Your baby goes from sleeping through the night, to suddenly waking several times a night. She can't fall asleep, or stay asleep. She fights naps, bedtime, and wakes frequently at night, often crying. Your baby is clingy, cranky and super needy during the day. You have ruled out illness, teething, and it's lasting way longer than a few day growth spurt. The 4 month sleep regression is the most common, but unfortunately there are more…
A sleep regression most commonly presents itself at around 4 months, 9 months, and 12 months. This is around the time that your baby is going through some major milestones: rolling, sitting, standing, crawling, walking etc. What's actually happening with your baby is pretty interesting. Your baby is going through tremendous cognitive development. She is learning new skills and is practicing them in her head. Over and over, until they finally master the skill, which usually then terminates the sleep regression. Your baby's brain during this time is in overdrive. Try to imagine for a minute what you feel like the night before a big event like going away on a vacation, or the night before your wedding. You stay up all night thinking about everything, making sure you don't forget anything. You toss and turn, and keep looking at the clock. It keeps getting later and later and no matter what you do, you can't turn off your thoughts and just fall asleep. You start to get angry which makes it even harder to fall asleep. At this point you just want to scream! The next day you are over tired, cranky and just want to crawl back into your bed. This is exactly what's going on with your baby. Your baby can't turn off the brain work. She tries to soothe herself to sleep like she always did, but that doesn't seem to work. She often wakes up crying and screaming for your help, because she can't do it on her own. Your baby becomes overtired from all of this interrupted sleep, and ends up being cranky all day long.
So what do you do?
1.) Try your best to stick to your bedtime routine to keep things consistent. You may have to make minor adjustments during a regression, but you don't want to completely change your routine, this will only confuse your little one even more.
2.) Extra comfort during this time. Extra hugs and kisses. Try your best to settle your baby.
3.) Don't let your baby cry. Respond to her need. She's telling you she's confused, tired, and doesn't know what to do with all these new ideas in her head. Respond to her, distract her, let her know it's ok and that you are there beside her, to help her through this.
4.) Pull out your bag of tricks (most of which you probably used when your baby was newborn). White noise, bouncer, binky, "lovey", whatever it takes to get your baby to sleep. You both need sleep, otherwise you will find it very difficult to make it through several week of this.
5.) Lullabies work great to calm your baby down before bed, and to slow down all that brain work. Try incorporating a few lullabies in your bedtime routine. Brianna's favorite was Baby Einstein Lullabies.
6.) Give your baby some practice time during the day to master her new skill. Let her roll around on the carpet or mat. Encourage tummy time if she's having a hard time rolling off her tummy. Help her out with crawling, with activities like these Toys for Crawling Babies.
7.) Remember a sleep regression doesn't last forever, on average 2-6 weeks. The 8 month sleep regression usually lasts the longest because of all the physical development. Keep reminding yourself that this will pass, and your life will be back to normal soon.
8.) Sometimes there's not much you can do, but just tough it out. Stay strong, don't get frustrated, and take naps during the day to be handle the rough night
I have been through this and it's not pretty. My baby went from sleeping 12 hours to suddenly waking several times a night. I was so confused and frustrated, until my Pediatrician told me about the regression. Made total sense to me once it was explained. Brianna's sleep regression only lasted 2-3 weeks. I thought to myself "I have been through months of not sleeping, I can sure handle a couple weeks". So I just cuddled her more, responded right away, and even gave her extra feedings. I was so afraid that the extra feedings would be a major set back. I thought I would have to start sleep training all over again, but I knew she needed it during that time. I knew that since she had already mastered the skills of falling asleep independently for several weeks, she would go back to that once the regression was over. And guess what? That's exactly what happened. Once she worked out whatever she was working on in her little noggin, she immediately went back to sleeping 12 hours a night.
I look at a sleep regression like when you first bring your baby home from the hospital. Anything goes at that point, anything she needs you provide. No set rules. So that the both of you get some sleep, otherwise you'll slowly start to lose your sanity. Don't be afraid that you are going to have to start sleep training all over. Like I said, once your baby already has those skills, the most that you'll have to do is remind her, not start all over.
Sleep Training During a Regression
Sleep regressions are tricky and many times parents offer extra feedings, rocking, and soothing, just to get through this dreaded regression. Some babies become reliant on this extra help, especially babies that didn't sleep that well to begin with. There's no need to put off sleep training during a regression, you just have to consider the developmental milestones your baby is going through, so that you can respond appropriately to the wakings. As a sleep consultant, that is exactly what I help parents with. If you are having trouble getting your little one to sleep well, and don't know how to handle your baby's sleep troubles during a regression, I would be glad to help! You can definitely get your baby to sleep well, even during a regression. View the Sleep Consultation Page.