Sleepless nights are, of course, the bane of every parent’s existence. When you finally coax your infant or toddler into a reasonable sleep schedule, or even get them sleeping through the night, the thought of a sleep regression is a terrifying one. Rest assured that sleep regressions are both normal and temporary. While they are frustrating, understanding why they occur and when they will pass will help you to weather them in stride.
The 4-Month Sleep Regression
At between 3 and 4 months, your baby, who was just easing out of the newborn phase and sleeping for longer stretches of time, may begin to wake more frequently during the night, and his naps may become even more erratic. Simply put, he is going throw a physical growth spurt and a major leap in his brain’s development. He is becoming more aware of his environment, and therefore may become distracted from sleep. While you are likely suffering from a sleep deficit after those heady newborn days, hang in there, as this phase will pass, and your baby will begin to sleep for longer stretches as he approaches his six month birthday.
The 9-Month Sleep Regression
You may notice that between 8 and 10 months, your child will begin to pull herself up to a standing position when holding onto furniture, your legs, and, yes, her crib railing. She will likely love to practice her new skill for you, but, unfortunately for her sleep quality, and yours, she may also decide to practice in her crib as well. Many babies at this age will pull themselves up to stand in their crib, but will then cry out for your assistance in order to sit back down. Try working with your baby during the day to teach her to sit back down, by putting something on the ground that she is attracted to, and helping her to bend her legs at the knees. Once she masters this skill, and once standing becomes less of a novelty, this regression will pass as well.
The 12-Month Sleep Regression
This sleep regression coincides with yet another milestone…walking! As your child learns to walk, he’ll be tempted to practice in his crib. Some babies will need attention from their parents in order to go back to sleep, while others will simply put themselves back to sleep. In either case, give your walker plenty of time to practice his skills during the day, which will tire him out in time for bed! In any case, he will likely grow out of this regression as his skills become old hat.
The 18- to 24-Month Sleep Regression
At some point between 18 and 24 months, most toddlers will begin their next major milestone when they start to speak. When your child starts talking, she may wake more frequently at night, partly to practice her new skill, and partly because the new skills she is learning may make her more restless. As words begin to come to her more easily, this phase will pass as well.
What to do as a parent? First of all, keep any routines you have in place. If you have a bedtime routine or a pre-nap ritual, keep it intact. Maintain the same schedule as usual. Remember what normally works to get your child to sleep. Some children fuss themselves back to sleep, while others may need a check-in and a reminder to go to sleep, and others may need more soothing. But don’t fall back on sleep crutches you’ve discarded. These regressions are temporary, and while it may be tempting to “solve” the problem, the best thing you can do is maintain as much normalcy as possible until your child’s sleep goes back to normal.