Sleep regression is a real issue in babies, which many of us fail to tackle because we have a little idea about it.
It is a serious ordeal for first-time parents because a baby going through sleep regression induces a lot of anxiety in them. The anxiety worsens with time because you have no first-hand experience with sleep regression ages. Most of you might not even have heard about this term before.
What This Article Is All About?
- 1 What Is Sleep Regression?
- 2 Common Sleep Regression Ages That Worry Parents
- 3 Is Your Baby Going Through Sleep Regression? Watch Out for These 6 Signs!
- 3.1 #1: Your Baby Keeps Getting Fussier Especially at Night
- 3.2 #2: You Experience Your Baby Taking Longer Than Usual Naps
- 3.3 #3: Your Baby Wakes up Frequently During the Night
- 3.4 #4: You Notice Changes in Your Baby’s Appetite
- 3.5 #5: Your Baby Cries Inconsolably
- 3.6 #6: You Find Your Baby Uncomfortable When Sleeping
- 4 What Does It Do to You as a Parent?
- 5 What Causes Sleep Regression in Different Age Groups?
- 6 Coping With Sleep Regression: 8 Effective Tips & Tricks
- 7 Sleep Regression Ages- 3 Frequently Asked Questions
- 8 Final Thoughts
Let’s walk you through the basics of sleep regression in babies, what it is, how to tackle it, and so on.
Let’s get to it.
What Is Sleep Regression?
Sleep regression is when an infant or a toddler suddenly goes through a change in their sleeping pattern.
The children, who were sleeping well earlier, now start to wake up in the middle of the night or start skipping or taking extra naps for no apparent reason.
The situation is distressing because it eventually affects the sleep pattern of the parents.
It leaves the parents clueless about how to settle the baby. At times, you think the sleep regression is over, but it usually bursts out again after some time.
In simple words, your baby sleeps a lot during their initial months. When everything seems to be going smoothly, the sleeping patterns of your baby change. As soon as you get used to your baby’s new sleeping patter, the sleeping pattern changes again.
It gets quite frustrating at times because your baby never seems to settle down and your sleep quality gets severely compromised as well. On top, if you are a first-time parent, you are clueless as to why this is happening.
However, you don’t have to worry because there are plenty of ways to control the situation.
Common Sleep Regression Ages That Worry Parents
Your child is likely to undergo significant changes in their sleep during the following periods:
- 4 Months
- 8-9 Months
- 12 Months
- 18 Months
- 24 Months
Each of these age groups has different causes of sleep regression, and unfortunately, most parents consider teething to be the only cause for these changes. But the actual cause is more than that because there are so many factors that could affect your baby’s sleeping patterns.
We will discuss the reasons for sleep regression during these ages and ways to tackle them later in the text.
Is Your Baby Going Through Sleep Regression? Watch Out for These 6 Signs!
#1: Your Baby Keeps Getting Fussier Especially at Night
There is no denying that babies are fussy, but they get fussier when growing through a sleep regression.
The situation is not only frustrating for the parents but also for the babies. At this point, they can’t speak; give signals or do anything to make it clear what they are going through.
It is a test for the parents and all you can do is stay calm and figure out ways to pacify the screaming baby.
#2: You Experience Your Baby Taking Longer Than Usual Naps
Yes, babies do take naps, but long naps are not healthy. It does not only apply to little ones but the other age groups as well.
Babies going through the phases of sleep regression tend to take longer naps during the daytime because they are not getting enough sleep at night. If not long, the naps are usually frequent.
However, increased napping is not always a sign of sleep regression. If daytime naps do not affect the baby’s night’s sleep then it is a sign of growth.
#3: Your Baby Wakes up Frequently During the Night
This is one of the obvious signs of sleep regression in infants and toddlers. The clueless parents think that there is something wrong with their baby’s health. They might mistake it for the diaper need changing or the baby having a bad sleep cycle.
This is not true. Sleep regression itself is a condition that needs to be managed tactfully.
If your baby wakes up in the middle of the sleep multiple times and fails to fall asleep again then it is quite likely that your baby is going through a regression phase. The frequency is usually more than twice when there is regression.
However, you should always check for other causes first. If you are worried about your baby being sick, you should always get it checked by a healthcare provider.
#4: You Notice Changes in Your Baby’s Appetite
Appetite changes are often easier to identify in babies who take solids instead of breastfed or formula-fed babies.
If your child is 4 months and refusing to eat/drink, spitting out the milk/food, and waking up frequently at night then be careful. They might be going through a regression phase.
#5: Your Baby Cries Inconsolably
Crying and making a fuss are pretty common hobbies for infants but remember excess of everything is bad.
It is a common sign of sleep regression in infants, which is often overlooked as ‘just a fussy baby’.
Don’t lose hope if you are a mum and going through it. It does get better, we assure you!
#6: You Find Your Baby Uncomfortable When Sleeping
Finally, your baby decides to sleep after a lot of struggle, but they still decide to give a tough time.
Babies going through sleep regression are restless even when they are sleeping. They keep making efforts to change positions and fail to get a nice, deep sleep. In simple words, they become light sleepers.
What Does It Do to You as a Parent?
As your baby goes through the different stages, it deeply affects you as a parent. Here’s how it might affect you as a parent.
#1: You Become Impatient
Remember that you are a human before a parent, so expect you’d become impatient handling a fussy baby. The following factors can add to your levels of impatience and frustration.
- Inadequate rest
- Failing to console the baby
Tip: It is fine to lose patience at times. But again, there is always light at the end of the tunnel.
#2: Your Sleep Pattern Goes All Over the Place
Of course, you won’t continue to sleep well when your baby is struggling to sleep. Your sleep pattern is likely to turn upside down and you need to be mentally prepared for it.
Most days, you will be up during the night and would be taking naps during the daytime. This is how parents of a baby going through sleep regression lives, but eventually it gets settled.
#3: You Are Most likely to Experience Mood Swings
During sleep regression, you don’t get enough sleep, and on top of that, you tend to feel like a failure for not being able to understand your baby’s needs.
These factors trigger your emotions like anger, sadness, fears, etc. Above all, you feel tired and exhausted all the time. This is the time when you would want extra help from your peers and get your life back to normal as soon as possible.
What Causes Sleep Regression in Different Age Groups?
Now, you need to understand what’s causing the sleep regression in your child. The possible causes of sleep regression depend on your baby’s age and are as follows:
|Sleep Regression Ages (Months)||Causes|
|4 (By far the most common age group for sleep regression)||DevelopmentIncreasing awareness of surroundings At this age, babies take longer to get into a deep sleep|
|8||Development of various motor skills such as crawling or standing|
|12||Further development of motor skills Changes in nap frequency and times|
|18||The toddler starts becoming independent and separation anxiety kicks inAt this age, the baby also starts becoming familiar with languages|
|24||Babies become resilient and rebellious at this ageThey start testing their limitsLearn more skills Start progressing towards ‘big-kid’ stage|
Coping With Sleep Regression: 8 Effective Tips & Tricks
#1: Keep Calm
First off, don’t freak out. It will be over soon but you cannot move past the situation if you don’t keep calm.
#2: Try to Adjust to Your Changing Routine
You will go through a big change in your routine. Don’t feel bad about it and try to adjust your routine accordingly.
Remember that you are an adult so you can be flexible, but your baby is clueless about the situation. Therefore, try to be flexible with your routine and don’t try too hard to make things fall back to their place.
The adjustment will be temporary, so you don’t need to panic. It happens with all sleep regression ages.
#3: Be Consistent
Understandably, things might look messed up but you need consistency to bring the situation to normal. Try to follow the same bedtime routine as it was before the sleep regression dropped by.
#4: Create a Comfortable Environment
Your little one might not be able to convey but they cry the most when the environment around them is not comfortable enough. Parents need to put in extra effort to create the desired comfort level for babies.
Here’s how you can achieve that:
- Give a gentle massage to your baby around bedtime
- Give them a nice warm bath and wrap them in a swaddle
- Clear all the clutter from where the baby sleeps
- Make sure the room temperature is not too hot or cold
- The room should be dark enough for the baby to sleep comfortably
#5: Set Boundaries With Older Babies
Children above 12 months start understanding your instructions, so make good use of the situation. Set boundaries with them regarding what’s acceptable and what’s not around bedtime.
However, don’t be too strict while you are at it as this can aggravate the problem rather than alleviating it.
Try to instill this message into your baby’s head, ‘Nighttime is for sleeping and not playing!’
#6: Avoid Making Difficult Habits in an Attempt to Comfort the Baby
This is one of the biggest parenting mistakes that almost every new parent makes. Unlimited cuddles and rocking your baby are all good until they cross the limits because, in the end, it becomes a problem for you.
Soothe them as much as you can but put them back to their bed soon. It is practically impossible to rock your baby all night long in the longer run.
Remember that you are a human too and know your boundaries.
#7: Feed Your Baby Well
This is especially for infants who take nothing but breast milk or formula milk. Feed them often to soothe their body because sleep regression is exhausting for the baby’s body and mind.
It might look like they don’t want to eat but they need extra energy more than before. Be consistent in your efforts. Still, don’t over-feed your baby as it will make them uncomfortable. Find a good balance in your efforts.
#8: Take Care of Yourself
Don’t lose focus on yourself while you are trying to make your baby’s life better. Again, you are a human being and you have limits too.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help and do accept if anyone willingly offers to help you out.
Sleep Regression Ages- 3 Frequently Asked Questions
Sleep regression ages are generally the result of the learning and developmental milestones of your child. Once your baby learns that the distressing situation is over for you. Therefore, don’t panic as things will soon change.
Typically, sleep regressions do not last for more than 3 to 6 weeks for all age groups. No matter how fussy the baby is, sleep regression is not a permanent situation, so keep calm until it’s over.
However, don’t overlook if the situation lingers on as it could be something else. It would be ideal to check with the pediatrician at your earliest convenience.
Better be safe!
It varies from baby to baby. Some are lucky to not go through any regression at all while some go through it for a very short while.
As a parent, you should always be mentally and physically prepared in case your baby turns out to be a difficult one.
While sleep regression ages are tough for all parents, it is important to stay calm and follow the expert advice to deal with the situation. The situation is often temporary and things eventually get better.
So keep calm and enjoy seeing your baby grow!
Dr. Muhammad Usman is a Doctor, Nutritionist, Wellness Coach and a Researcher with a deep insight into all aspects of writing related to health and science.