Understanding Sleep Regressions
Sleep regressions can be hard on everyone involved! The Sleep Lady, Kim West, lets us know what it's all about and how to help baby through it.
One of the toughest parts of parenting an infant is when they do all their growing. The world is so confusing to them as they go through each phase of the wonder weeks. Most of the time, associated with each of these leaps, is a sleep regression. Baby is just so consumed with the world around them that it becomes difficult for them to sleep, especially as they want more attention from mom. I reached out to Kim West, The Sleep Lady, for all of her knowledge about sleep regressions, especially as my Olive is in the throngs of a four month sleep regression. It can be pretty emotionally exhausting for everyone involved. Here is what she had to say on how and why sleep regressions happen, plus some great advice on helping parents and babies through this time.
What are the tell-tale signs of a sleep regression vs. something else going on with baby?
Sleep regressions are periods of time that generally coincide with a large milestone in your baby’s life, such as rolling over, sitting up, or walking. Babies and toddlers going through a sleep regression will often be more fussy and clingy. Some children also experience changes in appetite (either increased or decreased), as well as the obvious lack of sleep. If your child is displaying these symptoms, it’s important to make sure that this is a sleep regression, not illness. Sleep regressions do not usually coincide with fever or other signs of sickness, such as a rash or excessive mucous.
Why do sleep regressions happen?
Our babies grow and change so much in the first three years, and these periods of time, though frustrating, are indicative of growth and development. Your baby has just learned a new skill, and is learning how that fits into the set of skills he already has. This may cause him to be too distracted to sleep or eat normally, and if he’s quite small, he may want more “mommy” time to reassure himself that all is normal in his little world.
When can parents expect sleep regressions to occur?
The most common sleep regressions occur at 4 months, and again when your child learns to walk (it’s a big step! Literally!), although sleep regressions have occurred at 6 weeks, 4 months, 6 months, 8-10 months, 12 months, 18 months, and again at 2 years.
How long do sleep regressions generally last?
Most sleep regressions last between two and six weeks, with the most common length of time being three weeks.
Are sleep regressions associated with nighttime sleep or are naps interrupted as well?
During a sleep regression, all sleep is affected, but it really depends on your child if the regression affects naps, nighttime, or both.
How can parents help babies get back on track with sleep, or do you just have to wait out the sleep regression?
During a sleep regression remember that your baby is just as tired as you are—he’s growing! Know that this is a phase, and do what you can to help soothe him enough to get to sleep, even though sleep may be the antithesis of what he really wants to be doing. Worry less about creating permanent bad habits, and focus on helping your little one get rest. Remember, any “bad” habits can be resolved by revisiting The Shuffle once his patterns have normalized again.
What are tips for parents to help them personally deal with the sleep regression?
The best advice that I can give you is to just do what you can. Sleep as much as you can, and snuggle with your child. Children who lack sleep are cranky, needy, and fussy—but usually that’s just code for “I need some attention now.” If the regression appears to be ongoing, try gradually normalizing to your child’s routine and see if perhaps he’s ready to get back on track.
Can sleep rituals help babies not have as much of a sleep interruption when it comes to regressions? Like bath, bottle/nursing, book, bed to signal sleep time?
Routine, especially a flexible routine is incredibly important for babies, almost from birth. I normally suggest that parents establish a soothing bedtime routine starting around 3 to 4 months, that they can continue through your child’s adolescence. Make sure the routine is not too long (no more than two or three things for a little baby under 6 months). Your nightly bedtime routine should take no longer than 30 minutes to an hour at most from the time you start to the time you tuck your child into bed.
Can the introduction of a lovey help baby through a sleep regression?
A lovey (safe, small, and without parts that can fall off) can definitely help your child self-soothe, but the introduction of one during a sleep regression will likely not help. If your child already has an established lovey, then it can provide some consistency during this time.
Any other important things for parents to know about sleep regressions?
Know that you aren’t alone. Nearly every parent experiences at least one sleep regression, and most families deal with two to three. Remember, this is just a temporary phase of your child’s growth and development-and and good phase at that. Your baby is growing! Get as much rest as you can and know that in a few weeks you’ll be back to normal.
YOU MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN