• Martha Lewis

Is your child having a sleep regression?

There is a lot of talk about sleep regressions these days. So what is a sleep regression and how do you know if your child is going through one?

You may read about sleep regressions happening at different ages. There’s the 6 week, 3-4 month, 6 month, 8 month, 9 month...The list goes on and on. Is it possible that your child will go through a sleep regression every month of his young life? Let’s hope not!

Well, sleep regressions do exist. I just don’t think that they’re related to how old your baby is.

Here are the 3 most common types of sleep regressions. I will talk about each one and what to do when they occur.

Sleep regression #1 Developmental Milestones

As you baby learns to master new skills, his sleep might be affected because he has a biological need to practice his new skill. One common developmental milestone that can affect sleep is learning to roll over. Babies start to roll over around the the 3-4 month mark.

Your baby learns to roll onto his belly only to be unhappy there. He starts crying because he is uncomfortable and wants to go back to sleep.

So, what do you do? Until he is able to roll back over onto his back, you may need to help him so he’s comfortable. So it’s fine to go in and roll him back onto his back. Just make sure you roll him over and then leave the room. Don’t turn it into a 10 minute back rub or pick him up. If you start giving him lots of extra attention when you go in, he will keep waking up to get that attention.

When your baby’s language skills go through a developmental burst, she may start staying awake to practice her new words. You may hear her chatting in the middle of the night, at bedtime, or at naptime. Of course it’s concerning that your baby isn’t sleeping when she’s supposed to be.

But again, the less intervention the better. If you keep going into her room and shushing her or telling her to go sleep, it’s not going to help. So just remember that she has a biological need to practice her new skills and let her do it. The good news is that these milestones last 1-2 weeks.

Sleep regression #2 Sickness

When we are sick, we don’t sleep as well as we normally do. It’s frustrating because that’s when we need sleep the most! But we all know it’s hard to sleep when we’re congested and coughing and don’t feel well.

If your baby gets sick, it’s ok to respond immediately to his wakings in the night. You can offer comfort by giving him water, more medicine, and/ or rocking him. But don’t put him to sleep with your comfort. Give him some love and meet his needs and then put him back in his bed to go to sleep on his own.

Also, don't take your baby into your bed with you unless you want him to continue sleeping there! Once babies sleep in bed with mom and dad, they usually decide that they want to sleep with mom and dad all the time.

If you are worried about your baby and you want to be close to him, I recommend moving closer to him. Find a way to make yourself comfortable in his room and sleep there only as long as he needs you to. Trust me, it's much easier for you to move out of his room once he's better than it is to move him out of your room!

Sleep regression #3 Travel

So many parents end up co-sleeping with their babies when they’re on vacation. If you don’t want to share a bed with your baby at home, then do whatever you can to avoid co-sleeping while you’re traveling! Many hotels have pack and plays that you can use or rent.

If your baby is 9 months or older, I recommend putting up a barrier so that she can’t see you when she wakes up in the night. If she wakes up in the middle of the night and sees her 2 favorite people a few feet away, it’s party time! So the barrier keeps her from seeing you so she’s more likely to go back to sleep.

Remember that your baby and toddler will test the limits about sleep every now and then. They’ll test the limits about everything constantly! So what if your child is having a sleep regression? If you are consistent about the rules and how you respond, the regression will pass quickly. And everyone will be back to getting more sleep!

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Martha Lewis, MS

Jackson Hole, WY



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