THE "PARTY OF FIVE" - Baby Sleep Regressions
Not even I can stop or foresee the madness brought down by the five sleep regressions that children can experience at 4, 8, 12, 18 & 24 Months old. Some children will breeze through the majority of these with no noticeable problems, while others will force you to kiss those date nights goodbye (at least temporarily).
Regressions can creep up on us in many ways: increased fussiness, protesting naps, naps that are too long or too short, and the worse: occasional night wakings that are completely out of character. Sound familiar? If you haven't already, download your "Pin" button because you're going to want to pin this page for future reference. Grab a glass of vino, and scroll through the most honest breakdown of the five sleep regressions: "Party of Five." Hardly a party, but catchy.
What is Sleep Regression?
Typically around four-months old, babies’ sleep patterns change. You may notice, all of a sudden, that baby starts sleeping less well. They might be extra fussy at bedtime, wake up more often than usual in the night, and nap less during the day. But, this is ultimately a good thing.
The four-month sleep regression signals a permanent change in your child’s sleeping patterns. And it’s actually a sign that baby is growing and developing well.
How Long Do Sleep Regressions Last?
The duration of each sleep regression can vary from child to child, but a general rule of thumb is that each period lasts between two and six weeks.
THE 5 TYPES OF BABY SLEEP REGRESSIONS:
- 4-month Sleep Regression
- 8-month Sleep Regression
- 12-month Sleep Regression
- 18-month Sleep Regression
- 24-month Sleep Regression
THE 4-MONTH SLEEP REGRESSION
Possibly the worst, and most unavoidable. This regression is characterized by your baby waking every 2-3 hours at night, similar to those first few weeks at home as a newborn. Also commonly referred to as "Wonder Week 19", your child at this age basically has a cognitive explosion: he starts to notice the dog, unfamiliar sounds, your older kids, etc. Children begin to understand their place in the world at this age and become highly distracted- a great tool for any parent who needs to calm a fussy baby, sure, but not when you're begging them to feed instead of staring at the squirrel outside.
It’s extremely important during this “distraction” phase that you encourage full feeds, or introduce a dream feed 2-3 hours after your little one has fallen asleep for the night to catch up on any missed calories during the day. With all the new experiences, age-appropriate wake windows can also be missed, causing baby to become overtired. And what happens with an overtired baby? Cortisol, the anti-sleep hormone that secretes from the pineal gland. Cortisol essentially makes it harder for baby to fall asleep and STAY asleep. In other words, you can expect around 3-4 weeks of random, inconsistent night wakings.
THE 8-MONTH SLEEP REGRESSION
Now this could come slightly early, slightly early or late depending on your child. This regression is partly to blame due to an advance in gross motor skills: crawling, cruising the furniture, pulling to stand. Another possible problem could be lack of adequate napping. Most babies are beginning to drop from three to two naps, and thus some days two naps isn't quite enough, and three naps are TOO much (confusing isn't this?!).
Always remember that “sleep begets sleep”- meaning the more they sleep during the day, the better they will sleep at night. Err on the side of too much napping if you're going through this, and try to refrain from the game of laying them back down over and over when they are standing in their crib before naps or bedtime. And go ahead, refill your glass now, I won’t tell anyone.
THE 12-MONTH SLEEP REGRESSION
Again this could be early or later, depending on when your little one begins to walk. I blame this regression on this new outlook of life on standing two feet, yet another mind blowing moment in “Toddlerland."
Switching from breastmilk to cow’s milk at this age can also cause some temporary digestion issues, causing upset tummies at night. As for napping and bedtime, most toddlers want to practice in their new skill in the crib too, and NO they won't lay down.
THE 18-MONTH SLEEP REGRESSION
Language development is happening fast at this age- finally we are able to somewhat communicate past pointing & grunting (well almost anyways). Cognitive leaps with verbal advancements are very exciting to parents and their children, and similar to walking, must also be practiced in the crib past bedtime (or at 3am to their stuffed animals). Or if you're lucky, going through their entire repertoire next to you in bed, on vacation, at midnight, while you are silently begging them to fall back asleep and cursing yourself for having that second glass of wine. They KNOW.
THE 24-MONTH SLEEP REGRESSION
Ahhhh the Terrible Two's. This regression is most commonly due to our sweet angels learning to assert themselves and be more independent, by testing Mommy & Daddy at bedtime. Some parents even believe that their children no longer need a nap because all of a sudden, their toddler begins nap & bedtime battles (it’s a good idea to keep it until at LEAST 3 years old) therefore an overtired child will wake more frequently at night.
Always offer a nap time for your toddler to catch even a quick nap; meaning giving him or her a dark room, white noise, and nap time routine. We can’t force children to sleep, but we can set the stage for it.
What Sleep Regression is the Worst?
Honestly, the first sleep regression—around four-months—is typically the worst. So, once you get through that, you’ll be on your way to being an old pro! But, every child is different. So your experience, and that of your little one, will be unique.
How to get through sleep regressions?
Option 1: Keep it simple and contact me at Hello@SleepandtheCity.com. We can help you through these regressions quickly and identify any underlying causes that could be hindering your success. It is extremelllllllly common to get stuck in one of these regressions and not be sure how to climb out.
Option 2: Ride it out and stay consistent in your response, and respond age-appropriately. And then drop us a line if it all goes south.
IN THE END, ALWAYS BE SURE TO USE MY "SLEEP AND THE CITY" RULES FOR SUCCESSFUL SLEEP SHAPING:
- Swaddle (0-6 months) for nighttime and nap times as needed; we love how easy this is with the Ollie Swaddle
- Comfy outfits for nap time (who wants to sleep in tight pants or a dress?!) We love pajamas from Finn + Emma®.
- White noise is continuously running; a one with low rumbling is best
- Room is completely dark for naps & nighttime (nightlight over 2+ years ok)
- The same sleeping environment is encouraged (meaning one place over and over, or to start, at least one nap in the desired sleep place per day). We LOVE the Dock-a-Tot Grand for my toddlers to achieve this no matter where we are!
- Understand the Wake windows by age
- Pause before rushing in to see if child can resettle on their own first if nap is less than 45 minutes
- Feed upon WAKING from sleep, not before (bedtime is the exception)
This blog post was written by Laura Olson, Certified Child Sleep Specialist. For more professional Baby & Toddler Sleep Ideas and Help, visit sleepandthecity.com