A question I am asked so often on Instagram is about sleep regressions, all things blips in sleep, why regressions happen, when they happen and what you can do about them! This blog post is full of tips and advice, I really hope that this is helpful.
What is a sleep regression and are they set in stone?
It is essentially a bump in the road: when sleep is going a certain, consistent way and then – all of a sudden – things seem to fall apart or go backwards this is a sleep regression. This might look like early wakes, broken day or night time sleep, struggling to go down for day naps or at bedtime. These are sleep ‘blips’ – they are not forever and can be fixed! I want to reassure you that a bump in the road where sleep changes for the worse can be overcome.
What’s happening at these points?
Generally speaking, at these blips in sleep, your child is developing and this physical or mental development is impacting their sleep.
If sleep has changed or got worse: don’t panic! This is a blip and not forever!
I know that sleep causes so much anxiety in parents and, when you’ve worked so hard on it, this can feel like a waste of time working on it. Remember that no human has perfect sleep every single night, so many things can affect our sleep and out little ones’.
Sleep regression ages
We know that sleep regression is when things can go backwards and I’m often asked when they occur. The 4 month sleep regression is a key one that a lot of people experience, it is science based. At 4 months the way that your baby’s brain processes sleep changes and so it is a very normal part of their human development to have a blip with their sleep pattern at this age. Take a listen to my season 1 podcast on the 4 month regression, if you are experiencing this and would like more support.
The 8 month, 12 month, 18 month and 2 year sleep regressions are talked about a lot and it does feel quite full on for parents! Please know that sleep regressions do not happen for every baby and I would prefer you not to look for them because if you focus on them, you will create them, right?! Like anything, when we focus on it, we can spot it; but it may be that your little one is simply developing or has another thing affecting their sleep at one of these ages.
At 8 months there is no science behind a blip but they are much more active; they’re now sitting, possibly starting to crawl and are being introduced to more complex foods through weaning. All – or any – of these things can impact your baby’s sleep, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are going backwards or ‘regressing’.
Always look at what is going on for your child at that time
What can we do about a regression?
- You could wait it out and do whatever you need to do to get through that time. It may improve after two weeks, it could be two months or longer. I would always encourage you to give things at least a week because any less could be illness or teething – sleep goes backwards for children before an illness properly kicks in, so if it’s been 3 nights stick with your routine. If it’s not the norm for your baby to be sleeping well and it goes to pot from nowhere, always get them checked by a doctor, if you can, to be sure that illness is not affecting their sleep.
- If you know they’re not unwell and it has gone on for longer than a week, then ask if you’ve made any changes to baby’s routine or are their naps and awake windows at the appropriate times for their age. Have the confidence to look at your current routine and make a couple of tweaks, whether that’s dropping a nap, lengthening an awake time, etc. You can purchase and download an age-specific routine from my website right here or they are all included in my baby sleep course for 5-12 months.
- If you think the recent blip in sleep is due to a physical development stage, ensure that your child practises their new skill as much as possible to help with their sleep at night. Help them to understand to stand and then get down again, to help them know at night-time they can get back down to sleep. When it comes to managing it in the night-time, don’t rush straight in. When you do go in, make it very simple – lay them back down and leave the room.
- Being consistent is so key. Whatever you do: be consistent!
- Do a bit of a sleep re-set to what they were doing before the regression. This would mean keeping tightly to that routine and choose a sleep approach and stick to it. This will only work if it is a regression and habits have slipped, not if they are unwell etc. It can help to get them back on track but you must ensure that the sleep coaching method you are using is age-appropriate for your child. You don’t have to wait it out – blips are temporary, remember!
The reasons that regressions happen so long is because parents introduce too many things and are not consistent.
Consistency is absolutely key when it comes to your little one’s sleep; whether they are ill or well, being consistent is key to both them feeling confident and you feeling confident. Always dealing with things in exactly the same way is key! If I could give you a magic key to help your little ones sleep well, it would be to have the confidence to be consistent. Other than when they’re unwell, if you can carry through as consistently and confidently as possible it will give your household the best sleep.
If you would like more support from my online courses, please click here.