Baby sleep is an ever-changing phenomenon. There are so many factors to consider, so many things to line up, such a balance to get it all right. Then along comes a growth spurt or an illness and it all goes belly up! From infancy to toddlerhood, there will be many things that affect your baby's sleep patterns and some of these are fleeting, like a cooler night, while other things stick around, like developmental leaps. Almost everything in your baby's world will have some impact on their sleep, so in a sense, babies regress and progress in their sleep all the time.
That said, babies do go through several massive periods in the first year to 18 months where they experience genuine physiological "sleep regressions". In some cases babies have to re-learn sleep skills due to the parts of their brain responsible for sleep changing and maturing. Other times the regressions are more to do with developments in their physical and/or social skills and also around nap transitions. During these times, a baby's day naps and night time sleep can be affected, even if they were previously sleeping well, and your baby might be clingier in the day or harder to settle at bedtime.
Here, we'll explain when the regressions occur, the reason for them and the way through!
This is the magic mark where many babies begin to catnap and start sleeping worse in the day. Their newborn sleepiness has worn off and they've sort of "woken up" so your baby suddenly seems a lot more alert now. What also happens at this point is their maternal melatonin has worn off, so they need to produce their own melatonin in order to settle to sleep easily and sleep well. Melatonin is a sleep hormone that is only produced and released in the dark, so having a super dark room from this age onwards really helps babies link sleep cycles and stay asleep during naps and overnight. If your baby is continuing to catnap past this point, even if you are using blackout blinds, it could be that their nap timings need a bit of tweaking to move them gently away from newborn sleeping patterns.
This is the famous 4 month sleep regression and is possibly the biggest change in your baby's sleep that will ever happen. This is where babies start to wake fully between each sleep cycle rather than drift between cycles automatically as they did when they were younger. Sleep has now become a very conscious thing for your baby and it takes a bit of practice for them to get this new skill right! If your baby is relying on you to go to sleep at the start of their naps and bedtime (by feeding, rocking, patting etc) they will now be needing you to replicate that every single time they wake between cycles because it's the only way they know how to go to sleep. That's every 35-45 minutes in the day and 2 hours overnight. Unfortunately this sleep regression won't go away until your baby has learnt how to go to sleep without needing your help.
Older babies who continue to wake all through the night purely to be rocked or fed back to sleep are still experiencing the effects of the 4 month sleep regression.
This sleep regression at 8 months is all about the massive physiological developmental changes your baby is experiencing at this time. At around this age many babies are learning to crawl, might be pulling up to stand, they will have language explosions; this can mean your baby wants to wake in the night simply to practice their new skills! They might also start resisting some naps or waking earlier in their naps than they previously had been. They are quite literally distracted by their own amazingness! This is completely normal and unless they're upset you are best to leave them to it. If your baby is rolling or moving around their cot a lot, you can use a safe alternative to cot bumpers - such as the Pure Safety Vertical Cot Liners. This will mean your wee one can't bump their head on their cot bars and wake themselves up!
6/8 MONTHS & 12/15 MONTHS
At these times there can be a tiny hiccup in your baby's sleep as they go through nap transitions. At 6 months (or thereabouts) your baby starts to drop their afternoon nap and then somewhere between 12-15 months your baby will drop the morning nap. Little Ones Sleep Programs are carefully formulated to make these transitions as easy as possible for your baby (by gradually reducing the nap times until they're gone), but there can still be a period of adjustment. This might mean your baby starts waking earlier in the morning or after one sleep cycle at bedtime for a few days. As with the 8 month regression, this will resolve itself once your baby is comfortably through the nap transition period.
Remember not all babies will reach these developmental stages at these exact ages, so if your baby is 3.5 months and starts waking every 2 hours overnight, its safe to assume they've hit the 4 month regression.
Baby sleep is delicate and complicated and there is SO much going on for them developmentally and neurologically in the first 12-18 months! We can certainly help minimise the disruption to your baby's sleep at these times; Little Ones Sleep Programs give your baby the best chance to sail through the regressions a lot easier.
Article supplied by Little ones