Sleep Regression During Baby’s First Year: Everything You Need To Know
Ahh, infant sleep regressions. Fun, fun, fun! Getting your baby to sleep through the night and take routine naps during the day is no easy feat, so when sleep regression occurs, parents often find themselves scratching their heads and wondering where they went wrong.
The key is to keep your head up, fight through your frustrations, and understand that we’ve all been there! There are many common reasons for sleep regression during baby’s first year. In this guide, we’re going to cover everything you should know to combat them so that you and your little one can get more sleep (hopefully!).
- Baby Sleep Regression: What Is It?
- 3 or 4 Month Sleep Regression
- 6 Month Sleep Regression
- 8 - 10 Month Sleep Regression
- 12 Month Sleep Regression
- Is It Something Else?
Baby Sleep Regression: What is it?
Sleep regression is pretty much what it sounds like. It’s when there is a regression—or relapse—in your baby’s sleep behavior. Where your child once slept soundly through the night and maintained scheduled naps each day, they now suddenly wake frequently at night and skip naps, leading to a frustrating child and even more frustrated parents. While poor sleep can happen any time, sleep regression in infants typically occurs consistently for anywhere between 2 to 6 weeks and will often coincide with important milestones in your little one’s development. While every child is different, there are common age periods when the regression is most likely to recur.
Before we take a look at the different age groups and what’s going on when sleep regression hits, let’s run through some quick facts you might not have known about baby sleep regressions:
- They’re normal. First and foremost, understand that sleep regression is completely normal and common. You’re not doing anything wrong!
- They can happen at pretty much any time. While we’ll be reviewing a few of the more common periods when it may occur, the truth is, it can happen anytime, be it 4 months or 2 years old!
- Fear not, it won’t last. Keep your head up, this too shall pass! Sleep regressions typically last anywhere from two to six weeks.
- Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. Sleep regression is super common, but it doesn’t happen to every baby. Try not to compare your child to others—every baby is different.
- Early signs. When your baby is hitting important milestones, such as communicating through babbling or beginning to walk, sleep regression is likely to occur, so brace yourself!
3 Month Sleep Regression (or 4 Month Sleep Regression)
This 3-4 month period of time in your child’s life is when they are just emerging from the 4th Trimester—a period of time which marks big changes in your child’s development as they get used to life outside of the womb. They’re becoming more cognizant of their surroundings and growing drastically in terms of cognitive developments.
Many argue that 3 month and 4 month sleep regression is not a regression at all, but rather a maturation, or new phase in their sleeping patterns. Regardless of semantics, the fact is your baby isn’t sleeping well anymore, so what’s happening and why?
At this stage in your newborn’s life, their sleep is becoming more and more akin to the typical stages of sleep people experience. In other words, their sleeping cycles are maturing. It’s common for normal humans to wake in the night, but we often forget since we easily fall back asleep.
Remember, at 3-4 months, babies are becoming more sensitive to the environment around them—this includes things like light, touch, and noise. They are also more aware of how close or how far mom is.
Your baby is taking in so much new information at 3-4 months! This amount of learning—and the excitement and curiosity that goes with it—can make it much more difficult for them to settle down to sleep.
More Reasons for Late-Night Cries
Unfortunately, those late-night cries are no longer just from a need for food or a diaper change. Now there are many more reasons, such as having stayed up too late before going to bed and being overtired and cranky. Just remember that crying is a means of communication for a baby since they don’t yet have the ability to form words.
Harder to Put Down
While your baby might have fallen asleep anywhere before, willy nilly, now you can expect your child to require a bit more effort and nursing to get them to sleep. This may mean more swaddling, bouncing, or using a pacifier.
Surviving the 3 or 4 Month Regression
It may be easier said than done, but try to get some sleep in whenever your baby sleeps. Put down the coffee, resist the temptation of relaxing in front of the TV, because nothing beats some much-needed Zs.
Here are some tips for getting through the 3-4 month sleep regression:
- Try a sleeping gown. Our baby sleep gown has an elastic bottom that can be tightened so your little one will feel safe and secure. Bonus: sleep gowns make middle of the night diaper changes much less disruptive.
- Swaddle. Snugly wrapping up your baby in a blanket will provide a sense of warmth and security by simulating a womb-like feeling. You can even swaddle over our sleep gown for an extra cozy environment.
- Encourage more feedings. Incorporating more daytime feedings and even a late-night feeding (11pm-12am), will help keep baby's tummy full longer. When my little one was young, I introduced a late night feeding and it worked like a charm, giving me an extra hour or two much-needed Z's between feedings.
- Create a sleep-friendly environment. Incorporate soothing motions and sounds when you’re putting your baby down to help lull her to sleep. Try playing soft music throughout the night which may make her more comfortable when she wakes. Heck, maybe she'll just fall back to sleep on her own!
- Get outdoors! Exposure to sunlight will help your child learn the difference between day and night.
6 Month Sleep Regression
At six months, your baby is reaching all kinds of wonderful milestones. They’re starting to recognize faces, they’re playing more, they’re beginning to babble, show curiosity, and so much more! It’s important to understand that with this increased sense of self and environmental awareness comes more disruption in their sleep behaviors.
Your baby might have trouble sleeping if he or she can hear people talking or see someone they recognize. More social interaction can also make it more tough to put them down for a nap.
Changes in Diet
At six months, your child has gone from baby food to solid foods (or, at least mashed-up solid foods) and this introduction can sometimes lead to varying reactions. Some foods may not sit well with your little one and can cause discomfort, making it harder to sleep.
Some babies begin teething at this age, which of course can be painful for them and disrupt their sleep. A great way to mediate this is to speak with your pediatrician about the various forms of pain relief available. There are plenty of safe countermeasures you can take like encouraging your little one to use a teething ring.
Surviving the 6 Month Regression
The best thing you can do to get through this rough patch in your baby’s sleep is to make a routine and stick to it. A strict, consistent schedule for your little one—this includes meals, nap time, bedtime, bath time—will help your baby get accustomed to sleep routines.
Here are some tips for getting through the 6 month sleep regression:
- Make baby comfortable. It's hard to sleep when you're not comfy! Be sure to put your little one in soft, breathable PJs so that she'll be warm, but not too hot. Our two piece infant PJ sets are super soft with a perfect amount of stretch.
- Keep a food journal. This way you'll know the foods that she does well with and those that may disagree with her, causing discomfort and disrupted sleep.
- Maintain a cool, dark sleep environment. Whether baby or adult, most humans sleep better in a cool, dark environment.
8 Month Sleep Regression (Sometimes 9 or 10 Month Regression)
Your baby is growing and along with that growth comes even more physical and cognitive milestones which can cause 8, 9, or 10 month sleep regression. The reason I say 8, 9, or 10 month regression is that this particular sleep relapse can happen at any of these ages. Whereas many parents tend to notice the 3 / 4 month sleep regression almost exactly at 3 1/2 to 4 months and the 6 month sleep regression right around the 6 month mark, this regression can be a a bit unpredictable and may come at anytime between 8 and 10 months.
At this age, babies are much more mobile. They’re sitting up, crawling, pulling themselves up, and maybe even walking. That’s a lot of energy! Sleep can be difficult to come by because they’re too busy trying out their snazzy new moves!
It also makes sense that sleep can be elusive simply because your baby becomes overtired from moving about so much and, therefore, become cranky and irritable come sleep time.
In terms of mental development, babies at 8 to 10 months old are becoming ever more aware. They can recognize toys they like, their parents' faces, and animals. They also have a much greater understanding of object permanence—meaning she understands that people exist even when you can’t see them. Unfortunately, this can lead to separation anxiety which may be even worse if she knows you're not far from her room.
It’s usually at this point that parents decide to drop nap #3 from the schedule. Their sleep needs in general are changing. They’ll begin sleeping more at night and less during the day, but this can still lead to sleep regression. Check out this article for tips on transitioning away from naps.
Surviving the 8, 9, or 10 Month Sleep Regression
So how do you stay sane when your baby goes through so many physical and mental changes that can disrupt sleep? Fear not. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing! Your baby is growing rapidly and you just need to keep up.
Here are some tips for getting through the 8-10 month sleep regression:
- Stick to your baby’s usual routine. Keep naps, bedtimes, and feeding time the same. When babies go through a lot of physical and mental changes, consistency is the best thing for them.
- Give extra TLC. Since your child is more prone to separation anxiety at this age, give them a little extra time for love and support and be consistent in giving that extra time. If there are older siblings, encourage them to get involved, too!
- Encourage her to practice her skills. Give your little one plenty of time to get used to her new skills. Let her crawl and move to her heart's content during the day so she isn't trying to practice during bedtime.
- Stick to an early bedtime. This is especially important if you decide to drop the 3rd nap. You don’t want your baby becoming overtired from a long day!
12 Month Sleep Regression
It’s your baby’s first birthday—say hello to the 1 year sleep regression! Your baby is now at the cusp of toddlerhood. Their brains are growing, they’re communicating more and taking their first steps. It’s a time to be proud of your baby, but it can also be aggravating when they suddenly aren’t sleeping like they once were. So why now?
At this age, your baby is learning more and more skills. They’re engaging in physically demanding play, such as climbing and throwing things (hopefully nothing valuable). The one year mark is exhausting stuff and can often disrupt their sleep.
Changing Sleep Patterns
Similar to the 8-10 month period, at 12 months, your child is undergoing some changes to their sleep. Around this time, you might drop a nap or two from their normal routine which can lead to them becoming overtired from being up longer before bedtime.
Surviving the 12 Month Regression
12 month sleep regression could be happening for these reasons and even reasons we’ve already gone over in previous ages. They may be teething, experiencing separation anxiety, and becoming overtired from increased mobility.
Here are some tips for getting through the 1 year old sleep regression:
- Move bedtime up. Make bedtime earlier if you drop a nap during the day so your baby won’t be overtired and cranky.
- Be consistent! Stick to your routine the best you can. Good routines encourage good sleep!
- Keep practicing skills. Just like with 8-10 month sleep regression, give your 1-year old plenty of time during the day to try out her new skills.
- Extra X's and O's. Separation anxiety is likely to still be happening at 12 months. Keep the snuggles and attention coming.
Is it Something Else?
While sleep regression is certainly no myth, it’s possible that your child is experiencing something else entirely. Some telltale signs that your baby is in fact having a sleep regression are the following:
They’re older than 4 months. Sleep regression is most likely to occur after the 4 month mark simply because they are making transitions out of the “womb” phase. Their sleeping cycle is naturally evolving.
They’re waking more often during the night. If your baby is suddenly waking up constantly at night and consistently, it’s very likely a sleep regression.
No more sleeping like a log. Where your baby may have zonked out anytime anywhere, now they no longer are. The days of sleeping through just about anything are coming to a swift end.
It’s not hunger or sickness. Before labeling it a sleep regression, you want to ensure your baby isn’t feeling hungry or sick, which of course can cause disruptions in their sleep.
They aren’t experiencing a growth spurt. Sleep regressions often coincide with physical and mental developments and milestones, but don’t confuse this with a growth spurt. Growth spurts have more to do with physical growth and increased body weight.
If it’s not sleep regression, you may be wondering what could be causing such a disruption in your baby’s sleep. While there’s a ton of different reasons why your baby may not be sleeping through the night, here are a few common reasons:
Growth spurts in a baby are short periods of time—normally a week—where your baby grows physically, resulting in increased appetite and more frequent waking at night to feed. With sleep regression, your baby is waking at night for harder-to-pinpoint reasons related to their development. Sometimes growth spurts and sleep regression will overlap, however.
We mentioned teething earlier in this article in relation to 6 month sleep regression, and while it can certainly contribute to disrupted sleep, it doesn’t always go hand-in-hand with sleep regression. Your baby might just be fussy and cranky, which can of course lead to a few bad days of poor sleep if they’re teething, without it lasting too long.
All babies are different and some might have a varying tolerance for pain. Always speak with your pediatrician first before introducing pain relief so your baby can get back on track.
Stress in a baby’s life can also hinder their sleep. Moving, for example (as in moving to a new home), can cause stress for both the baby and the parent. You might find yourself deviating from your normal routine to pack or work out the moving process details which can lead to missed naps.
When babies are stressed, they might begin grinding their teeth or experiencing nightmares at night. Additionally, the unfamiliarity of a new place can also lead to your child waking more during naps and bedtime.
As much as you may try to prevent it, your baby is going to get sick eventually, which means she will want to sleep more due to the exhaustion of attempting to fight off the illness. This can throw off their whole sleeping routine—naps might happen more frequently and bedtime might come early, with them waking and crying at night. This is totally normal, and is not a result of sleep regression.While disrupted sleep may occur, overall, you can expect much more downtime from your little one, so enjoy this freed up time to get some Zs yourself!
Sleep regression is always a challenge to deal with, but take comfort in the fact that you're not alone! Sleep regressions in babies are incredibly common during the first year, especially around 3 to 4 months, 6 months, between 8 and 10 months, and around baby's first birthday. Since they often coincide with baby's personal developmental milestones, regressions don't affect every baby the same way so try not to compare your little one to others. Sleep regressions usually last anywhere from 2-6 weeks so don't worry, this will pass. Eventually.
Your baby is continually maturing throughout the first year - becoming more aware of her environment and building quite a repertoire of new skills. For your baby, every day is filled with new experiences and learning new things. Honestly, you can't blame her. Why would she want to sleep when there are so many fun new things to do while she's awake?!
Wishing you lots of luck (and patience), mama!
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