Every parent hopes and wishes for the day that the baby sleeps well. Whether it just be on a predictable schedule or all the way through the night, I don't think there is a better gift than a child that isn't waking and crying at all hours of the night. And once a baby is sleeping well, it sure is disheartening when they suddenly stop! Sleep regression is a real thief of parental sleeping joy.
What is sleep regression?
It is defined as a period of time (spanning anywhere from two to six weeks) when your child suddenly isn't sleeping as they previously had been. Naps can suddenly be thrown off, falling asleep on their own may get harder, and the long stretches of sleep that had been happening at night can suddenly not be so long anymore. Unfortunately, this is very normal, but thankfully, it is just a phase!
When and why does this happen?
The most common ages for sleep regression are roughly 4 months, 9 months, and 18 months. The first sleep regression begins primarily because your baby is transitioning out of their newborn sleep habits and into completely different cycles and stages of sleep. There are more periods of light sleep and wakings in the night and during naps, which is why you suddenly have a baby waking up completely when they should be sleeping more often than before.
To overcome the first regression and all regressions moving forward, you need to help your baby develop habits that allow them to sleep well without you constantly holding or cuddling them unless you plan to do that for the unforeseen future. Each regression age is associated with developmental changes or leaps that your child is experiencing. The way through the regression is helping your baby adjust to the changes they are going through!
How to survive!
A few things you can introduce (if you haven't already) to help your babe in the process are a sound machine and a sleep sack that provides them comfort and security even when they aren't being held. Depending on age, a small lovey blanket or stuffed animal can be a great help as well!
Growth spurts can be a culprit of regression so your baby just might need an extra feeding in the night. Try your best to soothe and comfort in other ways first, but if it is apparent that your baby is hungry, of course you offer that feeding! Make sure this feeding is a full and complete feeding, not just a few sucks to get them back to sleep. If you suddenly allow them to eat every time they wake up, they will very quickly learn to expect that, and getting them back to sleep without that will be quite the chore. If your baby is waking every hour, don't just let them eat every time they wake up.
Get your partner to help you! You will be tired. If you nurse your baby, it might be helpful to have someone aside from you go to them in the night if they do not need to eat so you don't lean on feeding as a crutch in your tired groggy state. This is quite possibly going to be a long few weeks so just commit to helping each other and know there is light at the end of the tunnel!
There is no way to sugar coat a sleep regression, they just stink! You just have to hold tight to the fact that it doesn't last forever. Sleep consultants and books exist as well, so don't forget to research your options if you are feeling completely helpless for longer than expected. You can even go to our "Rested Mamas are Happy Mamas" series on our blog! Even though it seems so far off, you will eventually have a child that sleeps through the night, and you will wonder where your little snuggly baby disappeared to!
Written by: Alyssa Liston