Baby sleep regressions can happen to anyone, but how can you tell the difference between a few rough nights and a full-fledged regression? What are the signs of sleep regression, and what should you do upon identifying them?
While the possibility of newborn baby or toddler sleep regressions can cause stress and anxiety, we're here to help you find calm and clarity on the topic. We'll cover the main sleep regression signs and set you up with tips for getting your baby back on their newborn sleep schedule or baby nap schedule.
Before we get into that, though, what are sleep regressions in the first place?
What are Sleep Regressions?
In the simplest of terms, sleep regressions are periods when a baby who has been sleeping well suddenly starts waking up at night, skipping naps, or shortening naps for a few days to a few weeks. It's as if your little one's sleep habits regress back to when they were a newborn, hence the term "sleep regression."
The underlying cause of these sudden shifts in sleep patterns is typically associated with the rapid physical and neurological development that infants undergo in the first years of life.
As your baby's brain grows, they're learning and processing so much about their new world that it can interfere with their sleep. This phenomenon is a perfectly normal part of your child's development and is a sign that they are progressing as they should be.
Now, let's get into what brought you here today. What are signs of sleep regression in newborn babies?
What are Signs of Sleep Regression in Newborn Babies?
There are 3 tell-tale sleep regression signs that indicate your baby is hitting a sleep roadblock. We'll break them down below to help you identify them early and offer tips on what you can do to help.
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™ bamboo sleep 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.
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.
After Noticing the Signs of Sleep Regression, What Can You Do to Get Back on Track?
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! Here are some tips on getting back on track:
- Maintain a consistent bedtime routine: This will help signal to your baby that it's time to wind down and sleep. Your routine can include activities like a bath, a book, a lullaby, and then bed.
- Be responsive to your baby's needs: During a regression, your baby may need more comfort and reassurance than usual. Be there for them, but also try to avoid starting any new habits that you don't want to continue long-term (like rocking your baby to sleep every time they wake).
- Practice the new skills during the day: If your baby is going through a developmental leap, they'll probably want to practice their new skills. By giving them plenty of opportunities to do this during the day, they'll be less likely to wake up to practice at night.
- Ensure your baby is well-rested during the day: Overtired babies tend to have a harder time sleeping, so make sure your little one is getting enough sleep during the day.
How to Prepare for Sleep Regressions
Sometimes, you know sleep regressions are coming before you even notice the sleep regression signs. This is often the case with sleep regression after vacation, for example. But, as you now know, they also come at certain developmental stages. So, here's some tips on preparing for the inevitable:
- Familiarize yourself with the typical ages for sleep regressions: We have resources on 4 month sleep regression, 6 month sleep regression, 8 month sleep regression, 10 month sleep regression, and 18 month old sleep regression.
- Establish good sleep habits early: This includes a consistent bedtime routine and encouraging your baby to self-soothe.
- Watch for signs of new skills: If your baby is starting to show signs of mastering a new skill, a sleep regression may be on the horizon.
- Take care of yourself: Sleep regressions can be stressful for parents too. Make sure you're getting enough rest and practicing self-care.
Common Questions about the Sleep Regression Signs
Before we close out this conversation on the most common sleep regression signs, we wanted to take a moment to address some of the most common questions you may have about your baby's sleep regressions.
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. Our guide on how to get newborn to sleep may prove helpful.
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.
Final Thoughts on the Signs and Symptoms of Sleep Regression
That concludes our breakdown on the common sleep regression signs. It's important to remember that sleep regressions are a normal part of your baby's development. They're a sign that your baby is growing and learning new skills. As challenging as these periods can be, try to remember they are temporary.
With patience, consistency, and a bit of preparation, you and your little one can navigate sleep regressions successfully. Keep in mind, every baby is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. Don't hesitate to reach out to a healthcare professional if you're concerned about your baby's sleep patterns.
And, if you want to harness the power of our weighted sleepwear to overcome sleep regression - and make getting your baby to fall asleep as easy as possible - shop at Nested Bean today. We have weighted swaddles for newborn babies and weighted sleep sacks that mimic your embrace and will have your baby sound asleep in your arms, even after you leave the room.
At this point, though, it's time we brought this conversation on the signs of sleep regression to a close. hopefully, you feel more confident and capable of identifying the signs and symptoms of sleep regression - and what you can do to get your baby's sleep routine back on track.