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Sleep regressions (or for better perspective–“transitions”)

Sleep regressions aren’t actual “regressions” but more transitions as this article describes. It’s important to remember that sleep is not a linear process. There will be ups and downs. The best advice, from my personal experience, is to closely observe your child–pay attention to their behavior (are they going through a developmental leap? learning a new skill? going through a growth spurt? teething?), and be consistent and calm with your responses to their sleep changes.

Times to expect sleep transitions

There are a few specific timeframes when you can expect to see some changes in your little ones sleeping patterns. Here is a breakdown of the most common ones. As with all things, your little one may not experience all of these, or may experience them a little outside of these timeframes.

  • 6 weeks
  • 3-4 months
  • 6 months
  • 8-10 months
  • 12 months
  • 18 months
  • 2 years

Tips for handling sleep transitions in infants

Our friends over at Discover and Dream offer some tips on dealing with both infant and toddler sleep regressions.

When dealing with infant sleep regressions you want to help them cope without undoing all the sleep coaching progress you’ve made up to this point. The goal is to gently encourage your baby to break any negative sleep associations, create positive sleep associations by sticking to your routine and help them learn to fall asleep without help from you.

  • During the regression, it’s fine to offer extra feedings. Growth spurts can be a component of sleep regressions so don’t worry about offering an extra daytime or nighttime feeding. This is temporary and you will eventually return to your normal schedule.
  • Offer comfort as needed, but try to avoid making new or reinstating old habits. You will definitely need to offer your baby plenty of extra kisses and cuddles during the sleep regression, but avoid creating new sleep associations, such as rocking or nursing/feeding your baby to sleep.  Sleep regressions are exhausting so ask for help!

How long can I expect a sleep regression to last?

A regression can last anywhere from 1-6 weeks so you are bound to get exhausted. Try and see if family or friends can help you with your child during the day or with household tasks. Offer an earlier bedtime if necessary. Sleep regressions often lead to missed sleep, which can lead to overtiredness, which leads to multiple night wakings or an early rising. It’s a vicious cycle so try to get your little one as much sleep as possible to avoid making the situation worse.

Tips for handling toddler sleep transitions

Kasey at Discover and Dream says that it’s very similar to what you would do with infant sleep regression. With the biggest difference being that toddlers are WAY more independent, verbal, opinionated….

So the best thing you can do it stay consistent. Keep up with your nap and bedtime routine, be mindful of delay tactics and use phrases like “this is your last chance for food” or “this is your last chance for potty” and be firm if they continue to push boundaries. Keep in mind, toddlers of ALL people, need strong boundaries to feel safe and secure. 

If you need more help with sleep, reach out to our friends at Discover and Dream!