Just when you thought you had your baby’s sleep routine down, suddenly your little one is fighting naps and waking up in the middle of the night! You think oh no! Here we go again! It is a dreaded baby sleep regression. Every parent’s worst nightmare.

But don’t panic! There is good news. Although a baby sleep regression can be challenging, they are temporary. Most of the time, a baby sleep regression lasts anywhere from a few nights to two weeks on the longer end of the spectrum. A baby sleep regression is also a sign of healthy growth and development. They occur because your baby is progressing at a rapid rate! When your little one is going through a progression, their sleep can regress a little. Their brain and body are working at an extraordinary rate and it is hard for them to relax and switch this off around sleep.

However, even though it is temporary, it can be very draining for parents. Sleep is incredibly important for both you and your child. Sleep affects health, mood, attention span and so much more. Thankfully most children do not experience a full regression at each of these milestones and there are several things you can do to get through a regression easier.

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Table of Contents

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SLEEP REGRESSION SIGNS

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4 MONTH SLEEP REGRESSION

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6 MONTH SLEEP REGRESSION

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9 MONTH SLEEP REGRESSION

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12 MONTH SLEEP REGRESSION

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18 MONTH SLEEP REGRESSION

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2 YEAR SLEEP REGRESSION

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5 TIPS FOR SURVIVING A BABY SLEEP REGRESSION

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Hiring professional help to finally solve your baby sleep issue

SLEEP REGRESSION SIGNS

What is a baby sleep regression? A baby sleep regression is a short period of time when a baby who usually sleeps well suddenly has trouble falling asleep or starts waking up more frequently. As a baby sleep consultant, I can tell you it is important to note that some babies are hardly affected by regressions while others are much more unsettled. Every child develops at their own rate and the signs can differ based on the cause of the sleep regression. Here are a few common sleep regression signs your little one may be showing:

  • Fussy at bedtime or nap time
  • More frequent night wakings
  • Early rising
  • Shorter naps
  • Fighting sleep

These regressions are an indication of your child’s growth 

COMMON SLEEP REGRESSION AGES

Here are common baby sleep regression ages and what is likely happening during each of these baby sleep regressions.

4 MONTH SLEEP REGRESSION

The 4 month sleep regression is the only one that is permanent and can actually occur as early as 3 months old and as late as 5 months old. It is caused by a complete reorganization or your baby’s sleep cycles to become more like adult sleep. Additionally, your baby is going through bursts of brain development leading to increased awareness of their surroundings. This can be one of the most challenging sleep regressions.

Parents often find that many of the tricks they used to get their baby to sleep as a newborn no longer work. Some babies also begin rolling at this point, which means if you are still swaddling, you will need to transition to an arms-free sleep sack. It is dangerous for your baby to roll onto their tummy while in a swaddle because they can get stuck in this position. Click here for more information about the 4 month sleep regression.

6 MONTH SLEEP REGRESSION

Most babies begin rolling more frequently by 6 months. Some babies can begin crawling as early as 6 months, but most will not crawl for a few more months. Babies will typically be sitting up on their own around 6 -7 months of age. Many babies also go through a growth spurt around 6 months which leads to increased hunger.

9 MONTH SLEEP REGRESSION

This regression can occur between 8 to 10 months of age. Babies are making incredible physical advancements by learning how to crawl, pulling themselves up, and cruising. Many babies also begin experiencing separation anxiety as they realize that people and things still exist when they are out of sight. This can peak around bedtime as this is the biggest separation that babies have from their parents all day. Additionally, this is a period of significant brain development and babies are absorbing language at a rapid rate. On top of all of this, most babies are also cutting a few teeth around this age!

12 MONTH SLEEP REGRESSION

This regression can occur between 12-15 months of age. There are a lot of developmental changes happening to your baby’s brain and body. Developmental milestones include taking their first steps, speaking several words clearly, following simple commands and advancing their fine motor skills. Their awake windows are also growing longer, which can disrupt sleep.

18 MONTH SLEEP REGRESSION

Your baby is turning into a tiny toddler! They are learning how to talk and are excited about this new skill. Your little one would rather practice talking than sleeping. They are also discovering their newfound independence and may begin pushing back at bedtime as they are trying to learn where the boundaries lay. Separation anxiety can also peak around this age. Molars can come in as early as 18 months and are the most painful of all teething.

2 YEAR SLEEP REGRESSION

The 2 year sleep regression is similar to the 18 month sleep regression as your toddler may continue to test the boundaries at bedtime and can be affected by those painful molars coming in. Some children’s verbal skills may not increase until closer to 2 leading to a later regression. Children can also start having real nightmares around this age and become scared of the dark. Big life transitions are common around this age such as potty training or getting a new sibling. For tips on potty training regressions, check out this blog on Regressive Behaviors by Lori Abosch, Child Behavior Specialist. 

5 TIPS FOR SURVIVING A BABY SLEEP REGRESSION

1) SETUP THE IDEAL SLEEP ENVIRONMENT

We want the nursery to be like a cave – cool, dark and free of distractions. A dark room will help your little one get through a baby sleep regression by helping them fall asleep easily for naps and prevent early morning wakeups. White noise is a great tool for downing out environmental noises and also helps to get into a deeper level of sleep. Avoid toys or mobiles by the crib because these will only stimulate your baby and make it harder for them to sleep.

2) MAKE THOSE AWAKE HOURS COUNT

Practice makes perfect! Babies and toddlers are eager to practice their new skills, like walking or talking. We want to provide plenty of opportunities for them to practice these new skills during the day so they are not tempted to practice at night. As your baby becomes more aware of the world, it can make it more difficult for them to wind down for naps and bedtime. They would rather be playing than sleeping! That is why we also want to offer lots of engagement, activity, and playtime during the day so they can get that energy out before nap time or bedtime rolls around. They will be more likely to fight sleep if they have pent up energy.

3) AVOID OVERTIREDNESS

A common problem with baby sleep regressions is that it can disrupt naps because your baby is so excited about their new skill. This can trick parents into thinking that it is time to drop the nap. However, do not let this fool you! I recommend waiting at least two weeks before dropping a nap to rule out a temporary sleep regression. If you drop a nap too soon, this can lead to a cranky, overtired baby. We want to avoid overtiredness because this is a baby’s worst enemy when it comes to sleep. Overtiredness makes it more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. This means more nighttime wakings and shorter naps. Following an appropriate awake window for your baby’s age will make sure your baby’s body is ready for sleep.

4) KEEP ROUTINES CONSISTENT

Consistency is key. Make sure you have a good pre-nap and bedtime routine in place so that your little one knows exactly what is expected and required of them when it comes to sleep. Young children crave structure and thrive when they know what to expect, especially as they start to enter their toddler years. As your little one discovers their own independence, it is natural for them to test the boundaries, especially at bedtime. However, if those boundaries shift, they are left feeling insecure about their role as child and your role as parent. Nap time and bedtime should be non-negotiable. If you can stay consistent with your sleep routines, this regression will pass faster and things will go back to normal easier. Parents run into trouble when they start changing things in order to get their little one to sleep.

5) STAY CALM AND PROVIDE COMFORT

Sleep regressions are challenging for parents, but they are also hard on your child! Overtired children are more likely to be temperamental and needy, so make sure to provide lots of cuddles and one-on-one time each day. Giving your child enough attention during the day ensures there will be less need to demand it at bedtime or in the middle of the night. If your little one is dealing with separation anxiety, including soothing activities in the bedtime routine can help relax them before sleep. Check out of blog on 8 tips to ease separation anxiety. Some ideas are a warm bath, followed by cuddles and story time, and concluding with a massage. If your child is over 12 months of age, you can also offer a lovie which can provide a great deal of comfort.

BABY SLEEP CONSULTANTS ARE HERE TO HELP!

We also need to have realistic expectations. It is easy to blame regressions for all of our sleep problems, but if your baby has not yet learned how to fall asleep independently and is relying on you to help them sleep, like needing to be fed to sleep, then we cannot expect them to stay asleep when they naturally stir through sleep cycles. And if your little one is going through a regression, it can feel like a spiral into the land of even worse sleep!

Babies with strong sleep skills tend to pass through regressions much more quickly. We love helping parents give their little ones the gift of sleep. If you would like to learn more about how a customized sleep plan can help your little on learn healthy, independent sleep skills and move through sleep regressions with ease, start by scheduling your Complimentary Discovery Call today!

To healthy sleep,

Whitney Rich

Baby & Toddler Sleep Consultant

832-646-7727

whitney@livelovesleep.com

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