Is it a Sleep Regression?

You may have had a stretch of time when your little one was finally sleeping through, you were getting some sleep back yourself and they had also mastered nap time well too. Dare you say it, you had a routine?! Parents often ask why their little one has suddenly started to wake during the night and they are protesting their naps. It is usually when your little one reaches a new milestone that you may notice these changes; more crying, more clingy and more cranky. If you are sure your little one is not ill or teething then it is likely that it is that they are at an age that many refer to as ‘sleep regression.’ These usually occur around 4 months, 9 months and 12 months as an average. I don’t like referring to these milestones as a regression as nothing goes backwards only forwards. Your little one has entered a new stage of their life where they are likely mastering a new skill. These stages are huge cognitive developments for babies and they become engrossed in mastering their new skills and so we often see interference with sleep as their little minds tick away to try and succeed. This skill could be rolling, sitting, crawling, walking and even talking. These are all hugely exciting for babies and can leave them a little out of routine until their skill is mastered.

  • You can do lots to help your baby through these developmental leaps. During the day spend time with your little one to help them practise their new skill.
  • Make sure that you still practise bedtime routine as normal as well as naps, you don’t want to be adding in any sleep crutches as a quick fix to get them off to sleep.
  • Be mindful that you are likely to need to offer more reassurance, your baby will need you and want your comfort – it is a tough time for them.
  • It may be that as you are in the developmental leap you notice your baby has not yet learnt the skill of putting themselves to sleep. This is a good time to introduce a plan in helping them to settle on their own.
  • Don’t always blame sleep disturbances on milestones; a baby may begin to wake because of changes in their routine such as travelling, sickness, teething, new bedroom etc.
  • The Wonder Weeks by Hetty van de Rijit & Frans Plooij defines the 10 predictable weeks in a baby’s mental development during the first 20 months – this can be helpful to help understand where your little one is at.

If your baby was a skilled sleeper before entering a developmental milestone then the likelihood is that if you are consistent and do not introduce any new crutches your baby will fall back into a good routine. On the other hand, if your baby has had not learnt to self settle and they enter a leap you may find that their fussiness lasts a longer time and it is likely you will need to work on them being able to fall asleep independently for any improvement.

Be mindful of the ages that your little one will be likely to enter a leap and don’t compare your little one with anyone else’s! Every baby is different and they develop at different stages and respond in different ways. The good news is the leaps last around 3 – 4 weeks so try to remember it doesn’t last forever!

Laura, Babbaboo Sleep.

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