Sleep regression: two words you’ll never hear in your life until you become a parent. And when it happens, there’s nothing more exhausting, frustrating and confusing. So what IS sleep regression? Sleep regression is a time in your baby’s life when their sleep patterns shift and it causes a big disturbance in their overall sleep and sleep patterns. It can be a really confusing time, especially for new parents, but having some background and knowledge in it will help you and your baby get over it as quickly as possible.
What Causes Sleep Regression?
Your baby was such a great sleeper, what happened? Most sleep regressions are caused by growth spurts, which are ultimately a positive thing, but can absolutely be nerve wracking as well. If it’s not a growth spurt it can also be teething, new changes in schedule (did they start a new daycare or get a new caretaker?), or in some cases it can be illness such as a cold or ear infection.
When Does Sleep Regression Happen?
The most common sleep regression timeframes are 4 months, 8 months and 18 months.
4 Month Regression:
The four month one can be rough, as most babies finally start to sleep in longer stretches during that time and now they’re suddenly awake, fussy and barely sleeping. This first regression is almost always due to a growth spurt or development. Their little brains are developing at a rapid pace and it’s interrupting their sleep. They’re more aware of their surroundings, and becoming more engaged with their family members, which can be really exciting for someone who is new to this world. Some signs of a sleep regression include: fussiness, waking up multiple times at night, shorter naps, decreased or increased appetite. What can you do about it? Routines are very important. Make sure they have a proper bedtime routine, the room is dark and cool and they’re well fed. Offer extra love and attention and this 4 month one will pass fairly quickly.
8 Month Regression:
The 8 month regression may last longer than the 4 month one. Most times the 8 month regression will last 3-6 weeks. So what causes the 8 month regression? Most of the time it’s a major shift in schedule, is your baby ready for a new feeding schedule? Are they ready to drop a nap? Are they starting to crawl? Just starting talking? There is a lot going on with your baby right now so it makes sense that they’re too excited to sleep. What can you do about it? It’s very important to keep them on the same schedule they’ve been on and not start new bad habits to help soothe your baby--like rocking them to bed. It’s important to keep things consistent and help your baby get over the regression quickly.
18 Month Regression:
This regression may feel different than the previous two, it’ll come quickly and feel very abrupt. Your baby may have been sleeping well for a year and suddenly they’re protesting going to sleep, waking up constantly, or just refusing to nap entirely. This regression happens at a time when your baby is starting to become more independent, has more advanced fine motor skills and is walking (maybe even running) without issues. This sleep regression is associated with brain development and physical milestones. You’ll notice your little baby isn’t so little anymore, they had a big growth sprout, are possibly getting some new teeth and are exploring more than ever. This is also the time when separation anxiety is heightened. They may be concerned about what is going to happen if you leave them alone to sleep. What can you do about it? Again, keeping things consistent is key, if you feel like it’s separation anxiety, make sure to talk to your child and reassure them that you’ll be back after they nap (and always keep it the same) and if it’s teething or developmental milestones, all you can do is love and support them until it passes.
Your baby may only have 1 or all 3 sleep regressions, but don’t worry mama, it’ll pass. Some regressions may last a week, and some may last up to 6 weeks, but the most important thing is to keep things consistent for your baby and always give them plenty of love and support to help it pass.