Navigating Those Dreaded Sleep Regressions
Updated: May 18
Of all the (many, many) questions I get on infant sleep, regression have to be the most popular topic! And I totally get it, because regressions can throw even more experienced parents for a loop. One minute your little one is sleeping like a champ, and suddenly they’re fighting bedtime, taking ages to fall asleep, or suddenly don’t want to nap. What gives?
My first piece of advice? Don’t panic! Regressions can be tough, but they’re temporary, and they’re an indication that your little one is learning a new skill. They’re busy spending all their brain power to get the hang of a new development, which is actually kinda cute if you think about it. So, what has suddenly taken over your previously good sleeper? Let me lay it out.
Sometimes it’s helpful for the parent to have a little mental preparation for when a sleep regression could be coming up. The truth is, regressions can happen at any time, but these regressions typically follow the big development milestones at 4 months, 8 months, 12 months, and 18-24 months. If you think that’s a lot of them, you’re not wrong! It can feel like you just got through a regression, and another one hits. Ooph, right?
The other thing that’s really important to evaluate is whether or not they’re truly going through a sleep regression. It’s a good idea to check out the other possibilities and see if that makes a difference. This would be things like sound (make sure that white noise is doing its job!), light creeping in from doors, windows, or electronics around the room, amount of daytime sleep, age-appropriate bedtime, major change in their daily life, and their ability to fall asleep independently. Each of these factors could be the culprit.
But if you’ve checked on each of those, and you’re not making progress, then there’s a good chance that it really is a sleep regression. Congrats! Your little one is learning and growing, and working so hard to master this new development – even if it’s when they’re supposed to be sleeping.
How can you know for sure it’s a regression and not an external factor? There are some telltale signs like major protesting or outright skipping naps, taking longer to fall asleep, fighting bedtime, and early wakings. Keep in mind that these can also be confused for your child’s need to drop a nap, so try to ride it out to get to the bottom of the sleep upset.
By the way, if you’re fresh out of the newborn stage and experiencing your first sleep regression, I talk about the 4 month sleep regression specifically over here, so that is a great place to start!
Now on to the good news! While it can feel never ending when you’re in the thick of it, sleep regressions usually only last 2-6 weeks. And you know I’m here to help you through this as quickly as possible, so you can all get back on track to that dependable sleep schedule where you could get work done, chill out, or you know, sleep! So how will you go through a sleep regression and come out the other side with your sanity intact?
Your trusty routine – If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! Routines are so important for babies so they know that sleep is coming, and this is especially important when things are already off for them. Now is not the time to be switching from what is normal, nor is it time to introduce a new sleep prop. Even if they don’t get their nap in, that quiet time is still good for them too! Moral of the story? Keep it consistent.
Keep your cool – Much like I teach my 1:1 clients, don’t go rushing in as soon as your little one makes a peep. Give them time to try and settle on their own.
Leave & Check – If you’ve given them ample time to work it out on their own, but it’s just not working, do a Leave & Check. This is where you pick a reasonable amount of time (say 5-10+ minutes), then you go in and comfort your little one, but then you leave within about a minute. We’re here to find that balance between comforting our babies, and encouraging their independent sleep, right?
Get outside! - There are endless benefits to getting outside, but one of them is to build up sleep pressure. This creates a greater drive to sleep, and that stimulation of being outdoors also works wonders.
Ditch the screens – No screen time for your kiddos (or you, for that matter!) at least an hour before sleep means the blue light isn’t interfering with your child’s Circadian Rhythm.
The truth is, not every child will have dramatic side effects of their sleep regressions. If that’s you, count your blessings! And don’t worry, that doesn’t mean your kiddo isn’t developing all the same – they’re just dong it in their own way.
But if you’re really struggling with a sleep regression, reach out! Take a look at my service options to find one that will get your family sleeping again. Not sure what to choose? Contact me here so I can guide you in that decision based on your baby’s specific needs, or book a free call as the first step towards those healthy sleep rhythms (for everyone!) once again. You deserve to feel human again, and I have every confidence that I can help you get there.