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Sleep Regressions and How to Manage Them

Updated: Jul 25, 2023




Sleep regression is probably something you have never heard of before you've had a baby. But once you do, you constantly start wondering if it's another sleep regression?


I was just like most other parents, constantly wondering if it's teething, sleep regression or just poor sleep habits. And you might be wondering how do you differentiate between them all, and when will be the time your baby will be sleeping well.


If your baby has not been sleeping well for quite some time, it might be a sign of issues with the sleep itself. However it could be that your baby has been perfectly fine and one day (unfortunately with no advance warning) your baby is up in the early hour of the morning (or is it still considered night?), refuses to go to bed and your whole sleep schedule has gone out of the window.


In this blog post I will cover the most common sleep regressions, what they can look like and what can you do cope with them.


What is a Sleep Regression?


Sleep regression is a sudden change (worsening) of baby's sleep, due to their developmental milestones. It is influenced by their brain development and is caused by different developmental leaps.


What are the most common causes for sleep regressions?

- 4 month sleep regression (probably the only one with a specific time)

-learning to crawl/stand or walk

-Language development



Sleep setbacks can also be caused by other things, such as:


-Teething

-illness

-separation anxiety (moving to their own room, going to nursery etc)

-big changes in sleep, such as dropping a nap


While both can present quite a challenge in itself, the real problem is your baby changing their sleep habits, which stay with you even once the regression is over. So I would like to go with the coping mechanisms in this blog post.


If your baby has been going through any of these for more than 2 weeks and it feels like your sleep situation has taken a wrong turn, check my Online Sleep courses, which are designed to help your put your sleep ack on track. Not only you will get Instant access to age appropriate wake widows, downloadable sleep routines, but it also comes with a troubleshooting hub and cover a wide range of topics including dropping a nap, extending naps and stopping night wakes. You can find more detailed information here.


What are the most common sleep regressions?


4 Month Sleep Regression



From the biological point of view it is the biggest sleep regression an infant goes through.

All the other sleep regressions, which say that your baby is not sleeping well because of a developmental milestone, have more behavioural character and can be dealt with using the right approach. While with the 4 month sleep regression it could be a bit more challenging.


A lot of my one of one clients come to me saying, their baby has been sleeping really well up until that point, but after the regression has struggled to get back to good sleep patterns. One of the most popular questions people ask me during my weekly Q&A sessions is:


Will my baby go back to sleeping well after the 4 month regression?


The answer to that is not so straight forward. If you introduce any other sorts of sleep dependencies during this regression, the chances are they are not going to go away on their own. For example if you have started rocking or feeding your baby to sleep. Babies get used to such things very quickly, and I would say are not very likely to go back to self-soothing on their own. My Sleep Course can help you to move slowly towards them self soothing and therefore reducing their number of night wakes.


How Long Does a 4 month Sleep Regression Last?


Usually the 4 month sleep regression lasts between 2-4 weeks (in most cases it will be around 2 week mark)



8 Month Sleep Regression


There a lot of changes going on in your baby's life at the age of 8 months and therefore many reasons for yet another sleep setback. My top tip would be to avoid introducing sleep habits, you do not want to keep in the future. Such as co-sleeping out of need rather than choice. If you do end up co-sleeping but would like to change things around, book a free Discovery Call with me to see how I can help your family. As I use a very gentle and gradual approach with my one to one clients, which has helped many families to move away from co-sleeping.


The biggest changes your baby would face at this age are:

- dropping a nap

- separation anxiety

- crawling and moving about


With crawling and moving they might want to practice their skills more at bedtime. I would suggest you do not intervene and allow them to do their own thing. Eventually they will get back to self-settling and the time it takes them to fall asleep will go down.


My baby was self-settling but has suddenly started crying when I leave the room


This is a clear sign of separation anxiety. At this age babies develop the concept of "Object Permanence". Meaning that they are aware of your existence, when you are out of their sight.


They usually start enjoying peek-a-boo at this age, while they could have been terrified of it before. This is because up until 8 months they don't have an understanding that things can exist out of their sight. And it would be the biggest reason for separation anxiety as they are suddenly aware you are just outside of their room. If you need an alternative settling approach in order to make your baby less stressed, while they are going through this transition, check my Online Courses.



Teething or Illness Sleep regressions


When going through an illness it is normal for babies and toddlers to need more support from their parents. I Always suggest providing as much comfort as your baby needs during those times, but getting back to your usual sleep routine as soon as they get better in order to avoid having long term or ongoing sleep issues.



If you are struggling with your baby's sleep Get in Touch Now. With My Bespoke Sleep Plans you will start seeing improvements in the first 3-5 days.


Or get Instant Access to my Online Sleep Courses here.








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