If you found your way here, you are probably wondering how your baby went from sleeping well to suddenly fighting sleep and having difficulties at nap time.
These changing sleep patterns may be signs of sleep regression but the good news is that they are totally normal and temporary.
We are going to share all that you need to know about sleep regressions and give you actionable tips to help your little one have more restorative sleep. When baby's sleep is going well, your sleep can go well.
Read on to find out:
What is a sleep regression?
Sleep regression refers to a stretch of time when a baby who normally sleeps well suddenly... doesn't. Your baby may suddenly experience sleep changes in their normal patterns lasting for a few weeks.
When do regressions happen and how long do they last?
Most sleep regressions occur at 4 months, between 6-9 months, and again around 18 months. It's important to know your baby's sleep patterns and the signs to look for.
How long does a sleep regression last?
While frustrating for many parents, keep in mind that this is only a temporary set back. A sleep regression can last anywhere from two to six weeks.
What causes a sleep regressions?
The good news about regressions is that they occur because your baby is going through amazing mental developmental changes, some might even call it a progression.
As your babe experiences these milestones, their world is changing.
From a growth spurt to new teeth, their little brains and bodies are growing quickly. These big changes can cause your baby to be more cranky and experience changes in their sleep schedule.
You will also learn the signs to look for and most importantly, how to help your baby sleep better
Let's take a look at what to expect as your baby grows and goes through sleep changes.
Remember, while bub may be regressing backwards in their sleep, they are actually progressing forward and reaching new developmental milestones!
4 Month Sleep Regression
In those first few months of your baby's life, they were sleeping 14-17 hours a day. As your babe comes out of the fourth trimester, they are transitioning out of their newborn sleep patterns.
Now your baby can stay awake for longer periods of time and naps are shorter and less frequent. They are also spending less time in the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep. This is a permanent change in their sleep wake cycle.
Babies at this age are attempting new skills like rolling over or attempting to sit up. Your baby may be smiling more and babbling as they reach for objects.
Learning these new skills means you may notice that baby wakes for more frequent feedings and that your baby cries and fusses at bedtime. This is the four month sleep regression.
6-9 Month Sleep Regression
By 6 months, your baby is experiencing a lot of new brain development. They may even be sitting on their own and starting solid foods. Remember, not all babies hit milestones at the same time.
Many babies get their first tooth around 6 months and growth spurts often happen at 6 and 9 months.
Similar to the 4-month sleep regression, you might observe sleep problems such as your baby is having a harder time falling asleep, taking longer naps and sleeping less at night, and more cranky when they wake up.
18 Month Sleep Regression
By 18-months, your baby is now a toddler and more physically active. Maintaining good toddler sleep patterns can be tricky. Your tot is able to get around easily, making it harder to keep them in bed so they can get enough sleep.
At this age, your toddler will likely go through another growth spurt and their first set of molars may be coming in.
While toddlers are starting to be more independent, they are also more aware of where mom and dad are, making separation anxiety challenging at bedtime.
You may notice your toddler resisting bedtime, getting more clingy and crying when you try to leave the room, and experiencing more nighttime awakenings.
How can I help my baby start sleeping through the night?
Most parents can't wait for their baby to sleep through the night and we are here to help you get back to your normal schedule (or at least get as much sleep as possible).
Some parents enlist the help of sleep consultants such as Baby Sleep Site or use a specific method of sleep training but know that sleep training is a general term for teaching your baby to fall asleep by themselves.
With our tips, you will have tools when it comes to helping your child get a good night's sleep at each stage of sleep regression.
It is important to create healthy sleep habits early on so that your baby doesn't develop negative sleep associations but remain flexible in adjusting naps and bedtimes.
5 tips to help your baby sleep comfortably:
- Keep the room dark and at a comfortable temperature. According to Sleep Foundation, baby's room should be between 66-69 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Lightly weighted sleepwear can provide a calming and comfortable environment for your child so that they can go to sleep faster and stay asleep longer.
- A white noise machine can remind your babe of the womb while minimizing sounds that might otherwise wake them.
- Baby may need an earlier bedtime when going through nap transitions or if they are not feeling well.
- Pay attention to signs that they are ready for a nap or bed to avoid an overtired baby: rubbing their eyes, yawning, pulling their ear or hair, and crankiness.
Sleep tips by ages
Creating consistent bedtime routines (or rhythms) early on can help establish a positive association with nighttime sleep and help your baby feel secure.
Here are tips specific to the three main sleep regression periods that most babies go through.
4-Month Sleep Regression Tips
- Give your baby plenty of stimulation during the day, including natural light so they can develop their circadian rhythm.
- Feed your baby right before laying them down. You may also want to consider a dream feed before you go to bed to help baby sleep for a longer stretch of time.
- Put bub to bed drowsy but not fully asleep. This teaches them to self-soothe if they wake up while helping them be comfortable falling back asleep in their crib.
- Feed your baby if they're hungry but wait a few minutes and see if they fall back asleep on their own. You don't want bub to expect an instant meal at all of their night wakings.
- Lightly weighted sleepwear creates a cozy, womb like environment to help your baby sleep for longer periods. Babies can startle and wake up when their arms flail in their sleep. If they are rolling over, be sure to switch from a swaddle to a sleeping sack.
- Nested Bean Zen Sleep Wear is safely weighted with just the right amount of gentle pressure to mimic the soothing touch of a parent to help bub self-soothe and fall asleep faster.
6-9 Month Sleep Regression
- Many little ones, are teething around this time. It can help to rub their gums with a frozen washcloth. You may want to ask your pediatrician to provide medical advice.
- Your baby may still need the comfort of being swaddled at night and a sleep sack can help them make the transition from swaddle to sack while providing a familiar comforting feeling.
- As babies are experiencing new muscle development, they often want to practice new skills such as crawling and standing so be sure to offer plenty of floor time during the day.
- If your babe is already eating solids, make sure they have a filling dinner to help them sleep longer before needing another feeding.
- Start a bedtime routine if you haven't already. Singing lullabies or reading a book in a soothing voice can signal to your little one that it's time to wind down.
18-Month Sleep Regression
- Make sure your toddler is getting enough calories in during the day as they are very active at this age and might be waking due to hunger. You may also want to start offering a bedtime snack.
- Keep your active child stimulated earlier in the day to ensure they are getting restful naps.
- Create a consistent and soothing bedtime routine such as a warm bath, pjs, soft lullabies, and a bedtime story by nightlight. A visual schedule can help them understand what's next.
- If your tot is clingy and needs to feel you close, try Zen Sleepwear which mimics your soothing touch with gently weighted pads in just the right spot. They come in larger sizes and even footie pajamas for toddlers and are particularly helpful if your little one has sensory processing challenges.
- Try to keep your toddler in their crib for as long as safely possible. Once they move to their own bed, they can get out as often as they want.
- If your child is showing signs of being ready for potty training, ease them into it which can help them stay dry during the night for less awakenings.
One Last Note on Infant Sleep Regression
While you might be overwhelmed by your baby's temporary sleep problems, understanding that sleep regression is a sign that your babe is going through positive development can help ease some of the frustration.
So take a deep breath and rest assured, your precious child is growing and going through normal changes. You will get through this together.