Your Complete Guide To Baby Sleep Regressions

Most of us have heard about them and some of us are caught by surprise. They happen to the best sleepers who’ve slept through the night since birth and the worst sleepers that you thought couldn’t get any worse. That’s right, I’m talking about the dreaded sleep regression.

My baby was an amazing sleeper, going 9 hours straight without needing to wake for a feeding. I knew I had it made and I knew it was probably to good to be true. I was right. At 4 months, she started waking up every 2 hours again!

I scoured the internet for answers but I found that most sites had a lot of information but very little solutions (and were mainly trying to sell me something). I’ve done some research and compiled as much useful information as possible to put into this article so you can stop searching.

I’ve discovered that most regressions last about 2-6 weeks. However, a regression can also come right before, after, or during an illness or teething so disruptions in sleep can last a lot longer than that. Don’t get discouraged! Understanding the reason for the disruption in sleep can help you solve the issue and find more rest for both you and your little one.

Before you begin reading, remember that if any of these what to do’s are not working, remember to check all of baby’s basic needs. Is baby’s diaper dirty, are they too hot/cold, is there gunk stuck in baby’s nose making it hard to breathe, are they hungry? Be sure to check for a fever and anything that might be making baby uncomfortable. If baby is teething or is feeling ill, do whatever you need to do to get your baby feeling well so they can rest. Always call your doctor or go to the nearest urgent care/emergency room if you have any doubts about your baby’s well-being.

Here are the Types of Sleep Regressions, Why They Occur, and What To Do:

 

6 weeks

Why it happens:

Growth spurts are the cause for the 6 week regression. Baby’s need to eat a lot more at this time and may also just need to nurse for comfort as growth spurts can be painful/uncomfortable.

What to do:

Wake as often as baby wakes and nurse as often as baby wants to nurse. You can’t create any bad habits at this point so just give baby what she wants.

 

3-4 months

Why it happens:

This is one of the biggest developmental periods in your baby’s first year. They are learning how to roll, discovering more about their surroundings, and experiencing another growth spurt.

Their sleep patterns are also maturing and becoming more like an adults which will result in more waking between sleep cycles.

At this point, things that have worked to put your baby to sleep in the past will now stop working. Setting your baby down in the crib will cause them to wake up but they are still likely too young to properly self soothe.

What to do:

Start implementing a bed time routine at this point: bath, massage, book, then bed (or any combination you like). Spend at least 30 minutes to an hour before bed relaxing with baby. Play some relaxing music or some gentle lullabies to set the mood. Turn off the TV, dim the lights, and don’t allow baby to play with toys that overstimulate.

Do whatever it takes to get baby to sleep – rock, nurse, bounce on a ball, walk around the house, etc. It’s unlikely that anything you do now will create a bad habit.

If baby wakes after you put them down in the crib, try using a pacifier to keep them asleep during the transfer. If the pacifier falls out after baby is asleep, do not put it back in.

When baby wakes during the night, they are most likely hungry so nurse or give baby a bottle and send baby back to sleep.

Try not to get frustrated with baby, this is a very hard time for them. They don’t like it just as much, if not more, than you do.

 

6 months

Why it happens:

Developments in mobility such as learning to roll or crawl can occur at this age. This may cause baby to wake in the middle of the night because their brain is telling them to practice.

Baby may also be experiencing another growth spurt at this time. If baby is waking up more often at night again, they could simply be hungry from all of the growing.

You baby may also be transitioning to 2-3 naps during the day. Sometimes your little one fights naps and it’s your job to identify if they’re fighting naps because they aren’t really tired or if it’s for another reason. It’s ok if baby transitions to 2 naps and then starts napping more again. With all of the changes your baby is going through, there will be some days where they are more tired and need more rest.

What to do: 

During the day, make sure baby has plenty of floor time to practice rolling or crawling. This can help tire out baby and help her brain stay calm for longer stretches at night.

In addition to having time to play on the floor, your baby needs time to just be close with you. Sometimes babies will wake in the middle of the night because they didn’t have enough bonding time during the day. Make sure that you cut out some wind-down time where you can just hold, cuddle, and be close with your baby.

When baby wakes at night, nurse or give a bottle and send baby back to sleep. If you’ve already started sleep training, give your baby about 5-10 minutes to settle themselves (unless you feel like they are in need of attention immediately for any reason).

This is usually a good time to start some gentle sleep training but only you can decide if your baby is ready to start learning to self soothe. There are many different methods but CIO (cry it out) is the most widely used. Find a method that works for you and your baby. If one method doesn’t work after about 10 days of trying, move on to a different method. If you don’t feel like your baby is ready, that’s ok! Just remember that it’s best to try to start a sleep training method before attachment sets in around 8 months, so keep an eye out for those cues that your baby is ready to self soothe.

 

8-10 months

Why it happens:

Baby is learning how to stand or pull up at this stage. Once you notice that baby can stand, even with assistance, teach them how to sit back down. I guarantee that once your baby learns to pull up, they will be doing this multiple times during the night and they need to know how to get back down in order to get back to sleep without your assistance. In addition, baby is learning more about hand-eye coordination and is working on that pincer grasp.

What to do:

Have plenty of time to practice standing/pulling up and sitting back down during the day. Also allow baby to play with toys or eat finger foods that will help them practice that pincer grasp.

If you haven’t started sleep training yet, this could be a good time. Sleep training becomes a little more difficult at this stage due to attachment issues starting to develop so you will need to be more persistent and stay consistent.

Start getting rid of bad habits like using a pacifier, rocking to sleep, and nursing to sleep. Baby needs to learn to get to sleep on their own or they will wake in the middle of the night and need help getting back to sleep every time.

Baby is not ready to transition to only one nap a day so do whatever it takes to get them to take at least 2 naps.

Make sure your bedtime routine is consistent, even when you are away from home. Make sure the routine always includes some quiet cuddle time with you.

If baby wakes in the middle of the night, feel free to continue to nurse or bottle feed as most babies are still waking for feeds at least 1-2 times a night at this point. This will not create a bad habit because baby is actually hungry.

If baby is only nursing or bottle feeding for a minute or two, your baby is just comfort nursing and may need to learn to self soothe. However, since attachment issues start to arise at this point, baby may have just needed to be with you. Baby starts learning about trust at this point so it is imperative that you offer extra snuggles when needed.

When baby wakes in the middle of the night, give them at least 5-10 minutes to self soothe before you go in and help them (unless you feel like they need to be tended to right away for any reason). It is imperative that you know the difference between your baby whining and your baby crying. If your baby is just whining, they can be left to try to self soothe for a few minutes. If your baby is crying, I recommend going in right away and helping them get back to sleep.

 

12 months

Why it happens:

Baby is likely learning to walk around this time and any regression may occur as much as 2 weeks before you start seeing any developmental changes.

What to do:

Make sure you give baby plenty of time to practice during the day to help tire baby out and to allow their brain to rest during sleep.

Baby is not ready to transition to only 1 nap during the day, even if they are fighting naps. They’re simply consolidating sleep at this age and only need about 2-3 hours in naps during the day. Most babies are not ready to go to 1 nap a day until about 15-18 months.

Keep your routine consistent and don’t revert back to old habits such as rocking, nursing, or walking to sleep.

When baby wakes in the middle of the night, give them at least 5-10 minutes to self soothe before you go in and help them (unless you feel like they need to tended to right away for any reason). It is imperative that you know the difference between your baby whining and your baby crying. If your baby is just whining, they can be left to try to self soothe for a few minutes. If your baby is crying, I recommend tending to them right away and helping them get back to sleep.

 

18 months

Why it happens: 

Baby is learning to use words and is trying to communicate their wants and needs. This can be a very frustrating process and can lead to quite a bit of stress for your little one.

Nap transitions begin again from about 15-18 months. Your baby will most likely be ready to transition to 1 nap a day by now so they may be skipping that morning nap.

What to do:

Focus on learning your baby’s non verbal cues as well as the words they are trying to say. Talk to them as much as possible and ask them questions to give them an opportunity to communicate their needs/wants.

Stay consistent with your bedtime and nap routine. Once baby is in bed or is down for a nap, don’t allow them to come out of their crib until it’s time to wake up.

 

2 years

Why it happens:

Your child is going through quite a few transitions at this point from being able to stay awake longer, potty training, getting a new sibling, transitioning to a big kid bed, and starting to have real nightmares or night terrors.

What to do:

Stay consistent with bedtime and nap routines and don’t give in if your child wants to stay up longer, especially at night. It’s ok to adjust nap time as this may fluctuate at this age.

Be open and give extra snuggles at this age. They may be having a hard time coping with the many changes going on around them and they need you to be there through each step.

Attachment issues may flare up again around this age, especially if they are getting another sibling. That’s ok! Just give in to those extra snuggles and let your child know you are there when they need you, no matter what.

 

I hope this extensive guide has helped you. Don’t forget, you’re doing a fantastic job and this regression won’t last forever! If you have any experience with sleep regressions and would like to share, please leave your comment below. 

Good luck! 

 

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Disclaimer: These statements are the opinion of the author. The information provided in this post is for entertainment purposes only and is not intended to provide medical, legal, or other professional advice. Read and/or use any of the information from this post at your own risk. Some or all of the links displayed on this site may be affiliate links.

 

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