Is Baby Going Through Sleep Regression? What It Is and How To Help
Sleep regression could make getting your baby on a good sleep schedule a challenge.
Many parents know how much time, work and patience it takes to get baby to sleep. When they finally get on a good sleep schedule, it feels like a huge victory—and a huge relief! It can be really difficult when your little one, who was finally sleeping through the night, begins waking up during the night without explanation. This is known as sleep regression.
You may wonder what changed: are they waking up because of what they ate? Or is it something you did? Your mind may race with the possibilities!
The truth is, this is a very common experience for parents. If baby was sleeping well through the night and then suddenly starts to have issues with sleep, they may be going through sleep regression. This is a common infant and baby experience and will pass with time. Learn more about what sleep regression is, why it happens, and when you can expect these periods of regression. Additionally, we have some ideas to help!
What is sleep regression?
Sleep regression is when a baby who once had a good sleep pattern reverts back to having frequent wake-ups, crying during the night, or has difficulty falling asleep. Sleep regression is more than just a night or two of bad sleep. It is a period of time when these sleep issues happen consistently, especially following a period of baby having a more typical sleep pattern. Some signs of sleep regression are:
- Fussiness during the night
- Taking longer to fall asleep
- Fewer naps during the daytime
How long does sleep regression last? Typically, babies regress for 2-6 weeks, but this can vary. If baby has already been prone to wake ups, you may not even notice a regression at all.
Why does sleep regression occur—and does sleep regression mean something is wrong? Sleep regression is very common, so it does not mean anything is wrong. In fact, sleep regression is usually a part of baby’s development. As they progress, their body and rhythms change, which means their sleep schedule changes too. That said, if you haven’t experienced sleep regression or are expecting a little one, it may be best to prepare yourself in case this happens!
When does sleep regression typically occur? Sleep regression can occur any time during the early years of life. Some sleep experts have honed in on a few key periods when sleep regression occurs. They say sleep regression most often occurs at 4, 8, 12 and 18 months of age, but every baby is different. It won’t necessarily happen at exactly those times.
The most common regression period seems to be the 4-month sleep regression. This is because baby starts to develop an internal clock at this age that tells them when to wake up and when to go to sleep. As they’re getting used to their internal clock, they may be more likely to wake up and cry during periods of lighter sleep.
As for the other periods that are common for sleep regression to occur, this is because baby is going through developmental changes during those times. Things like developing motor skills and teething can greatly impact baby’s sleep. As they achieve new milestones, they may experience sleep regressions.
What can you do if baby is experiencing sleep regression? Sometimes sleep regression just takes a few weeks to pass, so these tips may have varied success. These are some best practices to follow, which may also help to shorten periods of sleep regression.
- Help baby learn how to self-soothe: Self-soothing is when baby learns to calm themselves. Babies typically learn to self-soothe starting around 4 months, and this is strengthened by 6 months. You can help your baby learn to self-soothe by putting them to sleep while drowsy, but still awake. This will help them learn to fall asleep on their own.
- Make sure baby is getting enough to eat: As baby grows, they need more to eat. Being hungry is something that can wake them up. Make sure your little one is getting enough to eat.
- Follow a sleep schedule as best you can: Even at a young age, baby notices patterns. When you create a bedtime routine, baby will notice that you’re preparing for sleep, which may help with self-soothing and relaxation. Consider making feeding or bath time routines to help get baby ready for bed. Cues such as the room being calm or dark and reading a story can help baby associate this time with bedtime. Along with your nighttime routine, try to stick to relatively similar times for naps during the day. Of course, these times will change as baby gets older, and there will be some variation from day to day! However, sticking with a general routine of the same times every day can help.
- Be patient: Remember that sleep regression typically lasts 2-6 weeks, so it may take time for baby to adjust.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help: Sleep disruptions don’t impact only baby. Caring for a baby going through sleep regression can be exhausting for you, too. Be sure to reach out for support for yourself if you need it.
Talk to a healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns about baby’s sleep.