Very often families come to me and tell me that their baby’s sleeping habits have changed, so much so that they’re virtually unrecognisable from the baby that was sleeping good stretches and settling easily. I’m asked whether it’s a sleep regression, or a phase they’re going through, or just a bad habit they’ve developed. So today I thought I would write a little something about all three, with a little guide to deciphering just what is going on when baby decides enough is enough and sleep is not on the agenda after all!
The first sleep regression that your baby experiences is around the age of four months and this is usually the most common time that parents will contact me, exhausted and worried that their baby will never sleep again! After this regression, it’s important to note that your baby never really sleeps the same again. But that’s not always a bad thing! At around eight months there is another regression, that usually rectifies itself after around 3-6 weeks, and your baby returns to her previous sleeping patterns. Whether that is good for you or not! Read more on regressions here.
So other than the regressions above, any other changes in your baby’s sleep are not likely to be regressions…
A phase is what we refer to when a baby starts to change her sleep habits for seemingly no reason. I say seemingly, because there is always a reason really, its just that its not always that obvious. So around the age of seven months babies can start to experience separation anxiety, and this can affect sleep. Developmental leaps can affect sleep.Teething and illness can affect sleep. All of this can be classed as a phase, and that means that it will pass.
Sleep habits are harder to break, but easier to make. Habits can occur as a result of a regression or a phase, and its important to be able to spot it when it happens. Usually, if a new sleep pattern has stuck around for 2-3 weeks without an obvious reason (a new tooth, a new trick, or an illness etc) then it’s possible its a habit. So if baby starts to wake at 3am despite sleeping through previously, and there’s no reason for her to wake then, its most likely to be a habit.
Breaking bad habits
First of all, habits are only bad if they affect you and you’re bothered by them. If waking regularly at 5am to start the day is not a problem for you, then it shouldn’t be a problem for anyone else either. But if it is something you could do without, then its a habit that requires action.
Gentle sleep training methods can be used to help your baby to develop better sleep habits. See this post on the Michi Method for more information on the techniques I use with my families.
How to tell the difference between a regression, phase or habit
Use your instincts. Only you know your baby so only you know if there is something amiss sleep wise. As already mentioned, sleep regressions do happen, and some babies seem to go through more than others. But generally, a regression means that sleep returns to normal after a period of 2-3 weeks. So it’s a case of riding it out. If a regression causes bad habits, you can only really know if those habits have stuck around after another 2 weeks or so. So patience and consistency really is key here. Stick to your routine and make sure that bedtimes and nap times are as calm and positive as possible. As for phases? Repeat after me: This too shall pass.