Sleep Regression: Ages and Everything You Need To Know
Little Yawn Collective - Oct 30, 2021
Just last week, you were bragging to your bestie about what a good little sleeper your sweet baby is. All those horror stories about waking up several times throughout the night to a night full of fussiness.
And not to toot your own horn or anything, but your infant is practically snoozing from sun-down to sun-up with ease and can pretty much nap on command. (toot, toot!)
But then, what appears to be seemingly out of nowhere, your perfect little snoozer suddenly transforms into a ball of energy wanting nothing more than to prevent you from getting even a wink of shut-eye. What gives?
While you might call it karma for not appreciating sleep when you had it, we call it sleep regression.
An inevitable part of your little one’s development, some kids will breeze right through these regressions with no noticeable problem. Meanwhile, others will force you to kiss those date nights goodbye (well, at least temporarily).
Interested in learning more? Little Yawn Collective is here to help! Read on as we explore sleep regressions to uncover why they happen and, most importantly, how to handle them.
Sweet dreams, ahead!
What Is Sleep Regression?
In a nutshell, sleep regressions are disturbances during slumber for little ones who were previously sleeping well.
Parents often describe being caught totally off guard: you think you’ve conquered all your baby’s sleep challenges when all of a sudden, life throws a curveball, and you’re back to constant night wakings and nonexistent naps.
Frustrating at best and unable to keep your eyes open at worst, sleep regressions can turn the most composed parent into a bleary-eyed zombie running on fumes and caffeine.
When Does Sleep Regression Occur?
Unfortunately, sleep regressions can strike without any warning. While this can certainly cause you to get flustered and even overwhelmed, the thing to remember is that sleep is a dynamic process. Your little buddy’s sleep quality and quantity will continue to evolve throughout their growth and development.
In other words, what you’re experiencing with your sweet pea is perfectly normal as it just means they’re growing up (cue the tissues). And just like when your baby first struggled to find sleep in the early post-hospital days — this too shall pass.
While not all infants will experience all the sleep regressions, just about all of them will, however, experience the dreaded 4-month sleep regression.
Basically unavoidable and arguably the worst, this regression can occur anytime between three and four months and is often the most challenging for parents simply because it’s the first.
The next sleep regression typically takes place at about six months old.
At this age, your tiny tot begins to understand “object permanence,” which is just a fancy-schmancy way of describing an essential cognitive skill.
Simply put, it means your baby now understands that things they can’t see — you, a pet, their stuffed animal — still exist.
What does this have to do with sleep regression, you ask?
Well, also, by this age, babies are usually capable of sleeping through the night. However, due to “object permanence,” they may wake up and fuss simply because they miss you and want to snuggle. While midnight snuggles may sound sweet, we promise — it’s not.
The nine-month sleep regression can start anywhere around the 8-month mark and can show up as late as ten months.
At this point in your tiny tot’s life, your little buddy will be crawling, pulling to stand, and some motivated babies may even start to walk. There’s a whole lot of excitement in the air, so it’s no wonder that your sweet pea has more important things to do than catch zzzs.
Welcome to your little one’s first birthday!
At 12 months, many babies start to walk and talk. Of course, sleep is a total bore, and their desire to explore their newfound powers often supersedes their desire to snooze.
What Causes Sleep Regression?
There are several culprits that can cause your child’s restlessness, ultimately leading to sleep regression. Here are some of them:
In the first 12-months, babies have a lot of growth spurts. These spurts of rapid growth require a whole lot of energy, meaning your little one’s appetite is likely to increase.
Since babies aren’t able to help themselves to a snack the moment they feel rumbly in their tummy, they cry. And they will continue to cry — despite being 2 a.m. — until they get your attention and are fed.
When your small bundle hits the teething milestone, sleep regression is not uncommon to follow suit. Why? Because teething can be excruciatingly painful for a toothy tot. The pressure is so painful that it can keep them from snoozing soundly through the night.
Sleep regressions tend to coincide with developmental milestones. So while you’re probably super psyched about your sweet pea learning to stand, it’s most likely the same reason why their slumber is suffering.
So why do sleep regressions coincide with development milestones, you ask?
More often than not, it’s due to pure excitement. Whether it’s rolling, crawling, or standing, babies get a big thrill out of practicing their newfound skills. This is why you might find your newly standing party animal throwing crib parties in the middle of the night when they should be dreaming.
Nothing can throw a monkey wrench in baby sleep more than a new routine.
Babies are creatures of habit. To you, eating the same exact thing every day may seem boring (and a bit compulsive), but in the big and sometimes scary world your little one lives in, having routines they can count on is a huge source of comfort.
That being said, young children are often rigidly resistant to change, dissolving into tears and tantrums when their beloved routine is altered in any way, shape, or form. Additionally, these meltdowns can easily rile up your little buddy, making it much more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Feeling especially crummy due to an illness and quality shut-eye are like water and oil — they don’t mix. If your infant’s sleep behavior changes suddenly, check for signs like fever and congestion to make sure they’re not sick.
What Are the Signs of Sleep Regression?
One of the main signs that your little buddy is going through regression is that your baby’s sleep patterns take a turn for the worst. Of course, no two babies are exactly alike, so the signs can vary from tot to tot.
That being said, if your baby exhibits any of the signs below, there’s a good chance a regression is to blame:
Your perfect little snoozer was on team pro-nap, but suddenly, you’ve been finding yourself up against an anti-nap riot. What in the world is going on?
Sleep regression, that’s what.
Frequent Night Waking
Another surefire sign of a sleep regression is that your little one will begin waking up much more often than normal.
This inability to snooze through the night could be due to many reasons, but more often than not, night waking is a result of a developmental milestone, teething pain, or even overtiredness.
Trouble Falling Asleep
If your baby is suddenly struggling to close their peepers and drift off to dreamland — whether that be at naptime or nighttime — there’s a good possibility they are going through a regression.
You see, trouble falling asleep is typically a result of overtiredness. And overtiredness can stem from many things, such as illness, developmental milestones, teething, and growth spurts.
In other words, sleep trouble is often caused by overtiredness which is a result of poor sleep which may be due to a regression.
Keeping this in mind, if your sweet pea is experiencing regression and, therefore, struggling to fall asleep, allowing them to skip their nap will only make their sleep worse — much, much worse. Remember, sleep begets sleep.
How Can I Help My Baby Sleep?
There’s no magic spell or secret formula to manage sleep regressions (sorry!). There are, however, a few things you can do to help your tiny tot snooze. Here are some of them:
A Bedtime Routine
Remember how we touched on a baby’s love for routines a bit earlier? Well, this adoration applies to ALL routines — especially bedtime routines.
A predictable bedtime routine creates a sense of comfort that can be really helpful during a sleep regression for your little buddy. Their tiny body might be experiencing change, but their sleepytime routine isn’t!
Remember, babies are creatures of habit. So pick a few snoozy pre-bedtime activities and do them consistently every night at roughly the same time to signal sleep time.
A good bedtime routine might include a warm bubble bath, a soothing massage with nourishing body lotion, a cuddly story, and a sweet lullaby before turning off the lights.
Knowing Sleep Cues
To avoid dealing with an incredibly fussy baby due to overtiredness, it’s of the utmost importance to learn your little one’s sleepy cues. You see, the goal is to catch the signs of sleepiness so that you can put your snoozy tot down for a nap before they ever get the chance to become overtired.
Baby sleep regressions can put you right on the struggle bus. In other words, if you want to keep your sanity, avoid overtiredness like the plague.
Start Sleep Training
Sleep training isn’t for everyone, but it may help your little buddy figure out how to drift off to sleep, soothe themselves, and fall back asleep without any assistance — all of which can be especially helpful during a sleep regression.
There are many different ways to sleep train your baby, including the following:
- Cry It Out method
- Ferber method
- Chair method
- Bedtime fading method
- Pick up, put down method
Finding what works best for you and your little one might take a little trial and error. So be patient and know happier bedtimes are right around the corner!
How Long Does Sleep Regression Last?
When your sweet snoozy angel usually sleeps like a champ but suddenly stops with their normal patterns, it can be extremely frustrating — especially if they just got used to a great bedtime routine.
Thankfully, sleep regressions aren’t permanent, and before you know it, your little dreamer will return back to normal.
That being said, as long as you don’t introduce any bad habits during the regression, these not-so-wonderful phases should last no more than two to six weeks. However, keep in mind that all babies are different, and the exact duration can vary from tot to tot.
To get through sleep regressions with your sanity intact— consistency is key.
Stick to the bedtime routine, enforce naps, and hold your ground. We won’t lie to you; laying down the law to a teary-eyed snuggle bug is tough. But your baby’s sleep — and your sleep — depend on it.
When Should I Call My Pediatrician?
While sleep regression will very likely end all on its own in due time, if you have any questions or concerns, never hesitate to pick up the phone and call the pediatrician. These doctors are experts in “all things baby” and can often calm a concerned parent’s worries fairly quickly.
If your sweet pea is unconsolable, however, or has other concerning symptoms — don’t wait it out and make an appointment post-haste. A fever, runny nose, cough, rash, tugging on the ears, or other symptoms of pain may indicate an illness or infection rather than sleep regression.
No matter what age your little buddy experiences a sleep regression, it can take a whole lot of work to help get them through it. And even then, after trying your best, they still might struggle with sleep. But don’t worry — you’ve got this.
Here at Little Yawn Collective, we know how challenging sleep can be for a growing tot. And when the baby isn’t sleeping, you’re not sleeping. This often results in an overtired infant and a super irritable parent — not exactly a great combo!
That’s why we created our science-backed, pediatrician-approved sleepy essentials.
Designed with your sweet baby in mind and efficiency, science, and safety at heart, each of our dreamy formulas is masterfully crafted with high-quality, and natural ingredients that are proven to work.
We never use GMOs, parabens, synthetic colors, sulfates, or melatonin and test our products rigorously to ensure you and your little buddy are getting only the best.
Whether you could use some help in calming your little one’s fussy belly, need an all-natural kid-safe shampoo and a nourishing body lotion that’s gentle on sensitive skin, or simply looking for a few sleepytime tips and tricks to summon the sleepies sooner rather than later— you can always count on Little Yawn Collective to have your back.
Ready to kick sleep regression where it hurts? Check us out today and discover the power of clean, natural ingredients to encourage a restful snooze tomorrow.
Happier bedtimes await!
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