Sleep Regressions: Everything You Need to Know

Your little one has been sleeping like an angel for the past month. They effortlessly go to bed, are easy to resettle, and only wake to feed. Then, all of a sudden, they begin to fight you at bedtime, scream for hours, and won’t sleep for longer than 30 minutes. What in the world happened?! Well, the bad news is, they have most likely hit a sleep regression. The good news? They only last a few weeks. I know, I know. A few weeks of sleepless nights seem like a lifetime. I hear ya. But it’s important to remember that they pass and you will get through them. So, what are sleep regressions? What causes them? What are the best ways to get through sleep regressions? Good questions, let’s dive in.

What are Sleep Regressions?

Well, they are exactly what they sound like. A sleep regression occurs when an infant regresses from sleeping well to having trouble falling or staying asleep.

What Causes a Sleep Regression?

Remember those amazing developmental leaps we discussed last week (read part I and part II)? Yup. Those are why. Whether it’s learning a new skill or experiencing separation anxiety, developmental leaps are a major cause of sleep regressions in infants. It is possible for your little one to experience up to four regressions during their first year at four, six, eight, and twelve months. All are linked to developmental leaps.

Other reasons your little one may be experiencing sleep regressions are:

  • Changes in schedules – like starting daycare
  • Traveling
  • Illness
  • Teething

What are the Signs of a Sleep Regression?

Babies, like adults, can just have “off” nights when it comes to sleeping. Maybe their tummy is upset or there is a noise that keeps waking them. These nights are not considered regressions, especially if they only occur a night here and a night there. Sleep regressions are prolonged and last from 2-4 weeks. Here are signs of a sleep regression:

  • Crying when put down to bed
  • Trouble falling asleep
  • Frequent waking throughout the night
  • Short naps
  • Increased fussiness

Can you Prevent Sleep Regressions?

This is a very common question among parents. Unfortunately, no, you cannot avoid sleep regressions. This is because they are linked to cognitive and physical developments. However, the disposition of your child can affect how minimal or severe they are. You may also notice major differences in sleep regression severity from one of your children to the next. They truly are an individual experience.

How to Make it Through Sleep Regressions

Familiarizing yourself with when and why your little one experiences sleep regressions is key to getting through them. During these regressions, your little one needs extra love, understanding, and patience. So, here are a few things you can do to get through them in one piece:

  • Do not let your little one become overtired, be strict with nap and bedtimes
  • Shower them with extra daytime love and snuggles
  • Stick to your bedtime routine, or implement one if you haven’t already
  • Consider a sleep training program, we are always available to assist with this
  • Try some of these healthy sleep practices

Sleep regressions can be very trying experiences for even the most on-top-of-it parents. But being prepared, understanding the basics, and having an action plan will make them just a little easier to get through.

If you are interested in sleep training or need assistance with sleep regressions, we have specially trained doulas on staff who ready to help either virtually or in-person.

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