I'll be honest, before I started writing this blog post I did a quick google search to see what others are saying about this regression. Wow! I am honestly surprised. Like, no wonder the two year sleep regression is such a big deal. The advice I read would just make this regression worse. First, let me just say if you are following my schedule recommendations this regression might altogether just pass by you. And if you do get stuck in it the tips I will share here will get you out just as fast.
Why does the two year sleep regression happen?
This regression takes place for two simply reasons. The first is that your toddler is a toddler and their job is all about testing boundaries. Two year olds are beginning to learn that they are their own person. They can say no, resist sleep, and oh so many things! Be prepared for that resisted nap one day or some real bedtime routine struggles the next. This is their job! If it's not hard, then they aren't doing their job right.
The second reason can go hand in hand with the first. After all it's just too easy to get overtired when you are two! Your two year old resists going to sleep or you have an outing that pushes sleep just a little to far off or perhaps your schedule is just a little off and over time your toddler falls into a spiral of overtiredness.
What can I do to overcome this regression?
First off let's discuss what schedule is most appropriate for a two year old. I know my sleep recommendations are a little higher than others out there, but I can't in good conscience recommend less sleep. I have seen it time and time again work and completely change a toddlers demeanor. At 2 years, I love to see kiddos getting a solid 14 hours of sleep. I aim for a wakeup at 7am, with a nap from 1-3pm and then bedtime at 7pm. There are a few toddlers who will need even more sleep than this. If this is you consider moving the nap and bedtime 30 min earlier. On the other end, there will be some toddlers who need less sleep than this. While you could shorten the nap to 1.5 hours, I much prefer to move bedtime 30 minutes instead. Keeping your toddler on the right schedule, will already eliminate many of your bedtime battles or nap strikes. Not all, but most! Why? Because my schedules are designed to prevent overtiredness.
However, I get that even with a perfect schedule the two year regression can still show it's ugly face. Here are my two life-saving tips if you find yourself right in the thick of it.
First, stay consistent. What does that even mean? Are you frustrated at hearing that but not understanding what they mean? Here's what I mean: keep to your bedtime routine at night and at nap time. Do not deviate from your routine, regardless of how much your toddler resists and want one more (insert anything here).
Second, out your toddler down for their nap and bedtime 15 minutes earlier than normal. I know, I know, you were expecting something really secretive and magical huh? Nope! It really is that simple. That's it! The second you see your little one resisting whip out your secret weapon of off to bed a little early.
How will I know when the regression has passed?
I have come to notice that if my little two year old is in the middle of a sleep regression their sleep is not the only part to suffer. I will also get more tantrums throughout the day and a grumpy kiddo first thing in the morning. As I begin to see their normal mood return I can return to their normal schedule. Gaging their mood first thing in the morning usually helps me know that they will need to go down earlier for their nap, but sometimes it can take an hour or two to see their unusual grumpy mood show up. You should also see bedtime and nap resistance diminish and your toddler should be able to fall asleep a little quicker than during a regression.
What if it isn't working?
Please remember that these guidelines are written for the general situation. Obviously I can't hit on everything that could be influencing the regression for your child. That means that even if these suggestions haven't proved successful for you that there is no hope. On the contrary! Let us take a deep look into all the aspects that can affect toddler sleep and help you get back on track! If your child is sleep trained then we recommend a 60 min consult to get you all back on track!