Has your baby hit a regression in their sleep? Are you struggling with how to navigate this new set back? Although we hate them, sleep regressions are normal, temporary and often coincide with surges in development. As our babies grow, new skills will emerge and as the skills develop, we often see disruption in their sleep.
What exactly are developmental milestones?
Developmental milestones are progressions in our child’s physical, cognitive, emotional and social skills that occur around certain ages. From rolling to crawling, cooing to talking, our children amaze us as they transition right before our eyes. Sleep regressions often appear around the same time due to the hard work that your baby needs to put in to learn and master their new skill.
Most parents who have a good sleeper are often alarmed, panicked or worried when this occurs. Even as a sleep consultant I’ve been there and totally get that the mere thought of going back down the tunnel of no sleep is terrifying. If your little one has hit a recent bump in their quality of sleep, check to see if you notice any emerging new developments.
Common Ages for Developmental Progressions & Sleep Regression
Please know that each baby is different so the timing may vary, and their sleep may not be affected by these growths. Some babies may only experience a setback in their sleep for one or two ages listed below and some may not experience any setbacks at all!
The 4-month sleep regression is hands down the most talked-about sleep regression and the one most babies experience. It can occur as early as 8 weeks or as late as 5 months. During this time babies are transitioning from new-born sleep to adult sleep, which consists of adding two more lighter stages of sleep to their sleep cycle.
This sleep regression can occur anytime between 8-10 months. This age has huge growth both physically and cognitively. They are learning to crawl, sit up, pull up and are absorbing language like crazy! This is also a time where they can stay awake for longer stretches and may be shifting from 3 to 2 naps a day.
Less common but can still show up and cause a bit of sleep regression. Most often naps become the BIG challenge during this time as infants can stay awake for longer periods between naps as their bodies are getting ready to transition to 1 nap a day but often aren’t fully ready yet.
This one can be tough and typically occurs between 17-18 months of age. Factors often attributed to this sleep regression is your toddler’s newfound independence, separation anxiety and/or teething (the dreaded molars).
This age is a bit more complicated and sleep regressions could be for a variety of reasons. Their awake periods are growing longer, potty training or other big changes may be occurring in the home like a new sibling. This is also a time where nightmares or night terrors may show up.
Tips to Help you Through the Sleep Regression
Sleep regression can last anywhere from 1-6 weeks. Even though sleep regressions are temporary, they can be super challenging for both parents and baby. Here are a few tips to help you cope WITHOUT undoing all the sleep coaching progress you’ve made up to this point:
Our first response when we see a problem is to try and fix it. Even though sleep regressions are bound to mess up your usual schedule, you should try to keep your bedtime and naptime routine before sleep the same. During a time where your baby is experiencing and learning new things, it helps to keep some things familiar. If it looks and feels the same, it provides predictability and comfort which will help settle them before putting them down for the night.
You may need to provide a bit more comfort or help assist them out of the uncomfortable positions they get themselves into. However, try not to change up their whole routine or introduce old sleep props to help get them back to sleep. This can create an external dependency and will make things substantially harder for you in the long run.
Lean on your support system
There will likely be some frustrating days and nights with less sleep than normal. During those tough days reach out to those supporters around you. Remember it takes a village to raise a child and it’s ok to ask and accept help.
Nap times may be a bit more challenging during this period. If naps are a bit short and your little one is tired feel free to move bedtime a bit earlier. This will help them catch up on sleep and to avoid becoming overtired.
During big developmental and growth changes comes an increased appetite. Don’t be afraid to offer some extra feeds if your little one is asking for it.
Practice, practice, practice those new skills during their awake period. The more we can help them master their new skills the quicker we can all go back to sleep. Brita from Progress Through Play has some great videos to show you how to help your little one master those skills!
At the end of the day, we just need to hang in there, lean on our supports and stay consistent. If we do our part our little ones should go back to being great sleepers once they’ve mastered their new skills!
Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant &
Founder of Mountains of Sleep
I am also a mother who gave birth to a daughter that wasn’t a great sleeper. I have lived the sleepless life, tried all the tricks of the trade and have come out the other side to share my story and support others.
Through gentle, customized and personalized sleep support, I help sleep-deprived parents get their little ones sleeping through the night and taking nice restorative naps during the day. This mama is judgment-free, and on a mission to help exhausted families get full night sleeps back into their homes!