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A full guide on Baby Sleep Regression

A full guide on Baby Sleep Regression

Out of the phases of a baby's life, the one you get to desire the most as a parent is sleep. At the time being, or not, your baby might be blissfully sleeping away, constituting lesser and lesser worries–enjoy it while you can. But the hard truth is, your sleeper is almost earmarked for hitting the sleep speed bump soon or later. 

As the baby starts reaching different developmental milestones, you will likely notice drastic changes in little one's sleeping pattern.  From long and plentiful naps in a day, it could go downhill to shorter periods of sleep, shorter naps, and whooping long hours of wakefulness and activity. This is what is called sleep regression.

While it's perfectly normal in most babies, a good number of parents are worried sick and worse stressed out by the increased demands of taking care of a highly active, awake baby.

But there are ways you get a win-win for both the parents and the baby–take care of the active baby while making sure you are better rested as a parent. In this article, we are going to tour the details of sleep regressionwhat it is, when it comes, and different ways to address it.

What is sleep regression?

Baby sleep regression is a timeframe, usually between two to four weeks after birth when the baby who was formerly a "super sleeper" finds it hard to sleep and wakes up a lot more at night, fussy. It is a normal phase in the developmental journey of most infants and is nothing to worry about.

At its core, sleep regression is caused when a baby starts to mimic the adult sleep cycle. Unluckily for parents, the baby also mimics the light stages of sleep in the adult cycle.

Weirdly, sleep regression is a good thing. For one, it shows that the baby is hitting important development milestones. But while that is a sign of underlying positive changes, it could also be challenging for a lot of parents.

What causes sleep regression?

What causes sleep regression?

While the root cause is a change in biological sleep, this can interact with other factors and make sleep regression pronounced. The factors at play in sleep regression in babies are legion. The most important ones include

Developmental Changes

As a baby grows he or she is bound to reach milestones in development like starting to crawl, roll, sit, walk grasp. Others like developing better physical and environmental awareness etc. Naturally, babies are adventurous, which means you should expect them to keep checking out their newfound “abilities”. This, in a way, adds up to make babies fussy.

Separation Anxiety

This is common in babies between 14-18 months, phobia children develop from being separated from their parent or caregivers. 

Illness

An illness like stuffy nose, fever, cough, vomiting. Please contact the doctor if you notice any of these.

Teething

When the baby starts teething, the mouth gets itchy and disturbing the child and makes me understandably irritable and fussy.

Traveling

One thing babies dislike is an abrupt change in the status quo. A little change in the environment of a baby can cause sleep regression.

A growth spurt

As a baby grows there is an uptick in his body metabolism, which will make your baby hungrier and probably restive.

Signs of sleep regression

Signs of sleep regression

The signs of sleep regression vary from baby to baby, but the hallmark is the abrupt change in a baby's sleeping pattern. Some of the most common signs of sleep include:

  • Waking up frequently at night 
  • Having trouble falling and staying asleep
  • Shorter periods of sleep and nap
  • Crankiness and fussiness

How long does sleep regression last?

Normally, an episode of sleep regression lasts for about two to four weeks–which is the time it will take your baby to acclimatize to the new changes like reaching a milestone or change in environment. It is also the time it will take the baby to fully recover from any illness.

Baby sleep regression by age

Although sleep regression can occur at any time in a baby's life, it is more prone to occur in some months. Just a heads up! Your baby's sleep regression [if it happens] will most likely come in the 4th, 6th, 8th, 12th, and 18th months. Your baby could hit them all or evade them all!

3-4 months Sleep Regression

It is toughest on parents mainly because it is their first time experiencing it. With time, the parents start to understand the condition and how to control it better. This experience will come in handy in future incidents. 

At 4 months, your baby’s sleep starts to mimic adult sleep setup, by cycling through four stages of sleep. Furthermore, the baby spends more time in lighter sleep stage-Non-REM sleep this makes him easier to wake.

Normally, the episode should last for about two to four weeks. not everyone will experience it even though most babies do. Major culprits behind this shift in sleep pattern are the increased baby appetite, teething, exploring his exciting new ability to roll.

6-Month Sleep Regression

The sixth month after birth greets your baby with another flood of developmental milestones. At first, there is a period of sleep consolidation between the 4th and 6th month, but then as the baby matures mentally and physically, this progress drops and it lasts about a few days. 

10-Month Sleep Regression

Another time for reaching another level of development, notably crawling, standing, and sometimes even scooting. There is separation anxiety and advancements in speaking and understanding language at this age. These leaps culminate in sleep disturbances as their three-a-day nap drops to a two-a-day nap. They stay awake for longer.

12-Month Sleep Regression

At the baby’s first birthday, the baby also reaches another level in development, especially scooting. Babies go through a sleep regression at this age mainly because of separation anxiety, nightmares, teething, fear of the dark, etc.

Tips for managing sleep regressions

Tips for managing sleep regressions

First, don't panic! The good news is that sleep regressions are transient, but while it lasts there are ways you can manage the situation well. 

Discover when your baby wants to sleep

Learn the simple baby sleep cues like rubbing the eyes, yawning, fussiness, loss of interest. Knowing this will help you get the baby to bed early enough before he is too tired to sleep.

If you are still trying to get your baby to sleep you could try out gently rocking the baby to sleep. Using lightweight sleepwear can also do the trick in nursing your baby to sleep. Keep it quiet. You could try sleep training for your baby especially if she is about 4 months old. 

Let them practice

The baby is overly excited to have discovered another ability, don’t try to stop them as they try to get the hang of it.

Maintain a consistent bedtime routine

Babies require about 15 hours of sleep per day. You should endeavor to create a schedule for baby sleep and wake periodsand stick to it. For one, the schedule that has been maintained consistently over time helps to tell the baby’s body when to sleep and when to wake. This could be your saving grace once sleep regression sets in. A good schedule may include a time for a bedtime story, bath, playtimes, etc what matters is consistency.  

Create an environment conducive for sleep

Make sure the lights are off (babies usually sleep better that way) the darkness could also help them sleep again should they wake in the middle of the night. Playing soft music, and using sleep sacks also work. 

You must make sure your baby gets enough naps in the day as this will help keep the baby rested and recharged to sleep at night. Tired babies find it harder to go to sleep. 

Feed your baby fully

Because the babies are so interested in checking out their new “abilities” they sometimes forget to eat to satisfaction. As such, they can wake up in the middle of the night when they get hungry. 

Feeding your baby to satiety goes a long way to make sure your baby doesn't wake at night hungry and crying.

Don’t rush it 

If your baby wakes up at night and starts crying, give your baby some time to self soothe himself back to sleep. If that doesn’t work, make sure everything is okay with him, massage the baby’s tummy, say some soft words to him, change the diapers, or feed. Whatever you do make sure it's fast and as quiet as possible. Doing so gives the baby the idea that nighttime is mainly for sleep. 

Separation anxiety

Babies are such “attention seekers”, once you forget to give them the attention, they will come asking for it with cries.  To avoid this, consider giving your little one more attention. Hug, cuddle and kiss your baby as often as possible. That should send the message that you’re not going to leave them anytime soon.

Remember: Catering for a sleep disturbed baby is both mentally and physically tasking, as such you need the input of other family members and carers to pull through.

Sleep regression FAQs

When Should I Call the doctor?

Normally, you don’t need to talk to the doctor for a case of sleep regressions, however, when you notice that it’s associated with some symptoms, you should raise a red flag immediately

Such symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Nasal discharge with blood
  • Poor appetite
  • Abnormal or heavy breathing
  • Stunted growth and lack of weight gain
  • Persistent dry diaper
  • Fewer bowel movements
  • If you have conscientiously followed the sleep method but it was unproductive, check in with the pediatrician to assure you that all is well

What can I do to prevent sleep regression?

The answer is simplenothing. If your baby has been genetically wired to experience it, there is nothing you can do. But you could hope that your baby is on the bright side of things–the few that don’t pass through a sleep regression. 

But sleep is nothing to get worked out over, it will surely pass along with its accompanying sleepless night.

Does every baby go through sleep regression?

Although sleep regression is very common, not all babies experience it. But there is a twist to it, a baby can evade the one-month checkpoints, but get caught up in the other ones.

Though it's hard to luck out of all the sleep regression checkpoints, it is possible

What causes sleep regression?

Essentially, sleep regression is caused as a result of the disruption of the normal sleep cycle. The newborn starts with only stages 3 and 4 of sleep[deep sleep], which makes it fairly easier for you to rock your baby to sleep and for the baby to stay asleep. At 4 months, the little one advances to the adult 4-stage sleeping cycle [ including stages 1 and 2] which are relatively lighter sleep stages. 

The time for deeper stages of sleep is reduced to accommodate the new stages. As such, the baby spends significant time in lighter stages, this drastically increases the chances that the baby will wake spontaneously. The developmental milestones mainly tip the scales in the favour of more hours of wakefulness. 

How long does sleep regression last?

There is no defined time range for sleep regression, but most last for weeks. This time reflects how long it took your child to adjust to changes like the 4-stages sleep cycle for 4-month regression and milestones. 

Does swaddling help?

In most cases, swaddling has been shown to calm babies. But because the baby can roll away, swaddling is unsafe and is best avoided. 

Conclusion

Yes, it is a challenging experience but sleep regression is a common phenomenon in babies where there is a sudden change in the baby's sleeping pattern. Just when everything looked so perfect–then boom! The baby stays more awake than usual. Most parents initially find it hard to cope, but with guidance, they can breeze through this stage with little hassles.