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You love your baby. You also love sleep; or even if you don’t, you need sleep. As cute, and cuddly, and tiny as they may be, caring for a baby can be tiring work. Then to finish the day with a sleepless night? Some might consider that a nightmare.
We get it, it happened, you uttered the words practically sleeps through the night, and then all of a sudden your baby didn’t sleep through the night, at all. Those 20-minute sleep cycles are better known as sleep regression, but trust me and all the other mamas out there: you will get through it.
If this is the first you’ve heard of sleep regression, continue reading; and if it isn’t- still continue reading because surely you’re no expert. No one is. Neither mama, nor doctor, nor sleep psychic is an expert on baby sleep regression. There is no one solution or cure, all it takes is a little knowledge, some helpful tips, and a lot of patience. So continue reading and you just might get it all!
What Is Sleep Regression?
By definition, sleep regression is: A period of time lasting from two to six weeks when a baby experiences poor sleep after a history of sleeping well. This includes fighting naps, frequent awakenings, or extreme fussiness. All babies might experience it different, but all mamas will tell you the same- it WILL happen; to your baby, to your second baby, to every baby.
The most important thing to remember is that it does end and it does not last forever. The most challenging part to accept is that your baby/ toddler’s sleep regression seems to be happening for no apparent reason. You didn’t change their sleep schedule, they’re fed, changed, and seemingly happy- so why now? While there is not one explanation for why it happens, there are common signs and mile markers during a baby’s growth, that sleep regression is more likely to happen.
Common signs and symptoms include: being extra fussy, skipping naps or taking shorter ones, sometimes your baby may be extra “clingy”, want to be snuggled or held, and wake up earlier or more frequently. These are the most commonly described signs of sleep regression and you can also expect sleep regression as your baby approaches a certain age.
When Does Sleep Regression Happen? How Long Will It Last?
Sleep regression is as fickle as your baby might seem at the moment. Your baby may show certain signs during one phase, and different ones during others. They may have more mild sleep regression and then a more powerful one. Regardless of the babe, you can expect to see sleep regression most commonly at 4 months, 8 (or up to10) months, and 18 months. There are other milestones that we will describe below, but you can consider these the uh-oh’s and ones you definitely want to look out for.
Remember that these are also vague indicators, and your baby/ toddler may experience sleep regression slightly early or slightly later than the times described. This is totally normal. And yes, this is still sleep regression. As mentioned above, these bouts of sleep regression do not last forever, and typically don’t run into each other. You can expect to battle sleep regression anywhere between 1 to 6 weeks (and hope for the shorter).
4 Month Sleep Regression:
Of all the sleep regressions your baby will face, you will want to gear up for the 4 month sleep regression, because during this time your baby will experience PERMANENT changes. But rest assured, we mean permanent in a good way. It may not seem good at first; now is the time that your baby will wake frequently and possibly take shorter naps, but it is good in the long run.
By 4 months, your baby is no longer a newborn and is starting to sleep more like an adult- asleep at night and wake during the day. However, your baby will protest these changes, severely, hence the sleep regression. The best thing to do during this time is to accept these changes because they will benefit you both in the long run.
8, 9, & 10 Month Sleep Regression:
Another major milestone, the 8 month sleep regression is also known as the 9 and 10 month sleep regression because a baby can experience it anytime between 8 and 10 months. This sleep regression is also inevitable and all thanks to their little baby brains. During this time in your baby’s life, major developmental milestones are occurring.
They are learning to crawl, pull-up, stand, maybe even cruise a little. Odds are, your baby will be cutting some teeth, and simply put: this just makes for one sleepless, cranky baby. All of these changes are tough for a little guy or gal, but also very exciting, who wouldn’t want to be awake for it?
11 & 12 Month Sleep Regression:
Fortunately for this sleep regression, you might be able to sit this one out. The 11-12 month sleep regression is less common, and frequently described as only refusing to take naps. Specifically, it is a time when babies refuse to take 2 naps. Most parents will heed these tantrums and start to switch their baby to one nap per day, but doctors recommend to continue two naps until at least 15 months of age. If your baby does experience sleep regression at this time, don’t change their schedule just yet, this too shall pass.
18 Month Sleep Regression:
Be prepared, this sleep regression is very much real. There are few babies- well toddlers now, that miss the 18 month sleep regression. This period of change can be attributed to your child’s newfound independence. Specifically that they are a toddler now and no longer a baby. A walking, talking or babbling, independent toddler. That comes with the ability to say NO and give their opinion. It just so happens that their opinion is to not sleep and not take naps.
Their lack of sleep may also be related to new anxiety, separation anxiety which typically begins at this time. Your toddler may have more trouble falling asleep when you step out of the room, and wake up to see that you’re gone, due to separation anxiety. Lastly, during this time your toddler is cutting even more teeth, big ones, molars, and those definitely hurt.
24 Month Sleep Regression:
You’ve made it this far, congrats. You and your toddler have made it this far, all the way to the 24 month/ 2 year sleep regression. This phase is common, but with very uncommon and unique symptoms with each child. During this period, your toddler is now awake more during the day, therefore affecting his sleep cycle.
They may be experiencing big life changes such as potty training, transitioning out of a crib, and perhaps even a new sibling. Plenty of changes to keep them up at night, don’t you think? Lastly, nightmares and night terrors become very real by two years old. Your toddler may be waking up frequently to vivid nightmares.
How To Survive Sleep Regression:
The most important thing to remember here is: you will survive. Like all the other mamas that came before you; by following these simple tips and tricks, you and your baby/ toddler will make the most of their sleepless sleep regression.
- Food! Adding in an extra feeding here or there is not a bad idea. Growth spurts are common during sleep regression so a little extra nourishment can be helpful.
- Comfort, don’t spoil. Always comfort your baby of course, but try not to delineate from their schedule and develop new, bad habits. In the long run, this won’t help you or them.
- Earlier bedtime? This might sound crazy since your baby is already fighting their sleep, but an earlier bedtime is an excellent solution to offering your baby that extra sleep that they actually need during their time of growth and change.
- It takes two. Your partner and others around you will play an important role during this time, by providing support for both you and baby/ toddler. There’s no reason to go it alone. Through the sleep that you’re missing out on, tag in your partner. They should also help reinforce the same habits, and soon your baby will learn and go back to sleep.
- Be flexible, but consistent. Confusing, we know. Overall keep the same routines in place, but a missed nap here or there isn’t going to change your schedule permanently. This is merely a reminder to be intuitive with your baby and listen to their needs during this time of change.
- Create or keep a calming environment. While your baby most likely has all the relaxation help they need already; soothing sounds, a nice swaddle, etc., be sure to keep it this way. A fight against sleep does not mean a new environment is needed.
- Mamas know best. No one can help you with sleep regression more than a mama who has already been through it. Take advice, ask for help, and consider other mamas tips and tricks while developing your own techniques. A helping hand could be your greatest survival tool.
Baby Sleep Regression – You’ll Get Through!
As adults we ask ourselves: don’t they want to sleep? It’s amazing how much our sweet little angels can protest something that we find sooooo relaxing. The key is, with time they will learn. Sleep regression is merely a phase and not a permanent change, so don’t give in and never give up.
You’ll find the most common times of sleep regression are at 4, 8, and 18 months, but your baby/ toddler may experience at any time. At least now you know and you will be armed with the tools necessary to make the most of it. In the meantime, all the other mamas out there will be wishing you luck and sweet, peaceful, zzzzzz’s.
Looking for more help dealing with baby sleep regression? I’m no doctor, but as a Mom of two little ones I can certainly offer you my advice. Please feel free to contact us and I’d be happy to help!
And for all other sleep, mattress or bedding help visit Our Sleep Guide.