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All About Sleep Regression with Babies

Find out why sleep regression is happening and how to solve it


If your baby has been sleeping well in the past, but suddenly has started waking - they may be experiencing sleep regression. Sleep regression commonly occurs in children 4 months, 8-10 months, and 12-18 months old, depending on the child.

It can be easy to be caught off guard when regression starts, particularly as if you have been lulled into a false sense of security by a little one with a solid sleep pattern. Babies who have been surprisingly calm and sleeping several hours at a time, could be suddenly all over the place, waking every two hours during the night for a feed and avoiding their regular naps.

Why does sleep regression happen? 

At four months old, your baby’s sleep patterns may begin to regress as they change and mature.  They are becoming more like “adults” with their sleep patterns, alternating between light and REM (deep) sleep.  This is a normal milestone and is a good sign, showing that their brain is developing well- although this change can make things a little more difficult for tired parents.

How do you address sleep regression? 

After you have been able to take a deep breath and try to get a little short term rest - you can begin to tackle “sleep training”, or teaching your baby a new way to sleep. 

Some babies have particular sleep triggers - for example, they need to be fed, or rocked to sleep. The first step of sleep training will be to begin to change those behaviors. When sleep regression starts, you may want to continue to rock your little one to sleep, but long-term there are several techniques you can begin to use to help get your little one resting all night again. The technique you choose to you use depend on your parenting style and the child’s temperament.

Teaching your baby to fall asleep alone can be a scary prospect for parents but it is achievable. You can start by simply putting your baby to bed when they are drowsy but still awake. Once your baby can fall asleep on their own, he or she will be able to “self-soothe” - which will result in being able to put themselves back to sleep when they wake at night. Eventually they will be sleeping through the night.

What ages/stages does sleep regression hit?

Sleep regression can happen at a few different stages, the first “sleep regression” period is permanent and usually hits at four months old. The next regression tends to take place between 8-10 months (this varies greatly) and it occurs largely due to brain development. This regression is more of a phase than a permanent change. This stage of sleep regression can last up to six weeks, but usually only lasts a week or two. In addition to sleep regression, your baby will hit several important milestones at this age- from cutting a tooth to learning to crawl, and stand up and understand language. With all of these transitions going on in their lives, babies still need 11-12 hours sleep a night.

Toddlers can also experience regressions since they are becoming independent little people, often with their own ideas for bedtime- rather then sleep. Similar to infants their sleep patterns may be disrupted for a variety of reasons, such as teething, separation anxiety or a display of their will- but consistency is key. If you’ve been consistent and successful in the past with sleep training, you will be again.   

If you are looking for other ideas in addition to sleep training, here are some tips to get you through regression.

  • Give them a little more food - it could be a growth spurt, and they might need a little extra nourishment.
  • When comfort is needed offer it, but try to avoid falling back into old habits that could hinder healthy sleep patterns. Cuddling is fine, but you probably want to avoid getting back into the habit of rocking your baby to sleep.
  • Get your little one to bed earlier so that they don’t get overly tired before you put them down to bed.
  • Remember, this is a phase. Hang in there - you’ll all get through it!
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