When your 18-month-old *doesn’t* sleep through the night

April 25, 2016

What happens when your 18-month-old doesn’t sleep through the night?

When your 18-month-old doesn't sleep through the night

I know, I know, I talk about sleep a lot, and it’s probably quite boring, and everyone’s tired as a parent and everyone’s tired, but it’s such a big thing when you’re a parent, because it’s such a big thing. When you’re a new parent sleep is rarer than rubies and more hunted than the Loch Ness Monster. If there was some kind of sleep eBay it would be the most highly-trafficked site online, after Google (and all of the millions of desperate 3am ‘why is my baby awake?’ searches).

But what about a year and a half on, when your baby is no longer a newborn, no longer a baby even – and they’re still not ‘sleeping though’? What happens when your 18-month-old doesn’t sleep through the night?

I don’t have the magic answer (obviously) or any tips or advice (clearly). But I just wanted to say, if your 18-month-old doesn’t sleep through, then join my – tired – club. It’s not just you…although it might feel like it at times.

Things you know when your toddler doesn’t sleep though:

  • Long-term lack of sleep or multiple wake-ups a night sends everything slightly off-kilter, which is hard when you need to be right at the top of your game and the other players are maverick mini A-list sports stars who write their own rules, in crayon
  • You find yourself in rooms wondering why you’re in them a lot. Or forgetting things, like shopping, or conversations you’ve just had, or the end of sentences in conversations you’re currently having. And it’s too late to blame baby brain (isn’t it?!)
  • People stop asking ‘is she good?’ or ‘does she sleep through?’ because they expect it to have happened ages ago. It’s not even really a topic of conversation any more so you stop talking about it
  • You teeter precariously on the brink of many emotions. Most things are annoying, and you ask yourself AIBU a lot (the post-baby rage is still real)
  • You know never to tell the health visitor your baby doesn’t sleep because they seem to think it’s abnormal (mine told me at F’s one year check ‘but if she wakes up so often then she won’t get proper rest! You need to make her sleep.’ Which was both a) super helpful and b) clearly, the last time I saw her)
  • Sugar and caffeine are close friends
  • You carry on as normal because that’s what you do, and there’s nothing else you can do, and everything’s fine, and then suddenly in a split second you’re blowing up about something and no-one really gets it, because they expect you to be a reasonable and rational person and you just can’t be.

Both of mine aren’t great sleepers, in beautifully unique ways. First time, I was shocked, at first. I read lots of books, I googled everything, a lot, mostly at this time, looking for the magic answer or simple thing I’d missed. Second time I was more prepared for it. We had a Snuzpod bedside cot, we moved on to co-sleeping (we still co-sleep). I had much more realistic expectations and much more knowledge.

But you know what? 18 months on, I’m just really, really tired.

I wrote about things they don’t tell you in NCT classes, but I kind of think there are things we really should tell mums-to-be about sleep:

  • People – from relatives to old ladies in the supermarket – will constantly ask you if they’re ‘good’ or ‘sleeping through’ and it’s bloody annoying. Just grit your teeth and smile
  • Everyone has an opion on sleep, but it’s not making a rod for your own back to do anything that helps that works for you and your baby
  • That it’s not a given that your baby will pass six months, or one year, or even two, and automatically sleep for long amounts of time, and that there’s nothing wrong with them and often it’s just babies and how they are
  • And there’s so many things that can disturb the night, from teeth through to separation anxiety or just because. And even on the nights when they do sleep better, you’ll be awake trying to hear them breathe, or missing them, or having the 4am fear about something ridiculous like ‘Did I turn the oven off?’
  • Although motherhood is magical and amazing, the lack of sleep thing is just rubbish and it’s OK to admit it
  • That sleeping through is a ridiculous term anyway (what does it even mean? And how many adults sleep ‘through’ the night, all night?)
  • That it’s almost 100% likely that it’s nothing you’ve done, it’s not your fault, and that it will be OK – soon.

Tea, anyone?

If you liked my post on when your 18-month-old doesn’t sleep through, then read more posts…If baby milestone cards were made for mums, brilliant benefits of being second and our favourite wastes of time


  • Molly

    April 25, 2016 at 2:02 pm

    Love this post Gill. I’m totally in your tired club. We’ll get to sleep again one day…. right?!

  • Sarah

    April 25, 2016 at 7:20 pm

    More people need to post on the fact that sleeping through at ten weeks is a) not that normal and b) not because you did anything right as a parent. This post rocks. Everyone parents differently and only parents know what works for their family dynamic. But I do agree that there are kids who are great sleepers and kids who are not. My three have all started life in the latter camp. My youngest is still there at two and a half but MUCH better than a year ago. But you do what you gotta do and I am pleased to say the big kids are great sleepers now and the youngest woke briefly at midnight but then slept through til nearly seven for the first time last night which honestly was kind of life transforming. It will pass. But I still struggle to smile at parents of babies who express shock that their child didn’t sleep through until six months and think that’s exhaustion and severe sleep deprivation…

  • Anna @ Glam Up North

    April 25, 2016 at 9:01 pm

    I SO feel your pain! My eldest was the worst sleeper in the world. Ever. He’s now 4 and I don’t think we have ever gone a full week without at least one broken night’s sleep.

    Its truly amazing how we learn to function on so little rest isn’t it?! Unless you’ve been through it you can’t understand how awful it is to be chronically sleep-deprived!

    Sending a virtual hug and a little prayer that your sleep assassins let you get 8 hours in a row very soon. xx

  • Mmt

    April 25, 2016 at 9:56 pm

    Hey. Can I join #teamnosleep please? Serves me right for being that smug mum first time around…
    18 months, and no sign of improvement. Sob.

  • Acorn & Pip

    April 25, 2016 at 10:12 pm

    A brilliantly honest post… I’m with you sister!!!!!!

  • sheila sudlow

    May 1, 2016 at 7:13 pm

    oh tell me about it even for granmas looking after a baby that hasn’t sleep through is rough. especially if she works full time and has been asked to do a spot baby sitting for the 5 month old teething and a pre teen sister lol

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