Just when you feel your baby is finally sleeping well, settling into a pattern, what happens? A sleep regression. Only you might not realise it’s a sleep regression. You might even think that sleep regressions are just a myth. Unfortunately not. Sleep regressions are real, and they can be hard work too. Here’s some information on when to expect a sleep regression and why they occur.
What is a sleep regression?
Simply put, a sleep regression is a period of time in which your baby’s sleep is severely disrupted. Perhaps she starts to wake every 20 minutes, after having slept for good stretches previously. Perhaps she starts to skip naps, or wake early from them. Perhaps she had previously been sleeping all night and is now waking? Whatever the form of the regression, chances are you were caught off guard.
Why do sleep regressions occur?
So what causes a sleep regression? Something you did? Not exactly. Most sleep regressions occur at similar stages in your baby’s development, but remember that all babies are different so not all babies will experience the same thing at the same time. A sleep regression might pass you by completely (you lucky thing!) but as a general rule, sleep regressions occur at around four months, eight months, 11 months, 18 months and two years.
What causes the sleep regressions?
As they occur during different stages of your baby’s life, different things cause each regression. It can be hard to pinpoint specific causes for each regression, but simply put changes that occur during your baby’s development affect her sleep. Think of how her rapidly her brain is growing and developing, and how fast she’s learning new skills etc. It’s little wonder sleep is also affected by this development! Here’s a quick guide to each regression.
This is usually the stage where parents notice the first change in their baby’ sleeping habits. Babies at around four months of age start to ditch their newborn sleeping habits and adopt a more ‘unsettled’ routine of waking more frequently and shorter naps. Babies at this age don’t enter a deep sleep as easily as they once did, and this often results in them waking up (and fussing) as soon as you lie them in bed. Getting your baby to sleep for the first part of the night is usually quite difficult during this regression, and her waking later might be an issue too- she may wake in the early hours and find it hard to go back to sleep again. The habits that your baby picks up during this period are likely to be long lasting unfortunately, so it’s more important than ever to have a good bedtime routine established by this point.
Sometimes occurring at nine, or even ten months, this sleep regression has a lot to do with development. Your baby is learning so many new skills right now and her language understanding is growing too. Your baby is also making great leaps towards physical skills such as learning to crawl, cruise and even walk. And then there is teething. All manner of reasons why sleep is not on her agenda.
11/ 12 months
This sleep regression is perhaps less common and is usually noticed during naps rather than night time sleep. That said, sleep breed sleep so if your baby is not napping well then her night time sleep is affected too. You might notice that your baby starts to refuse her nap, or wants to skip one altogether. At this stage she still needs two good naps per day (think of the 2,2,4 schedule) and this regression simply needs time to work through.
Now that your baby is more toddler than baby- walking and talking too- this sleep regression can be hard work. Your toddler wants more independence, and resisting sleep can be one way of showing you that. Why go to bed when there is so much fun to be had elsewhere? Tantrums are common at this age too, making bedtime a potential minefield. Oh, and don’t forget teething still isn’t done by this point either.
The two year sleep regression can be tricky because your toddler now really does need less sleep than she did before. There are also some big transitions happening around this stage, such as potty training, moving into a new bed etc. This sleep regression can be hard work!
How to deal with sleep a regression
Sleep regressions are hard work. Get help from your partner, family or friends. Look to adjust your bedtime routine and perhaps move bedtime a little earlier if naps have been an issue that day. Try to stick to your schedule as closely as you can, giving your baby reliable sleep cues every day. And remember… this too shall pass.