For new parents’ baby sleep regression may come as a surprise, you have spent the last few months establishing a routine for your baby and baby is sleeping well. Then, just as your bundle of joy seems to have settled into sleeping bliss, they hit the 4-month mark and you are hit with more sleepless nights.
This is what experts describe as sleep regression. But you will be relieved to know this is temporary!
Sleep regression is a short period of time (although to tired parents, it could feel like a lifetime), usually lasting between three to six weeks where you have trouble settling your baby, they wake up frequently during the night, they are restless, and your baby takes fewer naps during the day. Not to be confused with sleep disruptions, which are caused by illness, teething or change in routine – sleep regression is a sign of brain development and growth shift, necessary for all growing babies.
Baby sleep regression usually happens at predictable periods of your baby’s development and you can therefore generally prepare yourself for it. Your baby’s sleep will fluctuate at around these stages of growth:
4 months: At 4 months an infant’s natural sleep patterns begin to evolve. Your baby is getting more active and they start to sleep less. This is all part of their normal development that will cause them to wake up frequently, not sleep as deeply, fussiness, change in appetite and less napping during the day.
Where rocking and singing put your baby to sleep in the past it will now be stimulating for your baby. At this stage it is advisable to reduce distractions like light, noise, temperature and continue to have a set sleep routine.
8 months: At 8 months your baby is growing and learning, becoming much more aware of their environment and space. Your baby is becoming more mobile, scooting, crawling, and pulling themselves up. They are developing language skills at an astonishing rate and understand more of your words daily.
With all these developmental leaps your baby will again experience sleep regression due to pure activeness of their mind and motor skills. At 8 months your baby needs less sleep and will stay awake longer during the day this can lead to disturbed night sleep. Your baby will also be going through separation anxiety at this stage of development which will make it harder for them to settle.
The best thing to do in this stage of sleep regression is to keep to your sleep routine consistent – from dinner, bath, book, singing and comforting. Also ensure your baby is getting enough sleep in the daytime so they are not over tired by bedtime.
12 months: At around 12 months babies will start taking their first steps (some take a little longer), this newfound mobility is a big milestone and can cause the dreaded sleep regression to return, but remember it is temporary.
18 months: At 18 months your budding toddler has sprouted into ball of energy, sleep regression at this stage is thought to be the toughest of the sleep regressions. As your baby is so much more aware at this point in their growth and development, they are more susceptible to nightmares, fear of the dark, or separation anxiety topped with toddler teething.
Is this sleep regression avoidable? Sadly no, this is totally normal progression for babies and toddlers. Again, stick to a consistent bedtime routine, a simple example is bath, pyjamas, brushing teeth and reading a book will do wonders. Know it will not last forever!
Some sleep regression tips for parents and children:
- Patience is key! Take deep breaths and remain calm. The more relaxed parents are the calmer your baby/ toddler with be
- Establish bedtime routines early in your baby’s life and stick to them! Distinguish between distractions and soothing
- Avoid big changes to baby’s daily life – no need to change to big beds, move rooms or potty train during sleep regression phases
- If you allow your child to watch television, limit screen time and do not allow screens while in their crib or beds.
So, although sleep regression is not going to be fun for anyone in the household, know it is a very natural developmental process and life will soon return to normal. Stick to routines, stay reassuring and calm for your little bundle of joy and your baby will be sleeping sound in the blink of an eye.