Baby’s sleep regression – the first 12 months

kūdikių miego regresas

When it comes to babies’ sleep, probably the one I get the most questions about is sleep regression. Do they really occur in all babies? Why do they happen and what to do during them? Or can it be avoided? These are issues that often worry, if not scare, parents with young children.

But before we go into the regression periods, let’s pause for a moment and look at the first year of a baby’s life with fresh eyes. The progress that takes place during this time is incredible to say the least – the toddlers grow from helpless babies into toddlers with legs of their own! Able to eat adult food, recognise people, communicate their wants/needs and often even say their first words. All these new skills require insane brain power: making new neural connections, processing a wealth of information and consolidating what has been learned. When do you think the “classification” of new experiences takes place? Exactly – it happens while you sleep! That’s why the ever-changing sleep patterns of toddlers are completely understandable.

So, when a baby’s sleep is disturbed, it often means that he or she is studying something very intensively and the brain is going through very active processes. So, as we get up again and again to the waking baby, let’s at least remind ourselves that there is nothing wrong here, just that the baby has reached another stage of development. So we are not going backwards, but forwards!


4 months sleep regression

Perhaps the most significant sleep regression and a period that parents look forward to with more or less anxiety. Interestingly, this sleep regression actually accompanies a very important stage in the baby’s development, when the structure of the sleep cycle changes. From newborn sleep, which had only two phases, deep and shallow, the baby’s sleep cycle changes and starts to resemble our sleep as adults.

Not surprisingly, such a significant change can unbalance your baby’s sleep patterns, causing more night wakings or shorter daytime naps. Perhaps the most recognisable sign of this regression is that babies find it harder to fall asleep. Often, the usual methods of help have become ineffective and more intensive help is needed. Sometimes the regression only affects night-time sleep, when babies start to wake up every 1-2 hours, but it may also be that we only notice changes in daytime naps, which will be more difficult to fall asleep, or become shorter.

It’s true that, although the sleep cycle is reforming, not all parents notice signs of regression. If you still feel that your baby’s sleep has suddenly become more restless, the main thing is not to panic. Look out for signs of tiredness in your baby, and perhaps you need to stay up a little longer. Keep a consistent daily rhythm, keep your baby’s bedtimes appropriate and don’t be surprised if the naps are shorter – in that case, more will be needed.

During this more intense period, be sure to make sure you have time to rest in SAU. Sleep during the day, let relatives or friends push the pushchair, lower the standards of household care. It has been reported that this regression can last 2-6 weeks.


8-10 months sleep regression

After 4 months of experience, this regression can hardly scare you. It is usually less intense and can often be eased by a large dose of closeness and tenderness. Separation anxiety is one of the main causes of poor sleep during this period. However, restless sleep can also be influenced by active physical development – during this period, toddlers usually start crawling, trying to stand, teething, and an increasing desire to develop speech.

But let’s go back to separation anxiety, which is often most clearly visible to mothers of toddlers. And not just notice, maybe even more so, the shape of a toddler clinging to your legs. What is going on here? At this age, babies are already beginning to distinguish between people very clearly, to choose who they feel safest with and to communicate their protest clearly if their favourite person is not around. It is also the time when one begins to understand the permanence of objects – that when Mum goes to the next room, she doesn’t disappear and can be called. But her departure itself is very worrying.

All these changes and perceptions bring a lot of confusion to a toddler’s maturing brain. Anxiety about being separated from my mother, and the security of feeling her with all my body.

Often, babies who have been sleeping in their own cots since they were babies move into their parents’ bed during this period because they don’t feel safe sleeping alone. And during night wakings, sometimes just a cuddle or a hold of the hand is enough to help your little one drift off to sleep after calming down.

This regression also marks the time when only two afternoons remain on the toddlers’ agendas. It’s therefore worth paying attention to whether we’ve made changes to our daily routine, as too much daytime sleep can influence more frequent night-time awakenings. Let’s also use games that help to facilitate separation – hide and seek, chasing, hiding and finding things under the blanket, all games where we separate and reunite. During the day, let’s also spend more time cuddling, carrying and being close, so that it’s easier for a toddler who is full of security to settle down for a night’s sleep.

During this active period, changes in sleep may occur several times, in short episodes lasting 1 to 2 weeks.


12 months regression

Are you saying that we have just come out of one regression and we are already preparing for a new one? This should come as no surprise, given the intensity of development in the early years! Often the beginning of this regression is marked by a big change in the child’s life – the ability to walk like Mum and Dad! It is possible that a toddler who has started to walk may become so enthusiastic about the new skill that he or she tries to stand at night. In my sleep.

During this regression, puppies often start to refuse a second nap. This may seem like a sign that we need to switch to daytime sleep. But let’s not rush things, as the baby may get overtired. This change is usually temporary, and after 1-2 weeks of the second sleep-without-sleep subgroup, babies return to their normal 2-day subgroup.

It can also be very difficult for your baby to fall asleep at night. You seem to want to sleep, but it’s as if something is stopping you from falling asleep. Again, this is due to active brain activity and a harder transition from activities where you learn something new every day to being in the mood for sleep. Consistency in your daily routine is more important than ever, and you may also need more quiet time, preparation, and quieter activities before bed.


Regression or something else?

However, regression can also occur for other reasons:

  • Tooth growth;
  • Allergies and food intolerances;
  • Changes to the rhythm of the day are needed;
  • Sleep habits that require parental support;
  • Changes in your baby’s life (moving house, travelling, other changes);
  • Changing times or significant temperature changes.

So let’s always take a broader view to find the best ways to help your little one, as well as yourself.


The author of the article is Dovilė Šafranauskė, an infant and child sleep specialist.

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