Photo credit: @raising.noahlane (thank you Sarah <3 )
It’s hands down one of the most common questions and complaints I get about little ones’ sleep: How do I navigate those dreaded sleep regressions? So I wanted to put together a piece for you on some of the ways you can best manage regressions, and in some cases avoid them all together.
Firstly, it’s important to understand what regressions actually are and why they occur. Around the 3-4 month mark, your little ones’ sleep has a developmental leap, so instead of sleep being a constant state, it becomes dynamic. This means your baby will begin to have sleep stages, cycling between light and deep phases, and at the end of these cycles they have a brief wake period. Their day sleep also becomes organised with cycles being approximately 45 minutes (the dreaded catnap). Some little ones are able to adjust to this change and settle back into good sleep patterns, although this isn’t the case for many.
Here are my top tips to help you navigate sleep regressions.
- Have a solid pre-bed routine, and approximately three things that your little one can begin to associate with sleep. For example I recommend changing their nappy, using a comforter (the Riff Raff is the one I recommend the most) and singing them a song or using a ‘good night’ phrase. Creating a pattern will mean they begin to subconsciously wind down before they even reach the cot. Keeping a consistent routine and particular cues at bedtime can really help minimise the impact of regressions for some.
- Whatever your little one uses to help them get off to sleep will become even more relied upon during regressions. What you may find for example is that your little one’s reliance on dummy replacement or feeding to sleep can become exacerbated during these periods. If that is the case, there are a few things to keep in mind. Firstly regressions can just be a stage, but in my opinion they shouldn’t last much longer than 2 weeks. If it has been longer than that there is a likelihood that your baby has become used to the extra assistance to get back to sleep time and time again. For some this works well and isn’t a problem - great! For others however it is a really exhausting state of affairs, and in that case I would look at ways to reduce the reliance on external measures. Remember, with age comes awareness. As your little one gets older they are more aware of associations, familiarity and routines.
- Don’t panic and try not to look ahead. Often when we are in the grips of a sleep regressions the thought of forever comes to mind! Your baby is so in tune with you, so the more you can relax during this stage and find effective ways that work for your parenting style, the better. I don’t recommend reading a truckload of potentially contradicting information during this time. Find sources that gel with your style of parenting and lean to them. As a sleep consultant and a mum, I understand just how taxing these times are for parents. There are solutions and ways to minimise the impact that sleep issues and regressions have on your little one’s sleep, so hold faith!
- Prevent overtiredness in your little one as much as you can. I get it… you’re most likely trying to as much as possible, but here are some ways that may help. Firstly, at the 4 month mark I would really only have an awake time of 1.5 hours between sleeps (give or take 15 minutes). Where you can, aim to have their first nap each day at home, as this nap really sets the tone for the day. Lastly, in the last awake period before bed for the night I would bring their bottle a tad earlier to ensure your little one isn’t too tired, as this can affect their ability to feed well.
Sleep regressions can certainly bring a feeling of unease, remember to stay confident in your abilities and be kind to yourself. If you find it isn’t resolving or you feel sleep is an ongoing struggle – reach out! Getting sleep sorted and creating healthy sleep habits for your little one is fundamental to their development, health and general wellbeing. Not to mention your own. As a Paediatric Nurse, Mother and qualified infant and toddler Sleep Consultant. I work one on one with families to bring about healthy sleep habits, resolve sleep issues and create family friendly routines. Sleep issues aren’t something you simply have to survive.
The Gentle Sleep Specialist x
The Gentle Sleep Specialist
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