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A Fussy Baby or a Sleep Regression? 4 Signs of Baby Sleep Regressions

Baby sleep regressions can happen to anyone, but how can you tell the difference between a few rough nights and a full-fledged regression? Here are some tell-tale signs if your baby is hitting a sleep roadblock and what you can do to help.

Fussy Baby

Developmental Milestones

It would be extremely ideal if sleep regressions only happened at exactly four months, eight months, and so on, but we’re all parents here, and we know nothing about our growing babies is ever that straightforward. The secret no one ever tells you is that infant sleep regressions are a symptom of developmental changes your baby is going through. So, the infamous 4-month sleep regression often happens anywhere from when your baby is 3-months old to 5-months old.

The real trick to spotting a sleep regression is recognizing when your baby has hit a new milestone. For instance, they’re sitting up on their own more, their baby teeth are starting to come in, or they’re standing up with the help of mom or the nearest piece of furniture. So the next time your little one starts acquiring a new skill, be sure to gear up for a possible regression.

Frequent Waking & Fighting Naps

If your little one is waking up for seemingly no reason throughout the night, that’s often a sure-fire sign of a sleep regression. These wake-ups seem to have no origin, but they can often be linked to new milestones as well. A great tip for conquering these wake-ups is practicing their new skill A LOT during the day to set them up for sound sleep. 

Don’t be afraid to offer extra feedings. Growth spurts can be a component of regressions that affect sleep, so don’t worry about offering an extra nighttime feeding (or even daytime feeding) here and there. Remember – this is temporary! You will eventually return to your normal schedule.  - The Baby Sleep Site

The same goes for aiding baby's sleep at naptime! If your baby is crying or staying awake when you try to put them down for naptime and waking earlier than normal, likely, that is also a sign that a sleep regression is coming on. The gently weighted Zen Sack™ is a great assist when your little one is fighting those sleepy feelings at naptime. Frequent night waking, battles over napping, and resisting sleep altogether can both be considered possible signs of sleep regression.

Extra Fussiness

Is your normally smiley baby giving you more grief than usual? Don’t worry, you’re certainly not alone. When a little one is hitting a milestone and losing out on some much-needed z’s they can get a bit cranky — as we all can! This fussiness is caused by lack of sleep and, ironically, flares up most at naptime, bedtime, middle of the night, or anytime your tired baby is supposed to be getting their rest. This, accompanied by some of the signs of a sleep regression we’ve already covered, is a pretty good indicator that you’re in the midst of a regression.

Pro Tip: Consistency is Key

Often the key to successfully surmounting a sleep regression is to be consistent in your approach. A strict sleep schedule, a regimented bedtime routine, religiously practicing their new skills, whatever your method to overcome these sleep issues, the most important component is consistency! There is conflicting data on which approach is the ‘right one’ but experts like Dr. Shalini Paruthi, M.D., who is a Sleep Medicine Practitioner at St. Luke’s Hospital, almost always concede the importance of addressing the obstacles the same way each time.

Zerotothree.Org: When Your Baby is Fussy

Healthychildren.Org: How to Keep Your Sleeping Baby Safe

Common questions about a fussy baby 

Do all babies have sleep regressions?

All babies are different, but since regressions are generally caused by a developmental leap, like advancing sleep cycles and teething, almost all babies have them. Generally, sleep regressions occur at 4 months, 8 months, 12 months, and 18 months, with the 4-month sleep regression being the most common.

How Can We Fix A Sleep Regression?

Patience is key when it comes to infant sleep regressions. There’s no quick fix, but certain things, like a consistent bedtime routine and sleep training style, will make it easier for your baby to navigate them.

Do Sleep Regressions always happen at 4, 8, 12, and 18 months?

Regressions don’t always happen at those exact ages. It depends more so on when babies hit their milestones. When your little one hits a new milestone, more often than not, you can bet a regression is not far behind.

How Long Do Sleep Regressions Last?

As with any sleep related issues or questions, it is individual to your baby. However, the typical baby sleep regression will last anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks. 

    Athena S.

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