My toddler is now 22 months old and I thought I had hit the jackpot approx 4 months ago when he decided to sleep through from 7pm until 6am – woohoo! I was finally feeling normal and getting a constant ‘block’ of sleep. I felt like a new person as he has never been a great sleeper. Most nights I was up with him 4, 5 sometimes more each night.
I became used to it and learnt how to survive on 5 hours of broken sleep and still function. When he woke I would have to re settle him as he just couldn’t settle himself. I would be in his room with him for approx 20 minutes each time he woke.
I have tried everything, white noise, control crying, shhh him, night lights, temperature control, you name it I’ve tried it!
I guess I just have in and assumed he would sleep through when he was ready. Guess what, he did, in his own time and it was lovely for the 4 months whilst it lasted.
It seems he has regressed and now doesn’t want to sleep again…. Last night we were awake for almost 2 hours from 3:19am. Admittedly he went down at 7:30pm after 30 minutes of me sitting in his room with him almost begging him to sleep. Then when he woke I tried every thing! He just did not want to go back to sleep. At 5am I gave in and put him in bed with me and he then slept until 7am.
I know I shouldn’t have given in and put him in my bed, however I was too tired and cold after 2 hours to confine the back and forth from his room to mine.
I’ve been following Nicole Johnson’s ‘The Baby Sleep Site’. She has great tips and for the most part they work.
Most of all though, they explain that children will sleep when they are ready and that we are not alone nor crazy!
I’ve found an article on sleep regression that I think is a great read.
Let me know your thoughts.
Or log onto ‘The Baby Sleep Site’ and have a look at other helpful and interesting articles for yourself.
Sleep regressions – most of us consider them the bane of our parenting existence! But is a sleep regression the same thing as a growth spurt? And if your baby or toddler’s sleep suddenly falls apart, how can you tell if it’s due to a regression or a growth spurt?
4 Month Sleep Regression
This sleep regression is tough on parents – it can sometimes feel like you’re straight back to having a newborn again, especially if your baby was sleeping through the night and napping well before the regression started! The 4 month regression happens because your baby’s brain and sleep patterns are maturing and changing. Before 4 months, your baby’s sleep patterns are very different from yours; during the 4 month regression, your baby’s sleep patterns are maturing and becoming much more like yours. As a result, you may find that your baby wakes more frequently at night and too early at nap time; this is usually a result of waking between sleep cycles. You can read our original 4 months sleep regression article, or you can read a newer, updated 4 month sleep regression article as well.
8 Month (or 9 Month, or 10 Month) Sleep Regression
If you manage to get your 4 month old sleeping well after the 4 month sleep regression, you’re not out of the woods yet – you still have the 8/9/10 month sleep regression to contend with! The cause of this regression is pretty easy to spot, for most parents – at this age, your baby is going through major developmental milestones! From 8-10 months, most babies are becoming expert crawlers, they’re pulling up on furniture and beginning to cruise around, and they may even be starting to walk. What’s more, your baby is learning a lot of hand-eye coordination at this time – by 8 months, most babies are becoming able to spot a toy they want, creep/crawl over to it, pick it up with their pincer grip, and then inspect it closely (and perhaps try to eat it!). Truly, this window of time is an explosion of physical development for most babies. No wonder, then, that sleep is disrupted – their brains and bodies are learning so many new physical skills!
12 Month Sleep Regression
This sleep regression is less-common; not every child will go through this one. That may be because it has more to do with naps, and therefore doesn’t have the same overall impact on sleep. Specifically, this regression is characterized by a 12-month old suddenly refusing to take two naps, and refusing to sleep during the first morning nap. Lots of parents assume this means it’s time to transition from two naps to one, but we discourage this. Most babies aren’t actually ready for just one nap per day until between 15 months and 18 months. So really, this regression has a lot to do with your baby consolidating sleep differently – by 12 months, your baby is likely sleeping very long stretches at night, and getting just 2-3 hours of sleep in naps. This change in sleep consolidation can cause a brief “nap strike” right around 12 months of age. You can read more about the 12 month sleep regression here.
If you feel like 3 sleep regressions in the first year of life is a lot, just wait until you see how many growth spurts you can expect in the first year:
Of course, your baby won’t experience growth spurts at exactly those times (babies aren’t nearly so predictable!) but you can use these as rough estimates. Baby growth spurts are short intervals (usually about a week) during which time your baby will have an increased appetite, and will often wake more at night to feed. And baby growth spurts affect sleep, too. During these baby growth spurts, your baby may also seem extra-sleepy, so even though sleep may be interrupted by extra feedings, you may find that your baby’s overall sleep amounts per day are greater during the growth spurt than they usually are.
So, is a sleep regression the same as a growth spurt? The short answer is no. For one thing, a baby will go through far more baby growth spurts during the first year than she will sleep regressions. Additionally, based on the information above, you can see that sleep regressions have much more to do with mental and physical development, and less to do with simple growth and weight gain. What’s more, the sleeplessness that comes with growth spurts has a cause – baby growth spurts cause babies to wake more often at night, and early from naps, because baby is hungry and needs to eat. But that’s not true of sleep regressions; during a sleep regression, your baby will wake more at night and have interrupted naps, but you may not be able to find a cause at all (indeed, because often there is no cause that you can see – it’s due to mental and physical development). Finally, growth spurts are usually short-lived (about a week) whereas a sleep regression can last up to 6 weeks (typically 2-4 weeks).
That said, if you compare the timing of each sleep regression against the list of baby growth spurts, you’ll notice significant overlap. Many of the baby growth spurts on the list coincide with the sleep regression stages. So, while sleep regressions and baby growth spurts are not the same thing – you can’t use the terms interchangeably – it’s likely that a sleep regression impacts a growth spurt, and that baby growth spurts impact sleep regressions.
Most parents find that they can survive baby growth spurts by simply offering more feeds and waiting them out. A sleep regression is tougher, though – it lasts a lot longer, and it’s not nearly as easy to comfort your baby during a sleep regression. We often find that sleep regressions drive parents to seek help from our team of consultants.
But be sure, as you consider baby growth spurts and sleep regressions, that you don’t chalk ALL of your baby’s sleep problems up to a sleep regression, or a growth spurt. The fact is, if your baby has never learned to sleep independently, and has sleep associations that involve you (like you rocking or feeding to sleep, or you replacing the pacifier), then your baby’s frequent night wakings and short naps may be a sign that it’s time to sleep train.
A great client of mine sent me this idea for an article about how to know whether your baby is going through a sleep regression or a phase. This is the same client who is a strong advocate of Attachment Parenting who contacted me over a year ago about her then 10 month old. She is now expecting a new baby, which is very exciting! This article will consider whether your baby is going through a sleep regression, a phase, or whether your baby or toddler simply has a bad habit.
This is very analytical, so it connect things that others may not, since my mind looks for patterns, even when I don’t mean to. I benefit from your experience and know the potential pitfalls to look out for, not only from my own experience, but from all of yours, too. It’s actually very interesting to put it all together!
4 months old – This is probably one of the biggest trouble spots for many new parents (though only some will consider it a sleep problem until 6 months, waiting for baby to “get over it”). The way your baby sleeps fundamentally changes and it never changes back!
8 months old – This one is another big one, but doesn’t always happen in the eighth month. This can be around 8, 9, or 10 months and usually related to a lot of development going on with your baby. This usually gets better a few weeks later, though it’s easy to develop new long-term habits trying to deal with it.
11 months old – I hear about this one enough to know I wasn’t alone, but not enough to say it’s a “big” problem for all families. Around 11 months old, I have found that some babies will start fighting one or both naps and then it will pass 2-3 weeks later.
18 months old – I have not written an article about this one (yet), but this is a common age to hear from parents about their toddler’s sleep, usually related to napping, night waking, and testing limits or questions about discipline.
2 years old – Around this age, I find many parents writing to me about bedtime getting later, which is common at this age, especially in the summer.
These are all very common trouble spots and, as I always say, the biggest “danger” with these times is to make new long-term habits such that something that would have been temporary becomes a long-term sleep problem for you and your baby.
Are there other challenging times? You bet! I would say the first two years (sometimes three) are difficult, regardless, but around 7 months, your baby begins developing separation anxiety, then there is teething, of course, and other issues like that come up here and there. Some will simply be more sensitive to all the changes than others.
So, how do you know if you are seeing a sleep regression or a phase?
First, I should explain that a “sleep regression” has been a term that people have used to say “Sleep really messes up at this time, but don’t worry it will go back to normal.” But, a “regression” implies that something will go back to how it once was and, in that regard, I would say only the “8 month sleep regression” fits the definition. 18 months is a close second, but if you aren’t careful, that strong independence-seeking stage can bleed into 2 and 3 years old and that’s a heckuva long “regression!” At 4 months, your baby changes how he sleeps and while some will then begin to sleep better without you changing anything, he will never sleep the same. At 8 months, this is generally a “blip” due to rapid development and the simple inability to sleep with so much going on in their minds. As long as you don’t inadvertently make some new long-term habits, your baby most likely will get past this in 3 to 6 weeks and go back to how he was sleeping before. If it was bad before, though, that may not be very desirable!
Every other “blip” in your baby’s sleep, I would call a “phase”. Anytime your baby or toddler is working on a new developmental milestone (whether you can “see” it or not), it may affect his sleep. This is going to be quite a lot of “phases” in the first few years. They learn a LOT in a short amount of time! Just to name a few, they learn names of objects, how to roll, crawl, pull up, stand up, sign language and/or hand gestures, walk, talk, object permanence, eat, cause and effect, and so on and there are likely lots of “little” things we don’t even realize. Some of the things we’ve taken for granted that we know we have to teach our kids. All of that can make some babies feel unsettled, insecure, happy, tired, over-tired, excited, over-stimulated or all of the above! No wonder they can’t sleep, sometimes.
There is no black and white as far as when you have a sleep regression, phase, or a habit, but my general rule of thumb is 2-3 weeks. If you have an abrupt sleep change, try to give your baby 1-3 weeks to see if something reveals itself. It could be a new tooth or a new “trick” or even an illness a few days later. There is no reason to feel alarmed that something has changed until it has “stuck” and then that’s when I tend to tell people to take action.
If your baby wasn’t sleeping well before and then starts to sleep worse, that would be another reason to start working on sleep. Sleep may not become perfect until the sleep regression is over, for example, but it could be a whole lot better if your baby WAS waking 3 times per night and is now waking 6-8 times per night, which is excessive even for a sleep regression.
In the end, you know your baby best and, although you may be a new mom or on your third baby and forgot everything from your younger one(s), your instincts will guide you more than you think. As soon as you start to feel resentment or that you can barely function or, worse, your baby can barely function, it’s likely time to do something about it. Although it may be your fault your baby won’t sleep doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. Only some will eventually grow out of their sleep problems. I work with parents of toddlers all the time still waiting for their baby to grow out of the same sleep problems they had at 4 months old!