If your baby who normally sleeps through the night starts waking and crying multiple times, you know something is wrong. Don’t worry too much! Your baby may be experiencing a sleep regression. Sleep regressions happen for many reasons, but there are ways to make them easier. There are proven methods that you can use to help your baby get through this tricky period.
What is sleep regression?
Sleep regression is a period during which a baby suddenly has trouble sleeping. For it to count, the baby should have been previously sleeping well. Once they have sleep regression, however, they struggle with going to sleep or wake up fussy in the middle of the night. These time periods usually last for about 2 to 4 weeks, but the length of time a baby will experience this ranges from child to child.
There are many possible causes of sleep regression. If your baby is going through a growth spurt, they may start having trouble sleeping due to being hungry more often. Reaching a new developmental milestone or teething can also cause disturbances to sleeping patterns. Other possible causes include disruption in a baby’s daily routine (such as starting daycare), an illness or infection, or sleeping in a new environment (including when travelling).
What are some signs of sleep regression?
Signs of sleep regression can vary from child to child but there are a few common signs. If your baby is waking up in the night more often than usual, is having a hard time falling asleep, is fussier, or is protesting naps, then your baby may be experiencing sleep regression.
When are babies most likely to experience sleep regression?
Sleep regression can occur at any time, but there are some ages where regression is more likely.
4 Months Old
This is often the first sleep regression you will experience with your baby. It is caused by a change in their sleep cycles.
Around 4 months of age, babies move from sleeping in shorter newborn sleep cycles to longer adult sleep cycles. At the end of each sleep cycle, your baby will awaken slightly to ensure that nothing has changed before falling back asleep. As the night goes on, they will move from being in a deeper sleep to a much lighter state of sleep in the early morning hours. This is when most parents notice their babies waking more frequently when they didn’t before. There’s generally nothing to worry about here! This new way of sleeping just takes the baby some getting used to.
6 Months Old
At 6 months, babies are often able to sleep through the night but may go through a sleep regression due to another big growth spurt at this age. Also, starting solids and sitting up are new things that can each have their own impact.
8 Months Old
Babies may start to experience some social anxiety at around 8 to 10 months old. This is completely normal, but it may lead to sleep regression. Anxiety can cause your baby to wake up during the night and look to you for reassurance. It is also a time when many infants start crawling which they love to practice when alone in their crib instead of sleeping!
12 Months Old
When babies begin reaching major developmental milestones, sleep regression may occur as a result of the excitement with their new skills. Learning how to stand and walk are really exciting things for babies which can interrupt their sleep.
18 to 24 Months Old
Toddlers experience sleep regressions as well. Most are caused by developing language skills, separation anxiety, nightmares, or moving to a toddler bed before they’re ready.
How can I help my baby during a sleep regression?
Sleep regression is a tricky time for parents and babies alike. Try to remember that this phase is temporary and they will be sleeping normally again in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, here are some tips that can help:
- When your baby is showing signs of sleepiness during the day (yawning, crankiness, rubbing eyes), move up nap or bed time. You’ll want to remember that overtired babies have a harder time falling asleep and staying asleep.
- Likewise, make sure your baby is getting plenty of sleep to prevent them from becoming overtired. Early bedtimes are key during any sleep regression.
- Start to build a consistent nighttime routine. This can include bath time, snuggle time, reading time, and then going to bed. No matter what, stick to this routine.
- If your baby is showing signs of anxiety or separation anxiety, make sure to give them extra comfort and attention throughout the day. You’ll want to make sure that you give a lot of attention right before bed. This will help them feel secure and safe because learning new things can be pretty scary for babies.
- Try not to change your response at night. If you’re used to your baby sleeping through the night, or only being fed once per night then stay the course. Introducing anything new will eventually become a new way of life. Giving your baby time to work things out on their own is often the best approach for them long term.
- Try cluster feeding or giving extra snacks during the day to boost calorie intake if you feel like they’re going through a growth spurt.
- Evaluate the sleep environment and make sure the room where the baby is sleeping is quiet, dark, and cool.
- If the sleep regression is not getting better after a few weeks, call your child’s pediatrician for extra advice. Never hesitate to call the doctor if you have any questions or concerns about your baby.
About the Author:
The author, Alison Macklin is a Toronto based Child Sleep Consultant, certified by the Family Sleep Institute, which is one of the most extensive professional certification programs available. She studied Psychology and Sociology at the University of Toronto and took an interest in child development, but her passion for the world of sleep began when she became a mom.
When working together, Alison will help you to establish healthy and safe sleep practices based on science, to get everyone the rest they need. She works closely with you to formulate a customized sleep solution, all while taking into consideration the unique temperament of your child, creating a plan that takes out all the guess work. She’ll be there, step-by-step, to guide and support you through the process and answer all of your sleep questions. She takes the wellbeing of you and your child to heart and will help find a solution that works for everyone.
You can book a complimentary Discovery Call with Alison on her website,
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