner active helped a lot during that difficult sleep regression.

The zombie nights won’t last forever.

Hopefully, these strategies will help you, but some mornings you’ll still look like you just went to a Metallica concert (timely reference, I know).

And just like you may have picked yourself up after a night of rocking out to a guitar (those days seem like forever ago), you will get through this. And your little vampire will sleep again.

Okay, until the 3 year old sleep regression, but you have some time, and you’ll get through that too.

We want to hear from you. What are some strategies you used to survive your toddler’s 2 year old sleep regression? Let us know by leaving a comment below and good luck with the Zs!

About Eric and Tiffany Matthews

We're Eric and Tiffany, the parents behind Cynical Parent. We're just normal parents who are navigating parenthood with both eyes wide open (probably because there's a kid yelling nearby). And of course, we're pretty cynical. Don't believe everything you read or hear, whether it's on the internet, or from a close family or friend (or even from us!). Every child is different, and what works for one may not work for another. Sometimes you just need to try and see for yourself. :)

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