Sleep regression: What are the sleep regression ages?

Sleep regression: What are the sleep regression ages?

When it comes to kids, the only constant is change!

In the first year of your baby’s life, this phrase seems to be on steroids!

From a helpless newborn to an active toddler, in only 12 short months, your child goes through this incredible transformation. 

What you have most likely come to learn is that infant sleep is not linear. They may take 2 steps forward and 1 step back. There are bumps in the road along the way and many of these bumps can be known as sleep regressions. 

Some of these regressions you will notice (a lot!), and some you may breeze through. It ultimately will come down to your child and how they manage through the regressions. I remember vividly all of the mothers in my antenatal class talking about the 4-month sleep regression with our eldest daughter Annabelle. I was absolutely petrified of it but it came and went and for her nothing changed! Of course that is not the case with many babies but you won’t know until you get there.

So if you’re in the trenches of your baby’s first year, I had wanted to go through what sleep regressions your little one will go through (regardless if you notice any change or not! ☺ )

4 month sleep regression

The dreaded four-month sleep regression is probably the most challenging one for many families and is the most common where parents seek advice to help their little one’s sleep. This can occur anywhere between 3-5 months.

A common mantra said by many parents is “This too shall pass” however as there is a fundamental shift developmentally in your baby’s brain at this age, it is unfortunately unlikely to improve or go away until your baby can self-settle. You may have just felt like your baby was getting into more predictable sleep patterns after emerging from the fourth trimester and then it’s almost as though they ‘flip the switch’ and start waking after one sleep cycle during the day and/or wake frequently during the night –sometimes as much as every 2 hours.

If this is happening to your baby and you and your little one are really struggling, there is a good chance you are needing to work on your baby learning to re-settle during the night. They are still usually needing 1-2 feeds during the night, however they may not necessarily be needing feeds every 2 hours all…night…long! 

You can learn more about the 4-month sleep regression HERE

5-7 months

During this age is approximately when babies start to learn how to sit. They will be thrilled with themselves when practicing their skill in their crib. This too will pass but lots of practice time will help during the day.

There is also a growth spurt around the 6-month mark. Appetites can increase so it is important to meet the calorie needs for your baby offering extra feedings and also starting solids.

Teething can start around this age. For some babies, it can be just a little annoying however for others it can be incredibly painful. Teething symptoms typically last only 3-4 days prior to a tooth cutting through and 2-3 days after and it is not something that contrary to popular belief lasts weeks or months. 

7-9 months

The eight/nine-month sleep regression is related to the huge physiological developmental changes that your baby will experience around this time. These developments include learning to crawl, pulling themselves up to stand, new language skills and object permanence (i.e. when the baby knows that something exists when it is not in sight) –so when they wake up at night, they may miss their parents. 

Often infants will wake overnight to practice their new skills. This regression generally passes on its own in a matter of a few weeks and many experts believe that unless they are genuinely upset you should just leave them to practice. Self-settling infants will go back to sleep when they’re ready. 

Unfortunately, if they’re not self-settling during this time you may need to use this as another opportunity to practice that skill too. Be careful not to reintroduce sleep associations like rocking or feeding to get them back to sleep. Lots of practice during the day will help your baby transition with these newly developed skills.

9-month sleep regression

Separation anxiety during this age can start to peak. Extra one on one time with lots of cuddles, loving and attention before bed can really help your baby get through this stage where they appear extra clingy.

Standing is another physical developmental milestone that can happen during this stage. Many babies will want to show you how clever they are standing in their crib! Babies can also make quite the game when they stand and they are put down by their parents. This too shall pass!

12-month sleep regression

You may find you have a little chatterbox on your hands around this stage when the language development progresses. They may happily chat away to themselves in their crib which can keep them awake for longer.

At 12 months, there is also commonly another regression with tremendous physical development as they are learning to walk and climb. Some babies at this age will show real protest when left alone and can go through separation anxiety. You may find you have a determined little person on your hands. They might not like it when you stop reading a book to them, or if you stop playing with them and they will let you know about it. All of these factors can really impact their sleep. 

You may need to spend a bit longer during their bedtime routine so that your little one is calm and content before going to bed. 

As per the other developmental changes, this too will pass however there will be a lot of practice needed for your baby. 

18-month sleep regression

Lastly, when your toddler gets to the stage where they spend more time awake throughout the day and are dropping a nap, their sleep can be impacted.  You also need to ensure that you don’t fall into the trap of transitioning too soon from 2 naps down to 1 or you may as a result go through a period of frequent night wakings and/or early morning wakes. On top of this, your toddler will go through another phase of growth and development, develop their language further and also possibly some more separation anxiety. 

When you start to notice signs of a sleep regression such as waking overnight, waking early, being hard to settle or they begin to refuse naps it may be time to transition to an adapted schedule. 

Will they ever sleep?

Whilst sleep regressions can be frustrating, they are generally only temporary and are excellent opportunities to encourage self-settling via sleep training. Remain patient with your baby as they navigate the new experiences in their world. Whilst they may be waking you overnight constantly remember that they are calling out to you for help and guidance as they learn new skills and deal with new developmental changes and cognitive milestones. 

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