Updated: May 9
We’ve all heard of the dreaded 4 month sleep regression, but what is it? Can I avoid it? And are there any other regressions I need to worry about?
Even for the best little sleepers out there, sleep progression is not always straight forward. Just as with all things baby related, as soon as you think you have it worked out, they throw you a curve ball.
Let’s have a look at the most common sleep regressions. You may notice that your baby goes through all of them or just some. They also don’t always hit right at these age brackets but can occur a little either side.
This is probably the big one you hear about a lot in your Mum groups. I know when I had my first, I was oblivious to the fact that regressions even existed and when I started to hear about the 4 month regression and what it was going to do to my baby, I was terrified.
If by about 4 months old, your baby is a bit of a cat napper during the day and hasn’t yet mastered the skill of self-settling and re-settling, then you may start to see them wake every 2-4 hours overnight. This is due to your baby’s sleep cycles maturing and becoming more apparent. They begin to fully rouse between each sleep cycle, so if they don’t know how to get themselves back to sleep, they will cry out for help.
Waking every two hours overnight is no fun for anyone. Fragmented sleep is not restorative and can result in a very cranky baby (and mum).
The good news is that we can help solve these frequent wakes by teaching your baby how to self-settle and re-settle. This does not mean leaving them to cry it out or refusing them feeds overnight. A thriving baby at around 4-6 months old can generally get by on one to two feeds at night. They probably don’t need to be fed every two hours just because they are waking.
Read more about the 4 month regression here.
This regression is usually caused by a combination of things. Separation anxiety, developmental milestones such as crawling and rolling and recent changes to solid intake and day sleep.
Who has time to sleep with all that going on? It’s very easy for parents to start trying anything to get their baby sleeping well again which can result in accidentally re-introducing or creating new sleep association like rocking, bouncing or feeding. This may work in the short term, but you’ll find that your baby will keep waking frequently looking for their new association.
The best way to support your baby through this regression is to just quietly sit with them while they drift off to sleep to ease their separation anxiety without resorting to rocking, bouncing or feeding.
At 12 months your baby can get a real case of FOMO. They don’t want to stop playing and hanging out with you to go to bed.
They still have some separation anxiety at this age, and they are not shy about letting you know. They can be very stubborn and persistent, and their cry can sound more distressed.
Make sure you allow them enough time to wind down before sleep time. And don’t be fooled into thinking they are ready to drop down to one nap. With all the energy they are using playing and learning to walk, they definitely still need to rest in the day.
Don't make any drastic changes to their routine during this regression, just try to ride it out for a few weeks before deciding whether or not you need to adjust their routine.
Click here for my top TWO tips for surviving the 12 month regression.
For me, this one was another biggy like the 4 month regression and took me by surprise. My daughter who would usually happily go to bed without a fuss suddenly started protesting at bedtime and would fall asleep standing in her cot! At least I was prepared when the same thing happened with my son, although he would fall asleep sitting.
The 18 month regression is usually caused by the recent drop down to one nap a day and another round of developmental milestones, generally around language.
You may find your baby regress back to 45 minute naps or have complete nap refusal, frequent night wakes or even long periods of wakefulness in the night.
Read more about the 18 month sleep regression.
And they don't stop there! Read here about the 2 year sleep regression.
If you need help with any sleep regression, book in for a consultation and I’ll help you get back on track.