2 year sleep regression: what to do and what not to do — Lullaby Lexi Pediatric Sleep Consultant | Virtual sleep consultant for families, babies, newborns, infants, toddlers and multiples (2024)

Recently, we went through the 2 year sleep regression with my daughter. It was a struggle for a while and I was so thankful I had reliable sleep tools that I could apply to our situation. Because the 2 year old sleep regression is such a common occurrence, I wanted to share some helpful tips with you so you know exactly what to do and what not to do when this regression hits your house!

What are the signs of the 2 year sleep regression?

Most often this regression will look similar to other sleep regressions you’ve gone through. You’ll probably notice an increased resistance at bedtime with it taking longer for your child to fall asleep. You may hear your child waking up earlier than usual in the morning and being unable to fall back asleep quickly. Nap resistance or even total nap refusal is very common during this regression as well. All of these things can also lead to a pretty tired and cranky toddler so an increase in daytime fussiness and meltdowns is par for the course.

Why does the 2 year sleep regression happen?

Like all regressions, this one coincides with a lot of developmental changes that are happening for your toddler. Your toddler is likely starting to say new words, learning new motor skills like riding a tricycle, jumping and kicking, and starting to realize that they have a say and can test boundaries. These are all really good and important things that show progress in their growth and development. But unfortunately, their sleep can take a hit as they go through these developmental progressions.

Sometimes it happens because they are extra tired from all the learning and moving. Sometimes it happens because they are having a hard time shutting their brain off after a long day of learning and working. Other times it’s simply happening because they are learning they can say “No” or that if they stall at bedtime, they get to stay up later.

How long does the 2 year sleep regression last?

Typically the actual regression will only last 1-3 weeks. But where I see parents getting tripped up is that they will add in new sleep habits during this regression so that when the developmental part of the regression is over, the new habits are still around and it can make the regression feel much longer than 1-3 weeks.

But fear not! That’s why I’m going to walk you through my tips below so you know exactly what NOT to do and what TO do when you hit this regression. This will not only help you and your child get through this regression without resorting to sleep habits that aren’t sustainable, but it should also help the regression pass quicker since your child won’t be picking up new habits that you’ll just need to break later on.

Tips for navigating the 2 year sleep regression:

1. Don’t make a bunch of changes to your bedtime routine

I know it can be tempting when sleep starts going downhill to do a total rehaul of your bedtime routine but right now, consistency is your best friend. Don’t feel like you need to add a bunch of new steps or get rid of a bunch of the old from your routine. Keep your same basic structure that you’ve been doing at bedtime and don’t stray from it.

Don’t let new bedtime stalling get in the way of your routine either. If this is something that you’re struggling with, check out this blog: Bedtime Battle: Is your toddler a master of stall tactics?

Instead, keep your bedtime routine consistent and predictable

While your child may be starting to protest the bedtime routine right now, their little toddler brains still crave predictability. That consistency helps them feel safe and secure despite all the changes going on inside of them and around them.

I even recommend doubling down on your current bedtime routine and creating a simple visual chart that your child can see and follow. Use this fun chart as a way to get your toddler on your team at bedtime. If they are struggling to transition from one step to the next, ask them to be your helper and point to what comes next. If they are asking for extra books, point to the chart and remind them that you only read 2 books at bedtime.

2. Don’t rush in when you hear your child early in the morning

When you hear your toddler waking earlier than usual, your gut reaction may be to go in and quickly help them back to sleep. Or even to get them up, expose them to light and sound, and offer an early breakfast. But those are both examples of things we don’t want to do when dealing with an early waking toddler.

Instead, always pause and make sure you are responding and not reacting

Avoid feeling like you need to fix the early waking right away. It will take some time for them to get back to sleeping in but they will get there. Don’t do it for them.

Likewise, if you get them up and just accept the earlier wake up time morning after morning, you will be teaching their internal clock to accept that early wake up time too. Do your best to keep them in their dark room with their white noise on until your usual wake up time. You can go in to reassure and remind them that it’s still night time but avoid lingering or overhelping during these check ins.

3. Don’t think that your child is done napping forever

When your child hits the 2 year sleep regression and goes through a rough patch with naps, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that their nap is gone forever. But fear not! Most toddlers who hit this regression will go through a temporary phase of nap resistance and refusal. It shouldn’t last forever.

Instead, keep the naptime framework in place and trust that they will start napping again soon

Most often, when a toddler stops napping early, it’s not because they don’t need a nap but because they don’t have a good framework in place for naptime each day. Having a naptime framework in place means that you continue to offer a nap every single day- even if they don’t want it. And you continue to have them stay in their crib or room for the duration of naptime- even if they aren’t sleeping. It takes hard work up front to continue to implement naptime but it will pay off big time when they decide they are ready to start napping again.

4. Don’t add in new sleep props to make your child fall asleep quicker

The quick fix to dealing with bedtime struggles, early wakings, and nap resistance is to overhelp. This can look like staying in the room as your child falls asleep, patting their back, holding or rocking them, or even pulling them into your bed. While this may temporarily get them to sleep easier and quicker, it will mean that what was just a phase has become a new set of habits. They won’t magically stop needing this help when the sleep regression is over and so you’ll find yourself stuck.

Instead, keep your usual sleep expectations in place and be patient

If your child is used to you putting them down awake and leaving the room, then continue to do that. You know they can do it and they know they can do it- so stick to the status quo. If you need to check in from time to time to offer soothing and reassurance, go for it! But always leave while they are still awake.

This won’t be the quick fix in the moment but it’s the best long term solution if you’d like to continue having your child be an independent sleeper and get through this sleep regression in the quickest way possible.

If you struggle with your child staying in their room at bed, check out my free download here: Toddler Bedtime Pass

5. Don’t get outwardly frustrated with your child when they are struggling

When your toddler’s sleep goes off the rails with this sleep regression, it can be so incredibly frustrating. It’s easy to feel stressed out and lose your cool. While this is 100% understandable, it will make things worse. We don’t want to add any extra anxiety to the bedtime battles by being obviously flustered, frustrated, and angry.

Instead, outwardly stay calm and confident as you lovingly hold your sleep boundaries

Our children will feel and mimic our emotions so do your best to come off as feeling in control and calm- even though you may not feel that way on the inside. When your toddler is melting down, stay cool. When your toddler is demanding another bedtime story, confidently remind them that you’ve already read your bedtime stories. When your toddler is resisting the bedtime routine, calmly keep moving them through it.

It’s a practice in patience but staying outwardly composed will make a huge difference in how your child feels heading into sleep time. Once you are out of their presence, feel free to vent to your partner, scream into a pillow, or have your own meltdown!

Feel like you’re needing more support than this blog post can provide? Schedule a free call with me and we can find the right sleep package to help get your family through the 2 year sleep regression.

2 year sleep regression: what to do and what not to do — Lullaby Lexi Pediatric Sleep Consultant   | Virtual sleep consultant for families, babies, newborns, infants, toddlers and multiples (2024)
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