What to Know About Baby Sleep Regression
Sleep habits are an oft broached subject of parents and developmental experts alike. Even as advanced as modern science is, we still don’t understand even a fraction of the mechanics of sleep, what it’s for, and exactly what is is even. Sure, we stop moving. Physical functions slow. The brain might dream.
Those things we know, but this is an area of science where people don’t even understand what dreams are or what common sleep disorders are all about. Infant and toddler sleep is that much more a mystery for experts and parents. Fortunately, we do have some helpful information about how to confront common problems like sleep regression.
Definition of Sleep Regression
A sleep regression is defined as a 2-6 week stage where your baby suddenly regresses back to the previous habit of waking more frequently during the night, just like when they were newborns.
At 4 months old, babies officially leave the newborn stage – according to some people’s timetables – and some parents will notice a glorious 6-8 hours of nightly sleep for their babies.
You’re home free, right? Wrong! Other parents, probably like you, are finding that their babies are waking up more frequently at night now and staying awake longer during the day.
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Welcome To Sleep Regression 101
This is one class that no parent wants to take, but here you are.
Your growing baby doesn’t need 16-17 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period anymore. They only need about 12-15 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period, and that means your baby doesn’t need as much sleep as a newborn in the first 4 months of life.
You’re moving into another stage with your little one, and for parents who get lucky, this will mean longer time awake in the day and not at night. For parents whose children go into a sleep regression, there is going to be more frequent awakening at night and that spells some confusion for some parents.
Just when things looked all good, you notice that your baby is waking up at night just like they did when they were a newborn.
They’re screaming. They’re crying. Maybe they want some food.
It’s not 6-8 hours a night. It’s a sleep regression and you’re probably going to be a little frustrated when this starts happening, especially if you have to go to work early in the morning. Tons of parents seek relief from this situation. You’ve come to the right place for answers.
A New Phase
Sleep regression is a phenomenon that comes from your baby’s ever-changing sleep cycles.
They’re entering a new phase but getting night and day a bit reversed. So instead of sleeping that glorious 6-8 hours a night like some parents experience, you 4, 8, or 18 month old might start waking up at night very frequently again, turning your entire sleep cycle upside down once again.
If this is happening to you, it’s natural to panic at first and wonder if something is wrong. There’s great news! Nothing is wrong with your baby. However, sleep regression is going to happen when it happens, and you’re going to have to come up with some coping strategies to deal with it.
How To Cope With Sleep Regression Stages
Sleep regression stages are usually 4 months, 8 months, and 18 months. The 4 month sleep regression stages are extremely common and happen to a lot of babies.
The 8 month and 18 month sleep regression stages are less common, but they certainly do happen, and parents who find themselves in the middle of sleep regression stages will likely be pacing the floor trying to figure out how to get this stuff to stop. You love your baby, of course, but nighttime sleep is your lifeline, and now you’re right back to what feels like raising a newborn.
To survive sleep regression stages, it’s time to ready yourself for some things you can do to survive them. Since you can’t prevent them, you can at least make them easier for your baby and for you.
If you’re fighting a nighttime sleep war during sleep regression stages, just take a look at some of the many things you can do to make this easier for the whole family:
- Swaddling might have worked when your baby was a newborn, so go back to swaddling and see if this eases the nighttime wakefulness
- Do whatever you can to keep your baby’s room as dark as possible during sleep regression stages. The darker the room, the less light your baby has to respond to (and wake up to)
- Don’t put your baby in his or her crib unless it’s obvious they’re sleepy. Make sure they’re really ready to drift off. Snuggle a little longer if they’re wide awake
- Adjusting bedtimes can really improve the impact of sleep regression stages
- If you’re experiencing sleep regression stages that are really taking a toll on you, turn to a partner, friend, or family member for frequent help
Surviving This Difficult Time
Sleep regression stages can be a huge surprise to parents who thought they’ve finally left the newborn sleep nightmare behind forever.
If you’re panicking, you’re never alone. Lots of other parents are out there pacing there shuffling around scenarios in their head for how to solve sleep regression stages. As you can see from the previous tips, it’s a little like regressing back to your newborn baby-raising phase.
You go back to what you know! And even though you’re going to have to just ride this out, this time you have a lot more experience dealing with a baby who wakes up at night.
Sleep Regression is Natural
Sleep regression stages are the result of your baby’s naturally evolving sleep patterns, and they’re a sign that your baby is developing normally.
They don’t present a medical problem or sign of terrible things to come, but they’re not something that will happen to every parent. If your baby is experiencing one of these stages at 4 months, 8 months, or 18 months, you’ve lost the baby lottery and will have to revert back to newborn tactics in order to get better sleep for yourself (and more of it).
That said, absolutely nothing is wrong with your baby. He or she is just experiencing a change of sleep cycles. It’ll pass.
That all sounds well and good to someone who isn’t in the middle of one of those stages, but for a parent going through it, it can be a rude awakening, literally, to find out that your baby isn’t sleeping through the night just like when they were a newborn.
Talk with other mothers and fathers who went through this exact same thing. Find out how they got through it and strategies that helped them get through it. If your child goes through more than one regression phase, this can be especially traumatic for parents, so get all the help you can to survive this. You owe it to yourself to confidently address the problem without having to completely exhaust yourself doing so.