Just when you thought you were out of the woods with baby sleep, then BAM another sneaky little regression creeps in without warning. Before you know it you’re back to assisting your little one to sleep or back to frequent night wakes. The struggle. is. real. The first two years of your baby’s life will see plenty of these frustrating regressions. But let me tell you, if you are prepared for it and understand what is going on, are on top of sleep hygiene and are in a good routine, you can be equipped to better support your baby/toddler through these regressions.
What is a sleep regression?
I call them “regressions” mainly because that is what most people refer to them as. But if you have been following me on instagram you will know that I prefer the term “progression”. This is because your little one is actually progressing. Their brain is developing at an insane rate, they’re growing physically all the time and are learning new skills every few months, thus, progressing. And it’s this progression of the brain and body that results in these “regressions’ in sleep.
Why does it impact sleep?
These developmental leaps can disrupt sleep for a few reasons:
- Because there is so much going on neurologically, your baby might struggle to wind down and “switch off” enough to settle easily to sleep.
- Separation anxiety often peaks around these developmental periods and so they may have a hard time being separated from you at nap and bedtimes.
- In order to master these skills, your little one might want to practice overnight or in the early morning.
- Once your little one has got the hang of this new skill, they may be so impressed with themselves that doing these things instead of sleeping is far more exciting.
- They might be too distracted to feed during the day and so will pick up an extra feed overnight to make up for this.
How do these developmental periods impact sleep?
Regression related sleep disruption, often shows up as the following:
- Resisting or refusing naps
- Taking a much longer time to settle for naps and bedtime
- Waking more overnight and staying awake for long periods
- Waking up early to start the day
The above points can also be related to a change in sleep needs. So it is always good to first rule out too much day sleep. Too much day sleep can cause all of the above points. Make sure you’re on track with day sleep totals by checking out my FREE 3-12 Month Schedules and 1-3 Year Old Schedules.
What are the common sleep regression ages?
It can sometimes feel as if there is a sleep regression every month. If it’s not teething or illness it’s a regression right?! It is also important to bear in mind that your little one can’t read a calendar and won’t necessarily adhere to these “prescribed” regression ages. With that being said, here are the most common regression ages:
- 8 Week Progression – this is linked to maternal melatonin running out and your little one needing total darkness to settle and sleep well. It’s a small one and often goes unnoticed.
- 4 Month Progression – this is when your little one’s sleep matures from newborn sleep cycles to more adult like sleep cycles often resulting in more fragmented night sleep and catnapping.
- 6 Month Progression – this one is linked to physical milestones like sitting unassisted and crawling. It’s another small one that not all babies will experience.
- 8-10 Month Progression – in my experience working with clients, this is a tough one. It typically lasts on and off for a month and is linked to physical milestones like crawling and pulling to stand. There is also a peak in separation anxiety at this age! If you have a sensitive or slow to warm up baby, this one can hit hard. But don’t stress, it will pass!
- 12-15 Month Progression – like the other regressions, this one is linked to a physical milestone (walking) and a nap transition (2 to 1 nap). There is also a peak in separation anxiety and your little one might have a hard time being separated from you.
- 2 Year Progression – There is a MAJOR development in language as your little one approaches the 2 year mark and this is often the reason behind this regression. Your little one will have an increased awareness of the world, will be more vocal about what they want and will want to stay awake practicing their language skills.
What else can cause a regression in sleep?
Besides developmental leaps and physical milestones, regressions in sleep can happen for the following reasons:
- Starting daycare
- Mom going back to work
- Other big life changes (i.e. moving house, death in the family etc.)
How can I support sleep during these times?
We can’t control when your little one will go through a regression or how long it will last, but we can support your little one through it to make it an easier time for them. Here are my top tips for supporting our littles through these developmental periods:
- Have a consistent routine with regular nap and bedtimes, this helps to set their circadian rhythm and their little bodies will come to expect sleep at these times. Watch my Nap and Nap Transitions Masterclass for help with setting up an age appropriate routine. Or grab my FREE schedules for babies and toddlers.
- Offer lots of connection during the day, fill your little one’s tank by meeting their unique needs. Like adults, every baby has a love language and finding out what your baby’s unique needs are is a super power! This really helps with separation anxiety too.
- Get their wiggles out especially if your little one is trying to master a physical milestone. Make sure they are getting enough floor time to practice their skills throughout the day and enough proprioceptive input to calm the nervous system before bed.
- Make sure your little one is getting a nice wind down routine that involves connection and calm, a dimly lit room can help by encouraging the production of melatonin.
If this all feels too overwhelming, know that it doesn’t have to be that way! This is exactly why I created my Baby and Toddler Sleep Guides: to take out the overwhelm, eliminate self-doubt and bring joy and peace back into the home. Baby sleep can be tough to navigate on your own but you don’t need to tackle it by yourself! Have all the info you need to improve sleep and reach your goals right at your finger tips!
Click the guide that is relevant to your baby’s age below:
I need help with Newborn Settling and Sleep
I need help with my Baby’s Sleep (3-12 Months)