Let us first define ‘regression’. Not every parent, sleep coach or sleep expert agrees that the word regression is used correctly regarding to sleep. But literally taken, a ‘regression’ is a situation in which things get worse rather than better’ the dictionary says. So if we put this into the context of sleep, we are simply referring to the period of time that a child’s sleep might go a little less smooth than before.
How do I know my child is having a sleep regression?
If you’ve been through a phase of sleep regression or you’re in the middle of it ‘as we speak’, you might recognize the following:
* Appetite has increased
* Your child suddenly wakes-up during the night
* No or poor napping
* More fussiness, resistance and tears
* Very attached to the parents resistance to be with other people
So you can see, sleep regressions are easy to detect. Less sleep for your baby obviously means less sleep for your whole family. These times can ask a lot from you as a parent, but take a deep breath and remember it will pass. Eventually.
Why do they occur?
The reasons for periods of regressed sleep are usually related to developmental milestones and stages when children learn new skills. In these phases a child’s brain naturally works overtime as it processes and stores new information. This information overload is what can cause your child to wake up and be restless mentally and physically.
Sleep regressions are thus a normal phase of disorganization in a baby’s body and brain. Their brain is so busy with his new tasks that they just don’t have any room to perform his other jobs. Sleeping, eating, and even their mood can get confused. When their new skill becomes more familiar, your baby will be able to combine the task and sleep will settle down again.
When do they occur?
Sleep regressions happen during developmental ‘leaps’. Those leaps typically happen around a specific age, but might differ from child to child. So your child may experience them at different times than other babies, it just depends on when he starts to change developmentally.
At these ages children may experience a period of regressed sleep (good to know: not all apply to every baby!).
* 4 months
* 7 months
* 9 months
* 12 months
* 15 months
* 18 months
* 2 years
* 3 years
How long will they last and how do I survive?
Sleep regressions usually last between 2-6 weeks, but the good news is that most babies don’t experience every sleep regression mentioned above.
Most of the times it’s a matter of ‘hanging in there’, but I have some practical advice for you to make life a little easier for you and your family during this period. First, prevent the regression turning into a long-term sleep problem. Keywords are patience and consistency. (Note: Consistency is one of my ‘favorite’ words, my holy grail so to say, you will notice when you know me a little better. I will devote a whole blog to it soon, but that aside). But what I meant to say, you should avoid creating new sleep crutches and continue to put your child down for naps and bedtime around the same times, even if they refuse to sleep. Use the same bedtime routines as you did before, predictability offers your child the guidance he needs. If they skip a nap or wake-up early, try again within an hour after you snuggled and soothed your baby.
Don’t let your baby cry-it-out (ever!), being emotionally available is the best you can do. And ask for help if you’re too tired, self-care is very important in exhausting and vulnerable times. And remember: it will pass!
Consider these things
1. A sleep regression is usually a reflection of a normal part of a child’s development so it can help to think of it more along the lines of it being a positive progression in development rather than a regression which has negative implications.
2. As a parent, understand that you’ve done nothing wrong if in the past your child usually slept well and all of a sudden in a matter of days, your child starts to struggle with sleep. Sleep regressions are a response to a normal part of your child’s development so it has nothing to do with what you have or have not done. Having said that, see point three below.
3. There are things you can do to minimise the intensity or duration of a sleep regression once it hits. It also helps to be aware of the typical ages and stages normally associated with sleep regressions so you can be prepared in advance.
4. Most sleep regressions only last a week or two so stay consistent and be your child’s ‘rock’.
5. Sleep regressions can vary greatly amongst children so what your friend’s child is doing will probably not apply to your child, so don’t be quick to compare your child with others.
Want to know more? Leave me a message and I will reach out to you soon!