Sleep regressions are a hot topic in the baby sleep world, and a term which is used a lot to provide a reason for a baby's sleep which has become harder to manage when previously they may have been sleeping better. But did you know, there is only actually one true period in which a baby's sleep alters developmentally?
WHAT IS A SLEEP REGRESSION?
A sleep regression is a transitional period in which a baby's sleep is disrupted by more frequent night wakes and trouble falling asleep again after a wake. These instances can be caused by multiple factors, including, a period of illness, reaching developmental milestones and at around 4 months when their sleep cycles mature.
All of these are temporary and short term periods which should usually resolve themselves, but can sometimes be helped with some support from parents.
FOUR MONTH SLEEP CYCLE DEVELOPMENT
At around four months, a baby's sleep cycles go through a period of maturity, where they start to lengthen. This sleep cycle transition only happens once, from then on, their sleep cycles are the same throughout their lives. This doesn't always happen at fourth months, but it is the most common age it occurs. It can take some time for your baby to reconnect their sleep cycles and this usually settles down within a few weeks. If they continue to struggle to connect these sleep cycles, some additional help and support from you can solve this.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER 'REGRESSIONS'?
While the four month regression is the only time a baby's sleep may be disrupted due to biological change in their sleep cycles, other times their sleep can be temporarily disrupted is usually down to developmental milestones or illness.
DEVELOPMENTAL MILESTONES AND SLEEP?
When your little one masters a new skill, for example, rolling over, crawling, walking etc, this can sometimes cause disruption in their sleep. These most commonly happen around 6 months, 8 months and 12 months but varies from child to child.
The reason the acquisition of these news skills can disrupt their sleep is because they're exciting! And new! And they want to practice them! Imagine, you have just LEARNT TO FLY! Today. That would blow your mind. But they you have to go to bed and sleep. But you can't stop thinking about the fact you could fly today and you want to practice, and your brain is trying to process that incredible feat.
Of course, you didn't learn to fly today, and your baby won't. But to them, learning these new skills that we take for granted is a huge thing for their brain to process.
12 MONTHS SEPARATION ANXIETY
At roughly 12 month, although this varies from child to child, you might notice your little one being a little more clingy, or showing some signs of separation anxiety. This is a completely normal and it is around this time babies can comprehend that things or people, can exist when they can't see them. This can have a short term impact on sleep, which is why there is often disruption of sleep around the 1 year mark.
Lot's of day time bonding time with your little one, playing together, reading books before bed etc is hugely beneficial in forming strong bonds between you and will help this stage pass.
SO WHAT DO I DO?
The thing you want to know is, what can you do about these temporary sleep issues?
If you're currently in the midst of the 4 month regression, it will end. It is temporary, and if they're having issues still struggling to link sleep cycles after a few weeks it is worth looking at supporting them through this. Naps on the go can be wonderful, I also advise using white noise all night and if they're relying on sleep associations to get back to sleep after each wake, considering removing these and replacing with other methods of support and slowly withdrawing this support over time.
If you're going through a developmental stage, giving your baby plenty of time and space to practice their new skill during the day will help them rest at night. Also not practicing that skill right before they go to bed is a great idea too, a bit of wind down and calm time before bed is perfect for calming them down and relaxing them.
THE TAKE HOME
Many websites and blogs will have you terrified that at every one of these stages you'll hit reverse with your baby's sleep. This really isn't the case, and many of these go unnoticed or simply your baby copes and they don't happen. Also, as all babies hit milestones at different ages and mature at different times over different time periods, it really is impossible to pin point when, and indeed if, you'll even encounter an issue. So don't worry, relax and don't pre-empt something that you might not even notice!
I NEED HELP
Working out your baby's sleep needs can be daunting and it can also cause worry that you may disrupt them or make their sleep more unbalanced that it currently is.
This is where working with a professional can help you look at your little one's current schedule, the issues you're facing and where they are in their development and whats going on in their home life and help you to build a schedule that works for your individual.
If you would like more help with your child's sleep I can help create a tailor made plan for your family based on your individual needs. Explore my packages for something that suit you