Written By Mandy Treeby Chief Baby Sleep Consultant
Your 21-month-old’s sleep schedule continues to shift and evolve as they age. They drop naps, experience sleep regressions, or try to stall before bed. This can lead to some questions, including “How much daytime sleep does a 21-month-old need?” and “How do I cope with a toddler’s separation anxiety?”
To take the guess work out of your toddler’s sleep, this article features expert advice and insights on the most common questions about a 21-month-old’s sleep.
IN THIS ARTICLE:
- A Sample 21-Month-Old's Sleep Schedule
- Can a 21-month-old baby sleep through the night?
- How Many Total Hours Should a 21-Month-Old Sleep Each Day?
- How much nighttime sleep does a 21-month-old need?
- How much daytime sleep does a 21-month-old need?
- What is a 21-month-old's wake window?
- Is there a 21-month-old regression?
- How to Help a Teething Baby Sleep
- How to Minimize Separation Anxiety While Sleep Training
- How to Cope with a Toddler's Nightmares
- How to Cope with a Toddler's Night Terrors
If you haven’t sleep trained your baby yet, it’s not too late: Simply download the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™ , enter some basic information about your baby, and this easy-to-use app’s 1-click sleep tracking will build a sleep schedule to get you started. As you move through the sleep coaching journey, the app will then customize a sleep coaching method that best suits your little one’s unique sleep habits.
A Sample 21-Month-Old’s Sleep Schedule:
The times listed here are just an example. Every baby’s unique, including your own, so when creating their schedule, pay more attention to wake windows and sleepy cues than clock time.
As a reminder:
Wake windows are the amount of time your baby is awake between sleeps.
Sleepy cues are the signs your baby’s tired, like yawning.
By aligning wake windows and sleepy cues, you’re shaping your baby’s natural sleep rhythm to optimize their rest and development for years to come.
Sample Sleep Schedule for 21-Month-Olds with 1 Nap:
Awake: 5 hrs 15 mins
Nap: 2 hrs
Awake: 4 hrs 45 mins
Can a 21-month-old baby sleep through the night?
Yes. A 21-month-old who’s gone through sleep training can sleep from “good night” to “good morning!” This is because sleep training both creates a sustainable, age-appropriate sleep schedule for your toddler and because it strengthens your baby’s self-soothing powers: they’re able to lull themselves back to sleep if they wake between sleep cycles at night.
How Many Total Hours Should a 21-Month-Old Sleep Each Day?
An ideal goal for your 20-month-old is at least 13 hours over a 24-hour period. This includes night sleep and 1 mid-day nap.
How much nighttime sleep does a 21-month-old need?
Experts agree a 21-month-old needs about 11-12 hours of sleep each night to keep meeting their major developmental milestones.
How much daytime sleep does a 21-month-old need?
After completing the 2-to-1 nap transition around 15 months, 21-month-olds should maintain a 1-nap-a-day schedule. That nap should be about 1.5-2 hrs long.
Note: While some babies may resist a nap at this age, it’s important to keep them napping until they’re at least 3-years-old. Read more about nap transitions in our article on when to initiate them and why.
What is a 21-month-old’s wake window?
Most 21-month-olds can stay awake between 5 and 6 hours between sleeps. Isn’t it incredible how far your little one has come in such a short amount of time?
Is there a 21-month-old regression?
No, there is not technically a 21-month-old sleep regression. However, some 21-month-olds may experience their 18-month regression a little later. Luckily, sleep regressions can be managed by maintaining a consistent bedtime routine, sticking to your baby’s age-appropriate sleep schedule, and waiting a moment before checking on them – often babies will self-soothe themselves back to sleep, especially if they’ve been sleep trained.
How to Help a Teething Baby Sleep:
Teething typically begins between 6-12 months and lasts until your baby is between 2.5-3 years old.
Since teething can be uncomfortable, especially when molars come in, your baby may have some trouble sleeping through teething. Here are some tips to help your teething baby sleep:
Clean Drool: You may have already noticed, but teething babies tend to drool a lot more than usual. If your baby is drooling from teething, it’s important to regularly wipe their chin clean with a soft cloth. This will prevent drool rash that can disrupt sleeping.
Cold Fruit or Wash Clothes: Letting your baby chew or suck on a cold piece of fruit or wash cloth can numb their teething discomfort.
Teething Ring: Non-gel teething rings can also be cooled and have the added benefit of letting your baby “target” their sore areas.
Consistent Bedtime Routines: Bedtime routines won’t alleviate teething discomfort, but they will keep your baby on their sleep schedule and help cue their sleep drive, often lulling them to bed despite any teething soreness they may experience.
How to Minimize Separation Anxiety While Sleep Training:
Separation anxiety is a completely normal part of your baby’s development. It’s a sign that they understand object permanence: the fact that objects and people, namely: you, continue to exist even when out of sight. This realization typically occurs around 8-9 months, which leads to your baby’s first bout of separation anxiety.
But your baby’s understanding of object permanence isn’t done developing. Around 18-24 months their sense of logic expands. They now understand you’re somewhere else and realize that you’re doing something else. This can lead to some baby-sized FOMO: fear of missing out, and this can lead to some sleep disruptions.
Minimize separation anxiety by following this advice:
Play Peek-a-Boo: While peek-a-boo may seem like a silly game, it helps alleviate separation anxiety by subtly reinforcing the fact that you’ll always return to your baby.
“I’ll Be Right Back”: A bigger version of Peek-a-Boo, to play “I’ll be right back,” you say those magic words, step out of sight, and wait 1 minute before returning with a big, enthusiastic “I’m back!” Then, on round two, wait 2 minutes before returning; then three on the next round, and so on. By lengthening your “away” time, you’re increasing your baby’s “alone endurance”.
Encourage Independent Play: You can minimize separation anxiety by providing your baby with alone time starting at 6 months. At that age, your baby can likely play alone for about five minutes before they get bored or frightened.
If you keep up that practice, their “alone stamina” expands as they age: by 12 months, most babies can play alone for 15 minutes without worry, and at 24-months, most babies can handle about 30 minutes of independent play.
In addition to helping your baby become comfortable being alone, independent play also increase focus, imagination, and attention span.
Note: Be sure to stay within earshot or use a baby monitor to keep your baby safe while encouraging independent play.
How to Cope with a Toddler’s Nightmares:
It’s common for 21-month-olds and similarly aged babies to experience nightmares. While this is completely normal, nightmares can disrupt your baby’s sleep.
To help minimize nightmares:
Maintain A Consistent Sleep Schedule: Disruptions in your baby’s sleep schedule can spark nightmares, so be sure to keep your baby’s bedtime and bedtime routine consistent every night when possible.
Watch What You Read Before Bed: If you read to your baby before bed, avoid any stories with violence, fear, or children in peril, which includes many old school fairy tales. Plots like this can spark your baby’s imagination in a bad way.
Offer Reassurances: If your baby wakes from a nightmare, ask them to explain what they saw or experienced and then explain to them why that situation won’t or can’t happen. The point is to remind them their imaginations cannot hurt them, and they are always safe with you.
How to Cope with a Toddler’s Night Terrors:
Night terrors are slightly different than nightmares. Whereas with nightmares, your baby is clearly asleep, with night terrors, your baby may appear to be in a semi-conscious state. Night terrors often involve screaming, shaking, thrashing, or not recognizing you.
Night terrors can be frightening for you and your baby, but just remember that it will pass, and they are not in pain.
If your baby does have a night terror, do not try to wake them. Instead, keep them in their bed and wait for it to subside.
How long is the 21-month sleep regression?
There isn’t an official sleep regression at 21-months, your baby may experience the 18month sleep regression late. A sleep regression can last 2-6 weeks, though can be kept shorter by maintaining age-appropriate sleep schedules and keeping up with your calm, consistent bedtime routine.
Why is my 21-month-old waking up at night?
A toddler may wake up at night for a few reasons: they’re teething; they’re getting too much sleep during the day – 21-month-olds should be on 1 nap – they are overtired, or they’re experiencing separation anxiety, a completely normal sensation that means they’re developing well.
Can 21-month-olds completely drop naps?
No. It’s important to maintain a 1-nap-a-day schedule until your baby is at least 3 years old. In addition to providing the rest your baby needs to keep developing and reduce fussiness, naps include NREM sleep that helps consolidate your baby’s memories.
Is there a 21-month developmental leap?
Toddlers are constantly learning new things and developing new skills, but the 21-month mark is special because by now most babies are learning to “hide and seek”. A direct result of their understanding of object permanence, toddlers this age enjoy the thrill of “disappearing” and “reappearing.” It’s alright if your baby isn’t hiding and seeking yet, though – remember: every baby is different and develops at their own pace.
“Toddler Sleep Challenges: All in a Day's Work,”
Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.
“Development of infant and toddler sleep patterns: real-world data from a mobile application,” Journal of Sleep Research.
“Toddler Bedtime Routines and Associations With Nighttime Sleep Duration and Maternal and Household Factors,” Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine .
How We Wrote This Article
The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.