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Safe sleep aids: Helping your baby through sleep regressions

Sleep regressions can be a disappointing time. You've spent a good period of time with a happy baby who sleeps through the night without fail, and all of a sudden, you find them waking through the night without a clear reason, or refusing to go to sleep in the first place. Not only is this stressful for baby, but it can deprive you of sleep too!

The first thing to know is that your baby's sleep regressions are totally normal at many ages, and with the right sleep aids, can be overcome. From sleep training techniques to comforting sleepwear, there are plenty of methods at your disposal to help baby sleep again - and to help you get some rest too.

In this article

Understanding sleep regressions

Different sleep aids to try with your baby

Safe sleep aids: Mom hack

Common questions about safe sleep aids

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baby sleep aids: BABY IN ZEN BOYDSUIT

Understanding sleep regressions

Baby sleep regressions are stretches where a baby suddenly stops sleeping well seemingly out go nowhere. They can last up to a few weeks, and usually range from three to six weeks. The most common baby sleep regression ages are 4 months, 8 months, and 18 months. However, they aren't strictly timed to these ages - every baby is unique, and they won't develop and change at exactly the same rate.

It's not uncommon for babies to have an off night or two where they have trouble falling asleep, but if it's going on for a few consecutive weeks and you can't pinpoint a health issue, there's likely a regression causing your sleep problems. Again, this is completely normal, and often a sign that your baby is developing.

Their minds are constantly expanding to learn new skills and abilities, and sometimes they want to practice them at night or think about the big world around them! Luckily, there are plenty of aids you can use to ease this transitional period and help you and baby both fall asleep and stay asleep. From bedtime routines to gentle infant massage, there are lots of tools at your disposal.

Different sleep aids to try with your baby

different baby sleep aids

Consistent bedtime routine

This is by far the most important element of combating a sleep regression. By creating positive sleep associations with certain times, you can help gently reinforce when it's time to be awake and time to go to bed. If you haven't started with sleep training yet, this can be a good time to do so.

If your baby suddenly starts crying in the middle of the night, give her a few minutes to fuss before you respond; she may self-soothe back to sleep. If she doesn’t, enter the room to check that everything’s okay, pat her on the head or tummy, quietly say a reassuring word and leave. Try to avoid rocking, cuddling or feeding your baby, as this may encourage her to regularly wake for your attention. If she keeps crying, you may want to say a few comforting words from the door and leave her again, repeating as necessary at increasing intervals of time.  - Whattoexpect

Whichever technique works best for you - whether that's the Ferber method or the Pick up/Put down method - just make sure you stick with it! If you've already begun to sleep train, baby will likely remember the routines, and changing them up during an already challenging time will just confuse them further.

Infant massage

This is a more specific and proactive way to ease a sleep regression - and one that gets you quality time with baby in the process! A baby massage can be a great method of soothing baby to sleep, particularly if you make it a part of your bedtime routine. Here's a quick rundown on how to massage your baby:

  • Dim the lights to create a nice ambience at massage time
  • Place your undressed baby down on a safe, flat surface, such as a changing table or bed
  • Start massaging your baby's feet with gentle strokes (apply slightly more pressure if massaging a toddler)
  • Work your way up baby's legs, along their body, and down baby's arms - don't forget their little hands!
  • Avoid massaging baby's head, as it still has vulnerable soft spots
  • Turn over your baby and gently massage their back
  • Make eye contact with baby during the massage - you could even sing a lullaby to help baby relax even more

You should always stop if they aren't enjoying the massage, but with any luck, you'll be able to help baby sleep and have some bonding time too! You could try using some coconut oil to moisturise baby's skin too.

Gently weighted Zen Sleepwear

If baby is fussy when they're put down to sleep, it might be down to separation anxiety. That's where our range of gently weighted Zen Sleepwear can come in handy!

The lightly weighted pad is designed to mimic your calming touch, helping baby self soothe and go to sleep by themselves. We have the Zen Swaddle with removable arm sections for infants, and the Zen Sack for older babies - or you could try our Zen One, which can adapt to changing sleep styles from newborn to six months!

Daytime light exposure

Getting enough light during the daytime is vital for babies and young children - in fact, one study reveals that in young infants, exposure to daylight (not direct sun) in the early afternoon can help develop their circadian rhythm and lead to better sleep.

Avoiding nighttime light

This is the other side of the coin - make sure baby isn't confused and overstimulated at night by bright lights from bulbs and screens! It can be a good idea to limit screen time before bed and remove all screens from your baby or toddlers' room. This means that there are no distractions to keep them from falling asleep.

White noise machines

If you live in an apartment building with noisy neighbors or a big city with a busy night life, you might find that this is worsening your baby's sleep regression. In this case, a white noise machine could help drown out the background noise and keep baby from getting overstimulated. Be careful, though - some of these machines are too loud for your baby, so only use ones that are designed with little ones in mind.

Rocking to sleep

This is a practice that is often frowned upon, but when your baby is in the newborn stage, they're too young to create the associations that lead to sleep problems like separation anxiety. There's nothing more soothing to a baby than your touch, and on a fussy night, sometimes it's all that will help - and that's fine!

Dream feeds (sleep aid for infants)

Dream feeding is the practice of feeding your baby when they're asleep, or more accurately only barely awake. A well timed dream feed can stop your baby from waking up later on in the night hungry and fussy.

Instead, you're being proactive, keeping them from getting hungry, and therefore reducing nighttime wake ups, particularly in younger babies who can't go as long without a feed.

Soft toy for comfort (sleep aid for kids)

For safety reasons, this only applies to babies over a year old - never put a pillow, blanket, or soft toy in the crib of a baby younger than 12 months. Once they're past this age, though, a small soft toy can be a useful tool to help soothe a toddler to sleep, particularly if they associate the toy with you (or if it smells like you).

Sleep medicine

Unfortunately, if your child has other health issues, you may find that you need to bring in solutions like medicines to help them sleep. Of course, you should talk to pediatrician about the options, and only use medications on their recommendation.

The most common sleep medicine suggested for babies and toddlers is melatonin, a chemical naturally produced in their brains to help regulate their sleep patterns. Again, this and other medications should always be considered after you've looked into solutions like sleep routine adjustments and infant massage.

baby sleep aids: sleep baby in the zen bodysuit

Safe sleep aids: Mom hack

'A huge draw to this sleep sack that others don’t have? The weighted center designed to feel as light as your hand on your baby’s chest.

One of the things I do when putting Rhyan to sleep for the night is to rub those beans in the weighted center lightly in a circular motion. This soothes her and when I remove my hand the sensation of touch is still there, all night.

Since I’ve been using this sleep sack nightly since she was just 10 weeks old, she knows that putting it on is a signal for bed time.

I’ve seen her calm down when I place her into the sack and zip the bottom up. It’s apart of a nightly routine that means we are winding down for the night.' - Lachelle from Full Heart Mommy on the Zen Sack

Common questions about baby safe sleep aids

You might also like

How to get your baby to sleep through the night

4 Month Sleep Regression

When do babies sleep through the night?

Dream Feed: The what, how, and everything else you need to know


Other Sleep Resources

Mayo Clinic: Toddler Health

Healthychildren.Org: What is the safest sleep solution for my baby with reflux?

Athena S.

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