Mylee Zschech is a Certified Sleep Consultant and owner of Little Big Dreamers ( www.littlebigdreamers.net ) and she helps tired and stressed parents improve their children or baby’s sleep through extensive education, individualized sleep plans and ongoing support.
The dreaded sleep regressions.
Sleep regressions are one of those things that us moms Google often when our baby’s sleep changes or goes downhill. We wonder if: this shall pass, if it is the new normal or if there are things we can do to handle and improve it. In general, sleep regressions happen when developmental changes impact on a baby’s sleep. These developmental changes can be social, physical or sleep related.
The 4-month sleep regression The 4-month sleep regression occurs when a baby is growing out of their newborn sleep cycles and develops a more adult-like sleep cycle. A baby this age no longer falls directly into deep sleep and instead goes through lighter sleep first. This means that if you are still rocking your baby to sleep you will find it takes longer before you can place him in the crib without him waking right up. At this time they are also learning how to connect their sleep cycles, so catnaps can be quite common.
Babies this age are also learning how to roll over, which can interrupt sleep, especially when they haven’t learnt to roll over both ways yet.
Tips: • Give plenty of opportunity to self soothe to sleep. This will help with learning to fall asleep independently and connecting sleep cycles. • Spend a lot of time practicing rolling over during tummy time. • Compensate for missed sleep with early bedtimes.
The 8-10 month sleep regression This regression can occur any time between 8 to 10 months old. It coincides with several different changes in terms of your baby’s sleep and physical development. Your baby will likely be transitioning from three naps to two (if they haven’t already). At this time babies are also learning lots of new skills like crawling, pulling up to stand or cruising on furniture. They are also learning and soaking up language.
You may find that your baby wakes up a lot overnight to practice their newfound skills and because their brain is too busy to relax into sleep. Parents also may find that their baby starts to fight naptime because their nap needs have changed.
Tips: • If you aren’t prepared to handle the changes in your baby’s naps it might lead to overtirendess and more sleep issues. Compensate for any missed sleep again with early bedtime and consider tweaking naps if you think your baby is ready for the three to two nap transition. • Create a dark and non-stimulating bedroom environment to maximize the chance of sleeping. • Use a sleep sack to reduce range of movement and opportunity to practice skills like crawling or standing in the crib. • Give plenty of opportunity to practice new developmental skills during playtime.
The 18-month sleep regression This sleep regression happens at a time when there is an explosion of language development and also the transition from two naps to one. The transition from two naps to one is particularly tough and can take months. My second son particularly struggled with this transition and it caused short naps, early risings and lots of night wakings in a toddler who used to be a good sleeper. Separation anxiety can also play a factor in any sleep struggles or sleep resistance at this age.
Tips: • Set clear limits and boundaries around sleep and be consistent about offering naps at biologically appropriate times. • Be consistent with providing at least 1.5 hours of sleep/rest time for their one nap. • Be careful not to provide intermittent reinforcement. • You could develop a photo chart with bedtime and naptime rules. Get your toddler involved by taking photos of him performing each action then collate it and hang it in the bedroom to review each sleep time. • Institute early bedtimes as well to compensate for missed sleep.
By following these tips and understanding why your baby or toddler experiences these regressions you will be able to help them get through it within a few weeks to a month. If it takes longer or there were sleep challenges prior to the regression time it is not likely a short-term problem but a long-term issue. Engaging a child sleep consultant will help you make the needed changes and improve your little one’s sleep.