Sleep regressions | Birth to 18 months explained

Sleep regressions | Birth to 18 months explained

Sleep regressions | Birth to 18 months explained

Sleep regressions

As a mum I only ever wanted what was best for my babies, and this included getting them to sleep, and stay asleep! What I learnt quickly was that like all things parenting, sleep progression is not linear, there are these bumps in the road, more commonly called sleep regressions.

You won't notice them all, or you might. You might notice them bang on these age brackets or a little either side.

Both are normal!

4-6 months

4-6 months, this one can be a biggy, if your baby still cat naps (45 minutes) at this age, and they have not yet learnt to self soothe or re-settle a lot of babies at this age begin to wake every 2-4 hours over night.

This is due to a change in sleep cycle length (from 4-6 hours to 2-4 hours) and the fact that babies at this age fully wake between sleep cycles.

This waking fully between sleep cycles is a permanent change, its a development and progression rather than a regression, but it does result in worse sleep if your baby can't re-settle, so we see it present as a regression.

The good news is this reduces your babies risk of dying from SIDS. Your baby isn't broken, they are progressing as expected.

Waking every 2 hours is hard to cope with as a parent, our sleep debt quickly climbs to levels we can't sustain, and the same is true for our babies. The effects of this increased sleep debt can be seen as a grumpy tired baby, and short naps ending in tears.

If you are noticing the 2 hourly wake ups at night are not doing either of you any good, then its time to work on re-settling independently over night. This doesn't mean CIO, and it doesn't mean denying all feeds. But it is unlikely your baby needs to eat every 2 hours at 4-6 months old. We can usually achieve 1-2 feeds a night in a thriving baby at this age, breast or bottle fed.

Read more about the 4 month sleep regression 

9 months

9 months – this one is usually associated with some separation anxiety and the ability to crawl and roll!

Who wants to sleep when there is crawling and rolling to be done! This can send some parents into a spiral of rocking and feeding to sleep just to stop the constant crawling!

Combined with an increase in solids as you've recently moved to three meals a day, dropped a nap, and some separation anxiety as your baby learns object permanence, can be enough to destroy sleep for a week or so.

Try not to start any settling habits in this time that you don't plan to continue with.

Sitting quietly with your baby as they drift off to sleep is a nice way to combat separation anxiety tears without resorting to rocking or feeding to sleep.

9 month sleep regression case study 

12 months

12 months – if you thought separation anxiety was bad at 9 months, at 12 months some babies show real protest at being left alone!

Their cry is louder and more upsetting, and they are determined.

They don’t want to stop reading books with you and sleep, or stop playing with their blocks and sleep, play is more fun, and these little people know what they want. FOMO kicks in, and its a real sleep barrier!

Spend more time on a wind down routine to allow your baby to be calm and content before sleep. Don’t be fooled into dropping naps as a response to this stage, they are learning to walk and run and will be exhausted!

Typically this regression is one to hold on and ride out without changing a thing. Give it 7 days. 

18 months

18 months – now these babies are becoming toddlers and you have probably made the difficult transition to 1 nap. If you do this too soon how ever it can result in early morning wake ups and nap refusals. Your toddler sees their morning nap as a continuation of their night sleep.

We can help you get this balance right.

Your 18 month old has started to enter yet another round of growth and development, and along with separation anxiety and language development, we get disrupted sleep.

Signs of the 18 month sleep regression are frequent night wake ups, or prolonged periods of wakefulness in the night.

Often naps will regress back to 45 minute cat naps, or you might have nap refusal.

Read more

Do they ever stop!!!!

If you need some help with your baby or toddler during their sleep regression, book a free chat with our friendly team of certified sleep consultants.


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