A parent’s guide to understanding and living through their baby’s sleep regressions
I remember my children’s sleep regressions. That feeling of disappointment and despair – just when I got them sleeping a little better it suddenly all went downhill and I was back to frequent night-time awakenings and terrible daytime naps. Let’s face it: it’s just exhausting. So, let’s understand what baby sleep regressions are and what can be done about them.
What’s going on?
A sleep regression is when there is a sudden (and unfortunately negative) change to a child’s sleep pattern. It can happen when your child suddenly starts resisting bedtime, wakes up regularly during the night, struggles to nap at the usual time during the day or has shorter naps for no particular reason.
It’s often viewed in a very negative way – from the parent’s point of view, that’s fair enough. However, if you shift your perspective, you can appreciate that sleep regressions are usually directly linked to a leap in your child’s development.
When will it happen?
Of course, we know that every child is different and sleep regressions can occur at any time. However, they are often linked to progress in your child’s development as they learn a new skill (such as crawling, walking or talking), have a growth spurt or even experience a change to their circadian rhythm.
Be ready. Baby sleep regressions are normal and it’s likely that your child will experience a few, although some have a greater impact than others.
The most common sleep regressions that you might have heard other parents talk about usually occur around:
- 4 months: linked to growth spurts and changes to your child’s circadian rhythm.
- 8+ months (anywhere between 8-10 months): this is usually around the time when your child is learning to get more mobile. They may be sitting, crawling, pulling themselves up to stand or starting to say their first words. These are huge developmental milestones but can have some unfortunate side effects to their sleep.
- 12+ months: usually coincides with your child learning to walk.
- 18 months: often linked to your child’s sense of independence and separation anxiety.
- From 2 years: can be linked to changes to your child’s nap and ‘awake time’ periods as they sleep less during the day; toilet training; new sibling; or transitioning from a cot to a bed.
When will it end?
I know it’s not quite what you want to hear, but sleep regressions can last around 3-6 weeks. However, some do resolve more quickly.
First, know that however tough it feels at the time, it will come to an end. It’s a phase and it will pass. Until then, get as much support as you can from friends or family. Where possible, share the burden with your partner so that you can both get some rest during this tough phase.
Your child will probably cry more and be harder to settle during this period. It’s fine to comfort them, but try not to encourage bad habits, like rocking or feeding to sleep. If you allow your child to fall into bad habits, it can make life even more difficult after the regression is over, as these sleep habits can become entrenched.
This is a time for flexibility and you will need to adapt to the situation as it changes.
Remember that if your child isn’t napping as well as usual, you can adjust your schedule so that your child gets more rest at night. For example, bring bedtime earlier if you can see your child is getting tired as there is no point in sticking to a rigid schedule with an overtired child who becomes impossible to settle.
Remember: Sleep regression will end
However desperately frustrating and exhausting it feels at the time, please remember this phase will end. And another may start a few months down the line. If you give yourself the skills you need, you can ride the storm more easily. We provide affordable, top quality sleep welfare packages tailored specifically to your child and your preferences as a parent. So, if you need help, we’re here for you!