My thoughts on sleep regression

The minute you become a parent you can find yourself suddenly plagued by the noise around sleep regressions. 4 months, 6 months, 8, 12, 18…the list goes on.

I wanted to demystify these so-called sleep regressions and hopefully take some of the fear out of them. I will do some separate blogs on specific times but for today I wanted to cover the concept as a whole. 

First and foremost, we have to stop calling them regressions. It’s such a negative term and is essentially incorrect. Nothing is ever moving backwards. It implies the loss of a skill. Of which sleep isn’t. Sleep isn’t a skill to be taught and then seemingly forgotten again. 

These so-called ‘regressions’ are common moments of heightened development, which can lead to your little one having slightly more disturbed sleep and needing a little more support.

The ‘four month progression’ is the only coined regression that has anything specifically to do with sleep.

The amount of development and change in the first few years is outstanding. I mean their brain quite literally doubles in size in the first two years. When you think about it like that it just makes sense that sleep could also be a little up and down.

Development can affect sleep in various ways

Firstly their brain is literally on overdrive. They may find it harder to switch off and may wake in the night to ruminate on all they are learning.

Secondly, they may want to practice any skills they are learning; from rolling to crawling, clapping to babbling, standing up to moving around. 

Finally, it’s not uncommon for peaks in development to carry some separation anxiety with them. This is because they are learning and developing so much that they may seek that extra closeness and comfort from you. 

I know myself, even as an adult, if I am going through a big change I may seek extra support from my spouse, family and friends.

Another issue with these coined sleep regressions

They are given exact age bracketed names.

This leads to parents worrying and catastrophising something that hasn’t even happened yet.

Sleep regression is not the term to use – it has negative connotations

As we know, all babies are individuals

They develop at a different rate (meaning you may experience these things at totally different times) and are affected by developmental change to varying degrees.

Some can breeze through these peaks without any affect to their sleep.

Some you will notice a marked difference in their sleep right before a new skill emerges.

Some will get a rollercoaster of development in a row that leads to a more prolonged period of disturbed sleep.

Any of the above is completely normal.

What I can tell you for certain is this

Your little one didn’t forget how to sleep or fall asleep.

Your little one isn’t moving backwards.

Your little one isn’t broken.

Some tips

  • Make sure they have plenty of free floor time to practice and explore all their new developments.
  • Get down on a level with them to encourage that practice. Being down on their level is also connection heavy. 
  • Have focused connection time with them to fill up their love tank. Lots of eye contact and physical touch. 
  • Don’t try to make big changes to sleep or otherwise during these peaks. It can be like working up against a brick wall.
  • If you can clearly see the development happening in front of you then that’s likely what it is. But also be open minded to whether something needs a gentle tweak. Have their sleep needs decreased and so they need a later bedtime or less daytime sleep? Do they need more of a calm wind down before sleep?
  • Look after yourself. These moments won’t be forever, but for some they can be tricky. Have an early night a few times a week. Let go of unnecessary chores. 
  • I won’t say nap when they nap because that’s annoying advice for many. But do try and rest when they do if you can. 

And remember.

These moments do pass. I promise. 

If you are worried about anything and are struggling with you little one’s sleep then hop over to my website ( www.secondstarsleep.com ) to explore my support options.

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