How to Handle Sleep Regressions

Sleep Regressions: The When, The Why, and How to Handle Them

Once you’ve gotten past the newborn phase, you likely never want to live through another 3am wakeup for a very long time. This is why the idea of sleep regressions strikes fear in the hearts of many a parent. But remember that these regressions are a normal part of your child’s development, and are temporary. If understood, and handled properly, they won’t lead to long-term sleep issues.

The 4-Month Regression

As your baby grows out of the newborn phase, he begins to develop very rapidly. A physical growth spurt, combined with accelerated brain development at between 3 and 4 months, may make your infant more restless during naps and nighttime sleep, as he becomes more aware of the world around him. This regression feels like an unfortunate extension of the sleepless newborn phase, but rest assured that it will pass and he will begin to sleep for longer stretches again.

The 9-Month Regression

Your 8- to 10-month old may be mastering some new skills at this stage of her development. Standing becomes your baby’s latest trick, and she may begin to pull up on pieces of furniture, as well as in her crib at night! Unfortunately, she may master pulling up before she learns to sit back down, which may lead her to cry out for you in the middle of night when she becomes “stuck” in a standing position. During the day, teach her to sit back down by putting an attractive object on the floor next to her, and help her to bend her knees and ease into a sitting position.

The 12-Month Regression

When your child learns to walk, he may have a sleep regression due to the fun and distraction that his newfound skill provides. It is common to hear some commotion in your child’s room when he saunters around his crib at night. Wear him out during the day with plenty of practice on his feet, and remember that once walking becomes more familiar and less exciting, this phase will pass.

The 18- to 24-Month Regression

Many toddlers begin to speak as early as 18 months, while others take a little longer, and begin a burst of speech development closer to their second birthdays. Your toddler’s brain is making major strides during this period, and some waking at night is expected. Again, remember that this is just a phase and that she will go back to her usual sleep patterns once her speech development plateaus a bit.

As a parent, what can you do to make sure that everyone in the house gets enough sleep? Remember to maintain any schedules and routines you previously had in place. Maintain your regular nap and bedtime schedule, and keep doing your pre-bedtime rituals. Think about what normally works to get your child back to sleep. Some children self-soothe, while others may need a reminder to go back to sleep or a bit of soothing. But try not to fall back on discarded sleep crutches. Since these regressions are temporary, riding them out instead of trying to “solve” them may be the better option. And reminding yourself that they are temporary will do a lot for your sanity as well!

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