Baby Sleep Regressions and What to Do About Them

Jamie Contarini September 19, 2022
Baby Sleep Regression

You may have heard about the dreaded baby sleep regressions. You might be going through one right now. What is a sleep regression? It is when you start to see a shift in your infant’s sleep pattern. If your baby is sleeping well – or you are at least seeing a bit of a pattern (even if it is waking every 2 hours) – then all of a sudden they are up more frequently for more than a few nights, this is often a sleep regression.

Why Do Baby Sleep Regressions Happen?

Babies wake during sleep time to work on new skills because it is quiet and there are no distractions. Even if you are offering lots of floor time without a lot of distractions, many babies still wake during sleep time as they work through developmental milestones. While these new milestones are exciting, they can be disruptive to sleep. Some families call these disturbances sleep progressions because they are learning something new.

4 Month Regressions:

This could happen anytime between 2-6 months. In the first few months after birth, your baby’s biological clock and circadian rhythm matures. The circadian rhythm is our internal clock that controls our physical, mental and behavioral changes. If your baby is not getting enough sleep at the right time, then they can become overtired. When this happens, we can start to see an increase in waking. Overtired babies have a harder time falling and staying asleep.

Another big cause of disrupted sleep is learning to roll. This is the first major developmental milestone, and it can cause some night waking. What can you do to get through this sleep regression? Really focus on offering crib sleep. Motionless sleep is more restorative than sleep in motion. Offer a lot of free play floor time so that your baby can work on rolling. It doesn’t always have to be tummy time. Laying on the floor on their back gives them the chance to kick their legs and rotate on their backs. This is all part of muscle development, they are working to engage the combination of muscles needed to roll.

8-10 Month Regressions:

As with the 4 month sleep regression, this can happen a little before 8 months and last a little longer than 10 months. The cause of the sleep disruptions during this age range is often new skills! Rolling, crawling, trying to sit – and some babies are already trying to stand and walk. To get through these new sleep disruptions, offer lots of floor time for practice. Try to make your bedtime a little earlier to help make up for any lost sleep

18 Month Regressions:

This is often the hardest sleep regression because your baby is finding their sense of independence. They won’t always like that you are choosing when and where to sleep for them. Be sure to offer times throughout the day for them to make decisions (age appropriate, of course). They can select books, pjs, a toothbrush etc. If you are going through this sleep regression, be consistent with your bedtime routine. Planning a few extra minutes at the start of the routine to work through any challenges means that you can still protect their sleep.

How Long Do Baby Sleep Regressions Last?

The good new is that baby sleep regressions do not last forever! They often last for 2-6 weeks, and you might not experience one with every new skill. If your baby is falling asleep independently and falling back to sleep on their own during the night, then let them do it. They will get back on track! If you help your baby to sleep, then help them back to sleep as they work through these changes. Moving bedtime earlier by 15-30 minutes can help to make up for any lost sleep.

Stay the course. One day soon you’ll be decorating big kids’ bedrooms and wonder if they will ever get out of bed!

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