What is sleep regression?
Sleep regression is a disruption to your baby’s regular sleep pattern. Your child might start becoming fretful when you put them down for a nap. Their daytime naps may become interrupted, and they may begin waking during the night.
Undesirable though it is, sleep regression is a normal part of your baby’s development. It usually begins at around four months of age, and lasts for two to six weeks. There may further episodes periodically up until they are around 24 months old.
What causes sleep regression?
As your little one develops, they pass milestones like learning to roll, sit up, crawl and stand. Accumulating thrilling new skills is stimulating for your child. All this excitement can lead to sleep regression.
Growth spurts are another trigger. Your baby’s appetite increases, which can lead to waking more frequently. Disruption to your baby’s routine, such as a holiday or a change in childcare, can be another factor. And if your little one is unwell or teething, any pain or discomfort can cause sleep regression.
How do I help my baby sleep ?
As outlined in a useful guide from Moshi, the way to manage sleep regression varies depending on the stage of your baby’s development.
At 4 months
Your baby is rapidly developing, learning to smile, roll, and hold toys. Maintain a consistent schedule for bathing, story time, milk, and bed. If you give them a dummy, or rock them to sleep, keep doing this. A sustained routine will reassure and help calm your baby. A 4 month old needs 12-15 hours’ sleep a night. Consider longer daytime naps, so they’re not overtired by bedtime.
At 8 months
Your little one is learning to crawl and stand. As your baby becomes more aware of your movements, separation anxiety can occur. During the day, practise being out of the room for a few minutes, and play games like ‘peek a boo’. This helps teach your baby that you always come back. If your baby wakes at night, make an appearance to reassure them, but avoid overstaying.
At 12 months
Your baby is beginning to walk and talk. Provide plenty of activities to keep them stimulated, so they’re tired by bedtime. They may need fewer daytime naps. Maintain naptime and bedtime routines. If they wake in the night, reassure them gently. Keep the lights dim, and soothe them in a low, calm voice. Try to avoid picking your baby up.
At 18 months
Separation anxiety and teething are common at this age. Your baby’s natural desire for independence may result in challenging behaviour and tantrums. Established, consistent routines for naps and bedtime provide structure and reassurance for your child. Encourage independence in little ways, such as letting your baby choose a bedtime story.
At two years
Your child is probably toilet training, and teething again. These big changes in your child’s life can cause insecurity. So give them plenty of attention during the day, plus lots of cuddles, love and reassurance. Talk to them and acknowledge their fears. Reassure them that everything is alright. And keep bath time and bedtime routines consistent.