Sleep regressions: What they are and how to survive them.

Jun 10, 2020

Molly Leighton, Expect to Sleep Again

Picture this …

Your baby has been getting into somewhat of a sleep rhythm. You can almost guess when she will wake from her naps, how long it will take her to fall asleep, and what time she will wake at night.

Then, all of the sudden, her sleep seems to get off track, she is barely napping, taking forever to fall asleep at bedtime, and waking frequently overnight.

Are you thinking to yourself, “who is this baby and where did mine go?!”

Has this happened to you? This is what is described as a sleep “regression”. The quotations around regression are intentional, I will address that shortly.

Changing our outlook

Instead of looking at these regressions negatively, lets change our outlook, and try to look at them in a positive way. Even though these regressions can impact your baby’s sleep and temperament, as well as your sanity, they are actually an incredible advancement in your baby’s development.

Changing our outlook on the regressions will help tremendously. Try to think of the regression like this, “My baby is learning new things and developing new skills. And, although her sleep is being thrown off, it is temporary and I’m glad my baby is developing.

I prefer to call sleep regressions sleep progressions. Babies are progressing and growing – how incredible!

My biggest piece of advice for getting through any sleep regression is: Don’t start anything you don’t wish to continue.

So, what does that mean exactly?

  • Have a 4-month-old that has been sleeping longer stretches at night but abruptly is waking every hour? Don’t start feeding her every hour unless that is something you want to continue doing.
  • Have a 9.5-month-old who is pulling up to stand in the crib instead of sleeping? Don’t go in repeatedly to lay her down unless you’d like to continue doing that.
  • Have a 12-month-old going through separation anxiety and not wanting you to leave? Don’t start staying in her room until she falls asleep unless you’d like to continue doing that.
  • Have a 2-year-old who is fighting her nap? Don’t give up nap time unless you are ready to give it up completely (which you’re not!).

What ages do sleep “regressions” happen?

Regressions are linked to different milestones, both physical and mental, that your baby is working on. Babies reach these milestones at very different ages, outlined below is a breakdown of when sleep “regressions” can occur. These sleep “regressions” can last on average from 1-6 weeks.

4 Months

This is the one you hear about all.the.time. At this stage, your baby’s sleep is changing to become more adult-like. She is becoming more alert and engaged in the world around her. Previous methods of rocking or bouncing to sleep become ineffective as time goes on. This sleep “regression” is more permanent as your baby’s sleep is not going to return to what it was like as a newborn. This is the time to start thinking about sleep training and laying down some solid sleep foundations!

6-7 Months

This is around the time that your baby is learning to sit up and possibly crawl. If your baby is sitting up in her crib but not able to lay back down by herself, give her lots of time to practice when she is awake. If you must go back in and help her during naps or overnight, try to help guide her to the right position rather than just picking her up and laying her down. This will help encourage her to lay back down on her own, without your assistance.

8-10 Months

Separation anxiety can start to develop at this age which makes leaving your baby at sleep times especially hard. Stay consistent with your routine and your baby will get more comfortable. She will start to understand and anticipate what’s next in your pre-sleep routine.  Give lots of extra snuggles during the day but avoid over doing it at night. Your child might also start pulling herself up to stand in the crib. Avoid the trap of going in and laying her down over and over. If she can’t lay down herself, make sure to practice as much as possible during the day. 

12 Months

Separation anxiety can also present at this age for some babies. Language is the main development happening here, so you might hear your baby laying in her crib babbling!

Nap refusals can be a result of this regression. Most parents assume their baby is ready for 1 nap, but really, it’s just the regression causing the baby to fight sleep. Transitioning your baby to 1 nap too soon will cause other issues down the line. Don’t transition your baby too early!  Keep offering 2 naps consistently and your baby will settle back into her routine.

15-18 Months

This “regression” can center around several developmental milestones and transitions. Your baby is likely starting to walk, and she is learning to say “no”.

This new resistance can be challenging, but stay consistent with your sleep routine and expectations, and she will eventually stop resisting.

This is also the age that a 2-1 nap transition happens, and it can take several weeks to make this transition. Do this slowly and with patience!

2 years

Toddlers love to test boundaries. They also have a major case of fear of missing out. Nighttime fears can also start happening around this age.

All of these factors can lead to some major sleep resistance. Your 2-year-old is NOT ready to give up her nap, even though she may fight it. Avoid giving in to bedtime requests for a drink, a hug, another book, etc. Keep the bedtime routine moving forward. Remember, you are the parent and she will follow your lead.

I know that looks like a lot of sleep “regressions” but don’t get anxious, not every baby will be affected by every sleep “regression.” Babies who are on a schedule with consistent expectations and healthy sleep habits will be less bothered and better prepared to handle sleep “regressions.”

Are you stuck falling back into bad habits after a sleep “regression”? Reach out to Molly and her team for help!

AS ALWAYS, DROP ME A LINE BY COMMENTING BELOW OR SUBSCRIBE TO OUR (VERY OCCASIONAL) E-MAIL LIST TO STAY UP TO DATE ON ALL THINGS MAMAHOOD.
I CAN’T WAIT TO HEAR FROM YOU!


-ARIANA

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