Toddler Sleep Problem: My 18 Month Olds are in Beds and Not Sleeping.

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  • July 10, 2012

Would you like to have me answer your toddler sleep problem in my next video? If so, scroll down and submit your question in the comment section below. I will pick several questions a month to answer and post them here on the blog!

If you would rather read than watch my above video then here is the transcript of this week’s toddler sleep problem video:

Hi! Kim West, The Sleep Lady. And today, I’m going to answer Marty’s question.

Marty wrote in and said, “Do you have any solutions for 18-month-old twins? They sleep in the same room on twin mattresses. Both prefer to be breastfeed back to sleep when they awake during the night. One is a light sleeper and easily wakes when the other cries. What do you suggest for this toddler sleep problem?”

Well, Marty, it’s tough when you have 18 month olds not in a crib because the cognitive ability to understand “stay in your bed all night long” is not developed until on average two and a half years old. So, you have another year before they could really understand that when I wake up in the night, I should go back to sleep in my cozy bed. At this age, they tend to just wake up, pop up and come out of their room or cry out.

You have a little bit of a challenge there. So what I want to know is, is there any chance that you would be open to getting cribs back out and having them in the same room and reassuring them in their cribs? You can sit in the middle of the room or in between the two cribs. I’ve done this with many multiples or if both parents are available, you can each sit next to a crib for the first three nights and then move away.

If you are adamantly against the crib, that this will take much longer and I can’t guarantee that it will be a 100%, because of their age and their ability to understand or not understand what you’re asking them to do. You may very well have to gate the door and you really want to safety proof that room! If 18-month-old twins are sleeping on mattresses on the ground, I don’t want them to wake up in the night and be able to climb furniture and knock things over. I’ve definitely seen children do that! Please make sure you safety proof their room. Just like all children, they have to learn how to put themselves to sleep without nursing to sleep. If they don’t know how to put themselves to sleep at bedtime without nursing, then they’re not going to know how to do it in the middle of the night whether it’s 12 o’clock, 1 o’clock, 3 o’clock, it doesn’t really matter.

So, again, you don’t have to stop nursing. You can continue to breastfeed. I would recommend you nurse with the light on and maybe even read a small book afterwards. If you’re going to keep them on the mattresses, then you have to sit up next to them at bedtime and offer reassurance until they’re asleep. Be careful. Don’t get into holding them to sleep. Sometimes, you have to sit up in a chair so that they don’t try to ask you to hold them to sleep.

It’s a little challenging, I will tell you, at this age. It’s not impossible but it’s challenging and you’re talking about several weeks of incredible consistency on your part. Lots of times, I have families who say, “Well, we’re going to start and we’re going to try with the mattress and then two to three weeks into it, usually two, they say, “You know what, I can tell that my child does not understand and this is not fair. I’m asking them to do something that they don’t get.” And they get the crib back out.

And, by the way, it is not a regression to get the crib out. You are basically listening to your child and seeing what is cognitively and developmentally appropriate for them. I’ve had many children go peacefully to sleep in their crib after seven to ten days of sleep coaching.

Okay. I hope that helps, Marty.

Good luck!


Video filmed by In Focus Studios

If you have transitioned toddlers back in to their crib OR successfully sleep coaches toddlers in a bed then please send Marty some words of encouragement!Please feel free to click the “reply” link under this article and leave them a comment. Supporting each other makes parenting so much easier!

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One Comment

  • BoomBoomPow says:

    We took our co-sleeping 16-month-old and put her in a crib (the first time she’d ever slept in a crib) in order to get her to sleep through the night. We were still nursing several times during the night to put her back to sleep, but it stopped being a reliable way to put her to sleep and I was getting less sleep than months before. We stopped night nursing (I still breastfeed in the morning and evening) first and then did sleep training in a crib. While it wasn’t the easiest process, it wasn’t horrible either and within two weeks she was putting herself to sleep. She still woke up a few times during the night, but she also learned to put herself back to sleep. Two months later, she sleeps through the night–at most we have to go to her room and verbally tell her to go back to sleep two times a night. She still fights going to sleep at first, but it often only lasts a few minutes, but I don’t think it would work very well if she were in the toddler bed we bought for her. She’s very mobile and strong-willed and would come to our bed if she could, so we found the crib necessary. Everyone in the family sleeps much better now.