Your little angel has finally started sleeping well and you’ve been getting some good rest too. Then all of the sudden your baby starts waking up several times of night again for feedings and snuggles. Not to worry, your baby is likely just experiencing sleep regression. As a new mom I had no idea about sleep regressions or when they could happened in babies. Although sleep regression in babies can be nerve-racking, its something most parents experience.
What is Sleep Regression?
Sleep regression is perfectly normal, and most infants experience it a few times during their first two years of life. If this is your first baby sleep regression, while perfectly normal, can come as quite a surprise as pediatricians and even other parents may not talk about it much. Knowing when are the sleep regressions in babies can help you feel better prepared.
Sleep regression is when a baby who has previously been sleeping well, suddenly has trouble settling down for the night or begins waking frequently throughout the night for a period of two to four weeks. Sleep regression can also affect the length and quality of naps that your baby takes. It is important not to confuse sleep regressions with colic which can also start around the same time.
What are some signs of sleep regression in babies?
Common signs of sleep regression include a sudden refusal to nap or shorter naps. These can leave baby crankier and they can become overtired before bedtime arrives. Increased waking through the night, difficulty falling asleep, and an increase in crying are also signs of sleep regressions. If you notice your infant is fussier or crankier then normal they may be about to transition into a sleep regression.
You should note sleep regression are not typically accompanied by a fever or other signs of illness. If your baby is experiencing these symptoms and has a fever, runny nose, congestion, pulling at the ears, or other signs of illness a trip to the pediatrician may be in order.
When are the sleep regressions in babies?
I’m sure you’ve heard this enough already, but please remember that every baby is different. Some things my youngest has done, that none of my other four children ever did. With that being said, sleep regression in babies is pretty common and seems to happen around certain age gaps. When sleep regressions in babies happen seem to line up with when a baby is going through a major mental leap.
3 to 4 months
The first common period of sleep regression in babies happens around the three to four-month mark. And unfortunate this change in sleep habits will be permanent. But don’t worry, this doesn’t mean your baby won’t sleep through the night again. It just means that your little one is moving away from their newborn sleep habits. This is the time they begin to develop their more mature sleeping rhythms.
Newborns sleep for most of the day. As they grow they don’t need quite as much sleep. Around the 3 to 4 month mark, your baby will start to wake up fully in between sleep cycles. During they day this is a great time to play with them and entertain their growing minds. At night however, they may need some help getting back to sleep.
At six months of age, your baby still needs to be getting around 12 to 15 hours of sleep total each day. You may notice around this time that your baby experiences another sleep regression. When the six-month sleep regression in babies happens it is around the same time they are learning to roll over. This milestone plus learning to sit up on their own, and babble to themselves may keep baby up at night.
All of these fascinating developments may mean that your baby wants to spend more time awake than sleeping as they adjust to them. Make sure that your baby has plenty of time during the day to practice all of these new skills. That why when it is time for them to sleep they are more inclined to do so.
8 to 10 months
Around eight to ten months your baby will start to crawl and may pull up to stand, and they really like to practice, even when they should be sleeping. Many babies around this age also suffer from separation anxiety and may cry out in the night for the simple reassurance of seeing that you are still there.
Around 12 months your baby will stand up and will probably begin to walk shortly thereafter. Many babies experience sleep regression just after reaching big developmental milestones like standing and walking and beginning to talk.
Many babies don’t experience the 18-month sleep regression, but for those that do, it is often related to a recent growth spurt or teething. This sleep regression doesn’t usually last quite as long as some of the others can as long as you stick to your bed/nap time routine. Your little angel will be back to sleeping through the night in no time.
Your baby is no longer a baby anymore, they are officially a toddler but that doesn’t necessarily mean that all of your sleep problems are over. Two-year-olds can still experience sleep regression and it is often related to separation anxiety (again), night terrors, and being more independent. Just maintain a consistent bedtime routine, and let them know that now is the time for sleep, not play.
Tips for dealing with sleep regression
By the time your baby is 3 to 4 months old you should have a consistent bedtime routine for your baby. This will help your baby to know that it is time to sleep. Your bedtime routine may be dinner, bathtime, reading a story, a bottle, or nursing session, and then laying them down for bed. Having an app to help track their feedings, naps, and growth can make finding a routine easier.
What NOT to do during sleep regressions
Im sure we’ve all heard this famous advice; lay the baby down drowsy but awake. I can not stress this enough. You are your babies safe space. And research shows babies need to feel connected to their parents before they can fall asleep. It’s why babies fall asleep so quickly in our arms. Why a simple rock and lullaby can get most infants back to sleep quickly.
Another piece of advice I despise, is taking your time to get to baby after they’ve woken up. Depending on your child’s age they may not be developmentally ready to settle themselves back to sleep. And no amount of repositioning will change that. Having mommy close by or having something to suck on however will help them go right back to sleep.
These are all outdated theories on baby sleep. Research now shows sleep is not something that needs to be taught. And doing so in a negative manner can have lasting side effects.
What can I do when sleep regressions start in my baby?
So if all of the above is outdated, what can you do to help your baby fall back to sleep faster when sleep regressions start? Watch for baby’s sleep cues. Sleep cues might include yawning, rubbing their eyes, or looking off into space. Often times these cues are displayed well before we realize baby is tired. When your baby starts displaying these cues, find a quiet place for them to rest before they become overtired.
Rule of thumb here: If baby is yawning, you’ve missed their sleep window. Don’t panic, this just means it may be a good idea to lay them down earlier next time.
Routines are key
Having a consistent routine established will help keep baby on track. Even with all the chaos from missing out on regular sleeping times, the more consistent you are with naps / bedtime the more successful you’ll be at settling baby each night.
Separate play time from bed time
Keep the room dark. Keeping the room dark at bedtime and nap time signals to your baby that it is time to sleep. When it is time to wake in the morning and after naps fill the room with natural light to help them learn daytime nighttime cues.
Sleep aids help tons
Consider a white noise machine. A noise machine will provide a low level of consistent noise that can make it easier for your baby to fall asleep and stay asleep longer. You can buy a noise machine or you can download an app for one.
Nurse baby back to sleep
If you are a breastfeeding momma, let baby nurse back to sleep. A lot of times our babies just need to feel comfort before they can drift back into sleep zone. Nursing an infant back to sleep is a quick way and easy way to soothe them.
Sleep regressions are just as hard on the parents as they are on the baby. Especially if you had gotten used to (finally) getting a bit of sleep yourself. Just remember that all of these sleep regressions are perfectly normal stages of development and that not all babies will experience all of them. Knowing when are the sleep sessions in babies is the first step in preparing yourself for them. And as well all know, preparation is the mother of success!
Do you have any tips to share for dealing with sleep regression in babies?