Sleep Training Guide for 18-Month-Olds and Older Babies: Techniques, Methods, and Helpful Tips

We all understand the importance of sleep, but actually getting enough of it can be challenging, especially when it comes to sleep training toddlers. With numerous methods and approaches available, the abundance of choices can be overwhelming and intimidating.

The ultimate goal of any sleep training method is to help your little one develop the ability to fall asleep independently without relying on specific sleep associations. This independence enables them to smoothly transition between sleep cycles and sleep for longer durations. Whether or not to sleep train is a personal decision, and it’s perfectly understandable if your child already sleeps well and you’re not interested in sleep training.

Choosing the right approach for you and your toddler requires careful consideration. We are here to provide guidance and support throughout the process.

Sleep Training Guide for 18-Month-Olds and Older Babies
Sleep Training Guide for 18-Month-Olds and Older Babies

Why is my 18-month-old waking up at night?

Sleep patterns often “regress” or undergo developmental “progressions” in the 12-18 month age group. During this time, various factors can contribute to night waking, including:

– Changing sleep needs: Toddlers typically require 11-14 hours of sleep within a 24-hour period, which is lower than their sleep needs when they were younger. If your toddler is sleeping excessively during the day, it can lead to more frequent night waking. They may also experience disrupted sleep, split nights, or early waking. By 18 months, most babies transition to one nap per day in the afternoon.

– Teething discomfort: The eruption of the first molars typically occurs between 13 and 19 months of age. Many parents find these molars to be particularly painful for their toddlers due to their larger size and multiple edges.

– Separation anxiety: Although separation anxiety often begins around 8 months of age, it tends to peak in toddlers aged 14-18 months. Experiencing separation anxiety at this age indicates that your child has developed a secure attachment to you. It’s normal for toddlers in this age group to have a strong preference for one primary caregiver and seek their presence both during the day and at night.

What are the recommended wake windows for an 18-month-old?

For 18-month-olds, the recommended wake windows generally range between 4 to 6 hours. Since most toddlers at this age have transitioned to one nap, the first wake window of the day is typically longer than the wake window before bedtime.

Consider the following daily routine for your 18-month-old:

– Nap: Approximately 5-6 hours after waking up in the morning.

– Bedtime: Approximately 4-5 hours after the end of the nap.

Can you sleep train toddlers who are 18 months old or older?

Yes, absolutely! You can sleep train toddlers who are 18 months old or older. It’s important to remember that making changes to sleep habits, or any habits for that matter, takes time. With patience and consistency in your approach, both you and your little one can achieve the quality sleep needed for happiness and good health.

How many nights does it take to sleep train an 18-month-old or older child?

The duration of sleep training can vary. It depends on the method you choose and how quickly your toddler adapts to the changes. Consistency is key, so being ready and committed to the process is important.

Typically, the first few nights can be challenging, but as you continue, your toddler should take less time to fall asleep. It’s worth noting that there might be setback nights where things temporarily worsen before improving again. The key is to persevere and stay consistent.

If you opt for a faster approach, your toddler could be consistently sleeping through the night after a week. A more gentle sleep training method may take a few weeks to see significant progress.

Example Sleep Schedule for an 18-Month-Old

By 18 months old, your toddler needs a total of 11 to 14 hours of sleep each day. This includes 10 to 12 hours of sleep at night and an additional 1.5 to 2 hours of sleep during nap time.

At this age, the recommended wake window is around 5 to 5.5 hours. This means your toddler will be ready for a nap approximately 4 to 5.5 hours after waking up in the morning. Bedtime should occur no later than 5 hours after the end of their nap.

Here’s an example of a typical sleep schedule for an 18-month-old:

– 7:00 am: Wake up and have breakfast

– 9:30 am: Snack time

– 12:00 pm: Lunch time

– 12:30-2:00/2:30 pm: Nap

– 2:30 pm: Snack

– 5:30 pm: Dinner

– 7:00 pm: Begin the bedtime routine

– 7:30 pm: Bedtime

Understanding age-appropriate wake windows allows you to adjust your daily schedule to suit your family’s needs while ensuring your toddler gets the sleep they require.

Sleep training methods for toddlers aged 18 months and older


Each sleep training method has its pros and cons. If you’re unsure where to start, it’s recommended to begin with a gradual approach. If your toddler isn’t responding positively after a few nights, it’s okay to switch methods.

Gentle or gradual sleep training method

This method focuses on making changes to sleep habits gradually. For example, you may transition from nursing to rocking your toddler to sleep, then gradually patting them to sleep. Eventually, you aim for your child to fall asleep independently without your presence (also known as “fading”). This method suits families who prefer a slower approach.

The chair method

This method is suitable if you’re not ready to leave your toddler’s room yet. Place a chair next to the crib and provide occasional physical and verbal reassurance. Over several nights or up to a week, gradually move the chair closer to the doorway while reducing the amount of reassurance given. Eventually, remove the chair altogether and leave the room before your toddler falls asleep. This method can be used as part of the gentle or gradual sleep training approach.

Ferber method or gradual extinction technique

This is a well-known sleep training method and sometimes referred to as “cry-it-out” (CIO). However, it differs from “total extinction” because you can still offer responsive settling when in the room.

After placing your toddler into the crib awake, you leave the room and implement timed “check-ins.” The intervals between check-ins start with 1 to 5 minutes and gradually increase. Reenter the room only at the designated times. This method suits toddlers who find your presence in the room distracting.

Cry it out (CIO) or total extinction method

With this approach, you place your toddler into the crib awake and do not return to offer any form of reassurance. Some children do not find your presence or physical touch reassuring and prefer to figure things out on their own. For safety reasons, it’s strongly recommended to use a video monitor or quietly check from the doorway a few times.

Sleep training tips for 18-month-olds and older

Tip 1: Set the scene for sleep

Children thrive on routine and predictability. Establish pre-sleep routines that signal to your child that it’s time for sleep. Bedtime routines may take between 30 to 45 minutes, while naptime routines can be shorter, around 5 to 10 minutes. Consider keeping the sleep environment dark and quiet, even during the day.

Tip 2: Timing is crucial

Following an age-appropriate schedule can greatly benefit your toddler’s sleep. Both under and overtired toddlers may struggle to fall asleep and stay asleep, so timing is crucial.

Tip 3: Setbacks are normal

There will inevitably be nights with disrupted sleep or resistance to napping, even after sleep training. This can be due to various factors such as illness, teething, sleep regressions, travel, mis-timings, or sometimes without an obvious reason. Approach each sleep session with a fresh mindset and continue to encourage independent sleep skills whenever possible. Setbacks are usually temporary.

Can you sleep train 18-month-olds and older for naps?

Absolutely! Naps can be more challenging to establish during sleep training compared to nighttime sleep. It’s common for naps to become shorter initially, leading to overtiredness. If the nap was shorter on a particular day, it’s acceptable to offer a slightly earlier bedtime. Aim to work on the nap for about 90 minutes if possible. With consistency, naps will gradually become longer and easier over time.

Can you sleep train 18-month-old twins and older?

Certainly! The approach you take depends on whether your twins share a room and the amount of extra help available. In some cases, families may temporarily separate the twins during sleep training, especially if one twin is sleeping better than the other. Using white or pink noise between the cribs can help muffle noise if they share a room. Try to keep the twins on a similar sleep schedule.

Can you sleep train during the 18-month sleep regression?

Yes, you can. It’s possible to work on teaching independent sleep skills at any time, unless your child is unwell. Progress during a regression may be slower, but it’s still achievable.

What should you do if sleep training your 18-month-old and older child is not working?

Sleep training can be challenging, as it involves helping children develop new independent sleep habits. Progress is often non-linear and can vary. Here are a few considerations if sleep training is not yielding the desired results:

– Ensure your toddler consistently falls asleep from an awake state at the beginning of each sleep session. Inconsistency in providing assistance can confuse your child and lead to more tears.

– Consider switching methods or progressing a bit faster. Sleep training doesn’t require mastering each step before moving on.

– Assess the time it takes for your toddler to fall asleep and adjust the timings accordingly. Stick to an age-appropriate schedule.

– Rule out any underlying medical issues that may be contributing to sleep difficulties. If uncertain, consult with your pediatrician.

– Reach out to us for a customized sleep plan through Huckleberry Premium.

Takeaway: Sleep training for 18-month-olds and older

The decision to sleep train and the method chosen depend on your parenting style and your child’s temperament. Celebrate even the smallest progress and don’t be disheartened if your toddler needs more time to develop independent sleep skills. Keep going and remember that you can do this!

Sleep training 18 month olds and older FAQ

Q: Is it too late to start sleep training an 18-month-old?

No, it is never too late to start sleep training an 18-month-old. While it may require some time and consistency, sleep training can still be effective in establishing healthy sleep habits and improving your child’s sleep.

Q: Can a child be too old for sleep training?

No, there is no specific age at which a child becomes too old for sleep training. Sleep training can be implemented at various ages depending on the child’s development and individual circumstances. It is important to choose age-appropriate sleep training methods and approach the process with patience and consistency.

Q: What is the recommended sleep training method for older babies?

The recommended sleep training method for older babies, including 18-month-olds, may vary depending on the child and family preferences. Common methods include gradual extinction, controlled crying, or gentle approaches like fading. It is important to select a method that aligns with your parenting style and considers your child’s temperament and needs.

Q: What is the best way for an 18-month-old to sleep?

The best way for an 18-month-old to sleep is by establishing a consistent bedtime routine, creating a calming sleep environment, promoting independent sleep skills, and ensuring their sleep schedule meets their individual needs. Providing comfort and reassurance as needed, while maintaining a balance of daytime activity and rest, can help foster healthy sleep habits.

Q: How do you sleep train 18-month-olds and older?

There are various sleep training methods available. If uncertain, starting gradually and adjusting the pace as needed is a good approach. Regardless of the chosen method, the goal is to help your child become a well-rested, independent sleeper.

Q: Can sleep training be done without crying for 18-month-olds and older?

No one enjoys hearing their toddler cry, and even gentle methods may involve some protest. While providing comfort and reassurance can minimize tears, it’s important to remember that the ultimate goal is to gradually phase out excessive assistance over time.

Q: Can I breastfeed while sleep training my 18-month-old?

Yes, you can continue breastfeeding during the day for as long as you wish. However, it’s important to ensure that your toddler doesn’t associate nursing with falling asleep, as it can hinder the development of independent sleep skills. Creating a gap between nursing and sleep allows you to do both.

Q: Can I bed-share while sleep training?

Yes, most adults have different sleep schedules than their children, making it challenging to go to bed or nap simultaneously. Teaching your child to fall asleep independently at the beginning of each sleep session allows you the freedom to go to bed whenever you are ready. If you choose to bed-share, make sure you follow safe sleeping guidelines recommended by organizations like the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics).

Q: What are the recommended wake windows for an 18-month-old?

The typical wake windows for an 18-month-old range from 4 to 6 hours, depending on the child. It’s important to observe your child’s sleep cues and adjust their schedule accordingly.

Q: How many naps are best for an 18-month-old?

Most 18-month-olds thrive with a single nap during the day. They usually transition from two naps to one nap between 15-18 months of age. However, some children may still require two shorter naps or occasionally need a second nap if they have an active day.

Q: How long should my 18-month-old nap?

The recommended nap duration for an 18-month-old is typically around 1.5 to 2.5 hours. However, individual sleep needs can vary. It’s important to consider the overall amount of daytime sleep while also considering its impact on nighttime sleep.

Q: What is a sample sleep schedule for an 18-month-old?

A sample sleep schedule for an 18-month-old may involve waking up around 6-7 a.m., taking a midday nap starting around 12-1 p.m. for 1.5-2.5 hours, and having a bedtime between 7-8:30 p.m. However, this schedule can be adjusted based on your child’s specific sleep patterns and needs.

Q: How much sleep does an 18-month-old need?

On average, an 18-month-old requires about 11-14 hours of sleep per day, including nighttime sleep and a single nap during the day. However, individual sleep needs can vary. It’s important to ensure your child gets adequate rest for their overall well-being.

Q: What time should an 18-month-old go to bed?

An appropriate bedtime for an 18-month-old is generally between 7-8:30 p.m. However, you can adjust the bedtime based on your child’s individual sleep needs and desired wake-up time in the morning.

Q: What is a good bedtime routine for an 18-month-old?

A calming bedtime routine for an 18-month-old may involve activities like taking a bath, reading books, playing gentle music, dimming the lights, and cuddling. Establishing a consistent routine can help signal to your child that it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep.

Q: What are some milestones for 18-month-olds?

Around 18 months, children often reach milestones such as increased independence, proficient walking or running, starting to use two-word phrases, imitating others, and displaying a growing sense of curiosity and exploration.

Q: What are some activities I can do with my 18-month-old?

There are several engaging activities for an 18-month-old, such as playing with simple puzzles, building blocks, engaging in pretend play, exploring sensory activities like water play or playdough, reading books together, and encouraging outdoor exploration.

Q: Can my 18-month-old sleep with a blanket?

It is generally recommended to avoid introducing blankets or other loose bedding into the crib or sleep environment until your child is at least 12 months old to reduce the risk of suffocation. Instead, ensure the sleep area is comfortably cool and consider using a sleep sack or wearable blanket for warmth.

Q: Is there an 18-month sleep regression?

Some children may experience temporary sleep disruptions around 18 months of age, commonly referred to as an 18-month sleep regression. This regression can be triggered by factors like developmental leaps, separation anxiety, or changes in routine. With consistency and patience, most children gradually return to their regular sleep patterns.

Q: What can I do if my 18-month-old resists sleep?

If your 18-month-old is fighting sleep, you can try establishing a consistent bedtime routine, creating a calm sleep environment, ensuring they have enough daytime activity and exposure to natural light, and providing comfort and reassurance as needed. Additionally, addressing any potential underlying issues, such as teething or illness, can also be helpful.

Q: Can I sleep train my 18-month-old?

Yes, you can sleep train an 18-month-old using appropriate methods and techniques tailored to their age and needs. Sleep training can help establish healthy sleep habits and promote independent sleep skills. It’s important to choose a method that aligns with your parenting style and remain consistent in its implementation. Consulting with a pediatrician or sleep specialist can offer further guidance.


Sleep-Related Infant Deaths: Updated 2022 Recommendations for Reducing Infant Deaths in the Sleep Environment.


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