Hi Mamma! This topic is one that is near and dear to most new moms hearts, mainly because we’re so dang tired the first year. With the general exhaustion that comes with new motherhood, it’s no wonder that we fear to get even LESS sleep. Just the thought of it can make us a little nutty. Hang in there, because there are a few sleep speed bumps that pop up through infancy. However, once you’re through you hopefully have a child that sleeps even better than before. If you’re in the trenches and want to know what’s coming with all those infant sleep regressions, keep reading. If you’d prefer to be surprised and don’t think you can handle it right now, that’s ok too! I’ll direct you HERE to read more about when you can expect to sleep through the night. For everyone else, let’s dive in.
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Infant Sleep Regressions 101
Ok, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but at this point, you probably know sleep during the first year isn’t all roses and sunshine. You probably also know that during the first few weeks babies have their days and nights mixed up. This isn’t a regression. This is just the adjustment that comes from living outside mamma. Hang tough, because this is a rough phase. After a couple of months, your baby will likely settle into a routine and you may even be getting a fairly long first stretch of sleep at night. Then BAM – it all falls apart and you’re left trying to figure out what in the heck happened.
This is most likely the four-month sleep regression. Ours was so bad I’ve written an entire post on it, that you can check out here. Unfortunately, there are a few of these that happen throughout the first couple of years. Here are the big ones you should be aware of:
- The Four Month Sleep Regression
- The 8-10 Month Sleep Regression
- The 18 Month Sleep Regression
- The Two Year Sleep Regression
On the bright side, your infant or toddler may not experience all (or any) of these regressions. Many people breeze right through the infant sleep regressions that give the rest of us nightmares. If you’re unlucky, you could be hit with all of them. I’ll detail what to expect during each one of these regressions, but first I want to clarify that they are NOT growth spurts. Growth spurts also occur during the first year but are different than sleep regressions in that they only last a few days. The sleep changes also aren’t permanent.
There are a few growth spurts that occur during the first year of life and are characterized by increased feeding and increased waking (to eat). During this time there is a lot of cluster feeding if you’re breastfeeding. If you’re formula feeding you’ll notice that baby wants more milk. These growth spurts only last a few days to a week and then you’ll typically move back into your old routine.
There are typically growth spurs around these times:
- Day Three
- Day Ten
- Three Weeks
- Six Weeks
- Three Months
- Four Months
- Six Months
- Nine Months
Although this looks like a lot (because it is) these growth spurts are most disruptive during the early days. If baby is sleeping through the night you may not even have more frequent night wakings during the latter months. It’s important to note that although growth spurts and sleep regressions may actually coincide, they aren’t the same thing. You can find a lot of information on growth spurts on Kelly Mom. For right now, let’s jump into what you can expect during each of the sleep regressions & why they happen.
I’m not going to lie to you. This was awful. Our entire sleep strategy was turned upside down and I’m not 100% sure we recovered. However, it got A LOT better. The four-month sleep regression occurs when babies transition REM cycles from infant sleep into the REM sleep of an adult. This isn’t something you can train your way through.
At the peak of the regression, our little lady was waking up every 45 minutes – 1 hour, about six times a night. Luckily this awful phase lasted less than a week. We got progressively longer stretches of sleep as she made her way through the regression. That being said, it was totally brutal. The one thing you want to steer clear of is creating additional sleep crutches during a regression that you’ll be dependant upon later.
What we did: Tried to survive. This is one for the record books and it hit us harder than newborn sleep. We took shifts with our little lady and did everything we could to get enough sleep as parents. Bringing in reinforcements and taking turns was the best thing we did for ourselves during this sleepless time. Check out this post for more details.
The 8-10 Month Sleep Regression
This sleep regression is upsetting because by this point you’ve *hopefully* started sleeping through the night. Although this regression is milder, once you make it through the four-month regression you’re hoping to never meet another one.
This and subsequent sleep regressions typically occur when your little one is achieving new developmental milestones. Around this time your baby may be learning to crawl or pull himself up in the crib. Although these activities are important, they aren’t fun to practice in the middle of the night! Additionally, baby is likely teething around this time, which can also interrupt sleep.
What we did: Luckily, I think we skipped this one. Unluckily, we weren’t sleeping through the night at this point. Our little still woke up to eat at least once a night until 11 months. Trust me, I know this isn’t advocated, but we just couldn’t let her cry for two hours at a time.
However, if this regression hits, treat it as you do the others. Go in and reassure your baby, but don’t create any new sleep habits that will be hard to break afterward. Let them know you’re there, but that it’s still night time and that it’s time for sleeping. Don’t get up and play or allow them to do any daytime activities.
The 18 Month Sleep Regression
The 18 month and two-year sleep regressions aren’t necessarily infant sleep regressions. They are even more interesting because now your baby can VERY clearly communicate what they want. It’s typically not you leaving them alone in the middle of the night.
What we did: We didn’t have a “regression” at this age but there were more frequent night wakings for a period of time. Sitting in the room for a few minutes and letting our little lady know we were still there seemed to help her calm down.
The Two Year Sleep Regression
There are a lot of additional milestones and external factors that happen around this age that impact your toddler. Potty training, new siblings, even more independence, transitioning to a big kid bed, and many others can all impact behavior, and you guessed it, sleep. At this point, toddlers may even start having nightmares or night terrors, which also result in night waking.
What we did: We only went through one real regression at four months, but we have been dealing with nightmares. If our little wakes up either daddy or I will head in and give her a hug. We’ll sing her some songs to get back to sleep. What we DON’T do is allow her to come in our bed and watch tv, which is one of her favorite daytime activities. When she wakes up at night, it’s night time. We go back to sleep until her alarm clock turns green.
Keep in mind, each baby is different and they don’t operate on the same schedule. Although the above growth spurt and sleep regression timelines are general, they are approximate. You may move into one much earlier or later than you were expecting. The important thing is to keep rolling with the punches and know that you’ll get through these phases before you know it.
Although there are a few sleep speed bumps along the road during the first year you can get through the regressions with help from your partner, a lot of patience, and coffee. If all else fails, you can also try a sleep coach. It may not seem like it right now, but this time really will fly by.
Wishing you fewer night wakeups and longer naps!
Check out these additional references on sleep regressions & growth spurt: