Conquering Sleep Regressions

Baby Sleeping on His Mother

Your baby or toddler was sleeping well – and then, seemingly out of nowhere, they start fighting their naps and bedtimes, staying awake for longer periods at night, and generally seeming more restless or fussy. If this sounds familiar to you, then you’re likely dealing with a sleep regression.

Interrupted sleep is common during all stages of childhood. Depending on the age of your child, they can last for a few days or even a few weeks. And while they can be frustrating for both you and your little one, there are some things you can do to help get through them.

But, before I get into the tips on how to deal with sleep regressions, let’s first take a look at what they are and why they occur.

What is Sleep Regression?

Sleep regressions occur when there is a sudden and temporary disruption in your child’s typical sleep patterns. It can occur at any time – even when you least expect it – but is most common during periods of development or change (such as teething, starting solid foods, becoming mobile, etc.).

Regressions can also be brought on by changes in schedule (like daylight savings time) or travel. For some babies and toddlers, a regression may only last a few days. But for others, it can last for several weeks.

The good news is that they are usually a normal part of childhood development and will eventually resolve on their own. In the meantime, though, there are some things you can do to help your little one (and yourself) get through this tough sleep phase.

When Do Sleep Regressions Occur?

As I mentioned above, they can happen at any time – and they often seem to come out of nowhere. However, there are some general guidelines that you can use to help predict when your little one is likely to experience a sleep regression.

4 Month Sleep Regression

The 4-month sleep regression is one of the most common, and it typically occurs around the same time that your baby is developmentally ready to start sleeping through the night.

At this age, babies are learning how to self-soothe and are no longer relying on you to fall asleep. But, as they transition from needing to be rocked or nursed to sleep, they may start to wake up more during the night.

This is often a short-lived regression that lasts for just a few days or weeks. However, some babies may continue to wake up frequently throughout the night even after the regression has passed.

8-10 Month Sleep Regression

The 8-10 month sleep regression is often caused by your baby’s newfound mobility. Around this time, they may start to learn how to crawl, pull up, or even walk.

And while this is an exciting milestone, it can also be disruptive to their sleep. That’s because all of this new movement can make them more active and alert during the day – and more resistant to sleep at night.

This regression typically lasts for a few weeks, but all babies are different and will need time to adjust.

18 Month Sleep Regression

The 18-month sleep regression is often caused by your toddler’s newfound independence. Around this time, they may start to assert their independence more and challenge your authority.

This can manifest itself in a number of ways, including bedtime battles, night waking, and early morning waking.

This regression typically lasts for a few weeks, but it may take longer for some toddlers to adjust to their new sleep patterns, so do not stress if the regression surpasses a few weeks.

24 Month Sleep Regression

The 24-month sleep regression is often caused by your toddler’s increased verbal skills. Around this time, they may start to use more words and sentences – and they may have a lot to say!

This newfound ability to communicate can be both exciting and exhausting for your toddler. And it can also lead to bedtime battles and night waking.

Like the other sleep regression stages, this regression can last a few weeks or even a few months.

How to Deal With Sleep Regressions

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for dealing with sleep regressions. But there are some general things you can do to help your little one get through this tough sleep phase.

Here are some tips you can easily follow to help your baby or toddler get the sleep they need:

Don’t despair. It will eventually end. The first and most important thing to remember is that, no matter how long it lasts, this is only a temporary phase. It may be frustrating (for both you and your child), but it will eventually end.

Stick to your bedtime routine. Even though your child may be fighting sleep, it’s important to stick to your usual bedtime routine. This will help signal to their body that it’s time to wind down and get ready for bed.

Pull back bedtime. If your little one is missing more daytime sleep, try to pull back bedtime by 30 minutes. They will likely still wake up at their regular time in the morning.

Get in some extra snuggles and relaxation time during the day. Since your little one may be waking up more frequently at night, it’s important to make up for that sleep deprivation with some extra downtime during the day. This could mean taking an afternoon walk or playing some soothing music before bedtime.

Offer some type of security object. If your child is going through a separation anxiety phase, they may find comfort in having a security object (like a stuffed animal or blanket) with them at bedtime.

Try not to make any major changes during this time. As I mentioned before, sleep regressions are often brought on by changes in environment or schedule. So, if you can avoid making any big changes during this time, you may find that it goes a bit more smoothly.

Eliminate naps if needed.

If your child is over 2.5 years old, it might also be a good time to eliminate naps. As they get older, they need less daytime sleep. So, if they’re struggling to sleep at night, getting rid of naps may help them feel more rested.
You should also be mindful that your child may be outgrowing their old sleep schedule. If this is the case, you may need to adjust naps and shift their wake windows.

Seek advice from a certified sleep specialist. If you’re feeling completely overwhelmed by your child’s sleep regression and are struggling to find a solution, it may be helpful to consult a professional. At Well Bebe, we help parents create a successful routine for their babies and themselves so that they can eliminate the stress, confusion and unknowns that come with the first year of parenthood, including sleep training and all that goes with it.

Thrive During All Stages of Sleep Regression

The bottom line – whether your child is experiencing a nap regression, sleep regression, or an entirely new sleeping pattern – is that you are not alone. It can be tough to deal with, especially if you’re already sleep-deprived. But by following the tips above, you (and your little one) will make it through this phase and be all the better for it.

As a mama of two myself, I know firsthand how difficult it is to deal with sleep regressions. But I also know that, in the end, it’s always worth it. And, if you need a little extra assistance, I encourage you to discover The Well Bebe Method – a two hour journey that will teach you everything you need to know about not just how to create an ideal sleeping environment for baby, but also, how to navigate the tricky waters of motherhood with confidence. I’ll help you overcome the obstacles, stresses, and unknowns that are a natural part of this wonderful journey!

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