When Do Babies Go Through Sleep Regressions

What is a sleep regression, anyway?? Sleep regressions are a developmental PROgression where your baby is learning new and exciting skills. While these new physical and mental skills are a great step in your child’s development, they can cause sudden sleep problems that throw parents for a loop. It can be hard in the moment but try to remember that these developmental milestones are normal and 100% temporary. 

Some of the key indicators of a sleep regression are middle-of-the-night wakeups that weren’t happening prior, short naps or struggling to go to sleep, and increased crankiness or fussiness. There are lots of developmental periods in your child’s first 3 years of life- they can be caused by a multitude of reasons. Today, I’m talking about when babies go through sleep regressions and sleep tips to navigate these milestones! 

When do babies go through sleep regressions

When Do Babies Go Through Sleep Regressions

4-Month Sleep Regression

The infamous 4-month sleep regression… It’s spoken about so often, and I have many clients reach out in hopes that I can magically make it disappear. I’m good, but I’m not that good! It often feels like this happens as soon as your baby starts sleeping through the night. Have no fear, this is a great time to work on independent sleep skills. This means that if you’ve been soothing your baby to sleep by feeding, rocking, bouncing, etc., they now can learn how to self-soothe to put themselves to sleep. They will need some instruction from you on how to do this- enter, sleep training. Learn more about my services and how I support families here.

Sleep regressions are actually a developmental PROgression when your baby suddenly starts learning new and exciting skills. It’s also when your baby’s sleep cycles are maturing and changing and they are developing new sleep patterns. This is why we are able to work on independent sleep skills at 4 months old – ah ha! This is the skill of teaching a child how to fall asleep on their own so that they can fall and stay asleep without parental involvement.

When do babies go through sleep regressions: 4 months

How to deal with the 4-month sleep regression

Signs

  • Increased night wakings
  • Short naps 
  • Try to roll over when put into sleep space
  • Getting distracted more easily 

New skills

  • Rolling
  • Trying to flip over
  • Suddenly more aware of surroundings and people coming and going (hello separation anxiety!)
  • Changes in sleep cycles

Tips

When do babies go through sleep regressions: 8 months

8-Month Sleep Regression

It may feel like things were steady for a few months and then BAM, your baby discovers how to get on their hands and knees and maybe, just maybe pull themselves up to stand. At this age, your baby will spend more time trying to master these newfound physical skills and developments.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

8-month sleep regressions are primarily caused by physical developments like scooting, crawling, or pulling to stand. At around 8 months, your baby might also be ready to drop the 3rd nap. If your baby isn’t falling asleep for the 3rd nap or it’s falling too late in the day, it is time to drop it!⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Have no fear, this is an exciting time for your baby. They are learning new, physical skills! Stay consistent with your sleep routines and sleep training methods. If the 3rd nap gets harder for them to settle for or is going to go past 5 p.m., it’s time to drop it!

How to deal with the 8-month sleep regression

Signs

  • Trying to crawl, scoot, or go up on hands and knees 
  • Pulling to stand
  • Disrupted naps during the day
  • Overnight wakings

New skills

  • Crawling
  • Scooting
  • Army crawl
  • Pulling to stand
  • Babbling

Tips

  • Practice new skills while awake 
  • Maintain routine and sleep schedule
  • Stick to your regular bedtime routine
  • Use an early bedtime if naps are off 
  • Drop 3rd nap if ready 
When do babies go through sleep regressions: 12 months

12-month Sleep Regression ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

There are A LOT of developmental milestones that take place around 12 months. There are growth spurts, physical, and verbal developments, it seems like a lot but these milestones are exciting!

At 12 months, your child is also entering toddlerhood – woohoo … right?! Toddlers are entering a whole new phase of development, they are slowly learning how to verbalize and communicate. They are also observing your actions, feelings, and emotions. You may start to see your child imitate you or try to repeat your phrases (be careful if you have a potty mouth like me!). They can also pick up on your reactions, if they have a tantrum because they couldn’t put a toy together and you rush over the fix it, you best believe they will have a tantrum the next time they can’t put the toy together. Try to let your child learn new things, including frustrations, these are all valid feelings and emotions that they have to learn. While it can be hard to watch, I promise they will learn to work through them!

How to deal with the 12-month sleep regression

Signs

  • Trying to walk
  • Pulling to stand
  • Babbling
  • Trouble falling asleep or settling down at bedtime and nap time⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
  • More frequent nighttime wake-ups⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
  • Skipping a nap⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

New skills

  • Walking
  • Pulling to stand
  • Babbling
  • New found independence

Tips

  • Practice new skills while awake 
  • Keep your toddler active and stimulated during the day
  • Maintain a bedtime routine and consistent sleep schedule
  • Continue to offer 2 naps!
  • Use early bedtime if naps are off 
When do babies go through sleep regressions: 2 years

2-year Sleep Regression ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

You’re almost through sleep regressions- hang in there! This one can take place at 18 months – 2 years old depending on the child. This regression is all about toddlerhood and your child’s social-emotional growth and development. 

As part of their social-emotional growth, your child may start to express fears. If they do, validate the fear and then move on. You can use fear spray (water and glitter) to spray their room before bed or add a book that addresses fears into your bedtime routine. Try to limit any show or video that may be leading to the fear.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

How to deal with the 2-year sleep regression

Signs

  • Resistance to nap or bedtime
  • Long time to fall asleep
  • Trouble falling back asleep
  • Overnight wake-ups 
  • Separation anxiety
  • Expressing fears ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

New skills

  • Language development
  • Physical development
  • Social development 

Tips

  • Ensure safety in your child’s room, especially if they start to try to escape the crib
  • Maintain routine
  • Avoid screen time at least an hour before sleep (try these bedtime activities for preschoolers instead!)
  • Implement a longer wind-down period to prepare the mind and body for restful sleep
  • Enable boundaries
When do babies go through sleep regressions: 3 years

3-year Sleep Regression ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Thankfully this is the last of the sleep regressions. Your little one is going through a lot of social-emotional learning and development as they grow through toddlerhood! 

It’s very common for 3-year-olds to experience fears at bedtime. Whether they’re afraid of the dark or experiencing separation anxiety, it’s important to validate their feelings but not make their fear feel like a bigger deal. To deal with these fears, (similarly to the 2-year sleep regression) you can use tactics like bedtime stories or fear spray to boost your toddler’s courage and help them through their sleep regression. 

How to deal with the 3-year sleep regression

Signs

  • Night waking
  • Waking up earlier than usual
  • Bedtime resistance 
  • Expressing fears
  • Refusing to take a nap or crying during nap time
  • Difficulty falling back asleep
  • Trouble staying in bed
  • Increased fussiness during the daytime 
  • Expressing fears or separation anxiety

New skills

  • Language development
  • Physical development
  • Social development 

Tips

  • Maintain routine
  • Avoid screen time at least an hour before bed
  • Help them conquer their fears 
  • Give them a small snack
  • Reduce nighttime bathroom trips
  • Be patient 

Sleep Regressions and Sleep Training

Can you work on sleep while your child is going through sleep regressions? Excellent question and the answer is YES! You can work on creating healthy sleep habits while your child is working on new physical and mental developmental skills. Each young child’s sensitivity to sleep regressions is different. Some parents don’t even know their child is working on a new developmental skill because they show no signs. Other babies, the majority, show the signs above when they are in a regression so it’s clear to parents that they are working on a new skill. 

Either way, following these tips won’t stop sleep regressions. However, they can help your child work through these developmental milestones and they can learn the skill of sleep during this time! If you are hesitant to work on sleep habits while they are in a regression that’s okay too. You can absolutely wait until they seem to have worked through the regression and pick back up on sleep skills!

This may be overwhelming to read but try to remember that regressions (I loathe this word) are in fact PROGRESSIONS, your child is doing exactly what they should be doing! They’re growing and developing, and with all of that can come some wonky sleep or unfamiliar behavior- cue the fussiness! 

Another reminder, every child is different. The timing of these regressions is generally around these ages but every child’s timeline varies slightly. If you’re exhausted and stuck after a regression and need help getting back on track, please reach out to us! Whether you need help getting your little one to go to bed, sleep through the night, or go back to sleep, Sleep Shore is here to help! We offer one-on-one sleep support to help your family become well-rested again. 

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