Sleep Regressions: When They Happen & How to Handle Them
SLEEP REGRESSIONS, almost everyone will deal with them as a parent. I am a sleep consultant and even I had to deal with them too. They are part of normal development. However most new parents never heard this term until their baby who was once sleeping through the night is now waking up every two hours or more at night.
If you’re a sleep-deprived parent scratching your head about why in the world your baby is suddenly reverting back to newborn-like sleep patterns, chances are, you’ve hit a sleep regression.
What is a Sleep Regression?
So, what exactly is a sleep regression? Basically, it’s a period where both you and baby aren’t catching nearly enough z’s. Your baby may suddenly wake throughout the night and or protest sleep altogether.
I am breaking down when and why these regressions happen, how long you can expect them to last, and then some tips to handling them without losing your sanity!
When Do Sleep Regressions Typically Occur & Why Do They Happen?
4 Months: The four-month sleep regression is the most talked about. It is also the sleep regression that is the most unavoidable. Why? Well, when your little one hits four months, they start to notice more about the busy world around them which makes it easier for a baby to become distracted. This is one big reason your baby may not sleep as well at night as he or she may not be getting as many calories in during the day if they are more interested in what’s going on around them than eating. This can cause night waking as your baby may be waking up hungry. There is also a need for your baby to go from 4 naps to 3 naps at this age. Another cause of this regression, in fact many regressions happen around the time when sleep patterns (and needs) are changing.
8 Months: The eight-month sleep regression can vary from baby to baby, and some parents find that their little one hits this regression a little earlier or a little later. At eight months, your baby is likely starting to hit some pretty big and exciting milestones! Crawling, and even showing interest in pulling themselves up to stand may start to happen around this time. While this is all fun and exciting to watch, it can also disrupt some sleep patterns for your baby. Another reason for the eight-month sleep regression is that your baby’s nap schedule may start to look a little different. You may be cutting out that third nap of the day which can lead to a little bump in the road when it comes to nighttime sleeping until things balance out again.
12 Months: At 12 months, your not so tiny infant is processing all sorts of new skills leading to yet another regression. They may be easily excitable about their new outlook on everything going on around them. Many babies are also now walking at 12 months and may start to protest sleep. All of this overstimulation can lead to some unwanted night waking.
18 Months: Many parents are shocked when their toddlers start going through regressions too, but the truth is that your little one may still be experiencing sleep regressions in the toddler years as well. This is the age where separation anxiety really peaks which can make sleep a challenge. Language development at this age is also happening at a rapid pace which is another big cognitive leap that can get in the way of a good night sleep for both parents and baby.
24 Months: And, here we are at age two, and yes, still possibly dealing with sleep regressions. The big two marks a lot for a toddler. From increased separation anxiety to continued language development, and possibly even new daytime activities like daycare and less sleep time during the day can also cause a sleep regression.
Signs Your Baby is Going Through a Sleep Regression
Frequent night waking
Waking up before 6am
Fussiness during daytime hours
How Long do These Sleep Regressions Last?
When your baby is in the middle of a sleep regression, many parents want to know how long they will last, and start to wonder if they will ever sleep again. Good news momma, sleep regressions, while they occur quite frequently in those first two years, they don’t last forever.
But, generally speaking, sleep regressions can last anywhere from 2 - 6 weeks (sometimes only a week if you are lucky). While this sounds like a long time, there are some tips to help you and baby get through them a little easier.
Tips on Getting Through a Sleep Regression
Offer Extra Feedings: Be sure to feed your baby on demand as needed throughout the day, even if you are feeding less but more frequently. This is especially helpful if your baby is too distracted to finish a feeding in one sitting. Calories are important and will help for a more restful sleep!
Stick to Your Routine: Routine is key and can help your baby ease out of the regression more quickly. Stick to whatever bedtime and naptime routine you had before the regression started. And, remember that now is not the time to start to establish bad sleep habits either.
Adjust Bedtime as Needed: If your baby is refusing to nap during the day, adjust bedtime as needed. Move bedtime up to try to prevent overstimulation and an overtired baby. A well-rested baby sleeps best!
Allow For Enough Awake Time: With each regression, you are most likely seeing some pretty big cognitive and physical developmental milestones, so be sure to allow for enough awake time for your baby to practice these new skills.
Don’t be Afraid to Ask For Support: Sleep regression can be hard and can bring you right back to that newborn phase of feeling totally sleep deprived. Lean on support and ask for help! Even having someone help watch your baby while you catch a quick nap can make all the difference in helping you keep your sanity as you navigate through each regression.
The Bottom Line
Sleep regressions are hard, there is no doubt about that! But, know that you will sleep again, momma, and with routine and a little adjusting, you may find the next regression isn’t nearly as long and unbearable.
Still need help figuring out how to help your little one sleep better? Reach out to see how I can help get your baby on a better sleep schedule or pinpoint the reason for the regression. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let's talk about how my services can help you.