There are so many new and exciting things going on during the first two years of your baby’s life. She’s changing from (essentially) a floppy, potato-y-looking humanoid to a running, fast-talking toddler – there isn’t another time in your child’s life with more growth!
Unfortunately, sleep regressions often accompany that growth. Fortunately, sleep regressions don’t last forever.
There isn’t a lot you can do to prevent a sleep regression from happening, but you can manage how they happen and your attitude toward the change in behavior. We firmly believe that the more you know, the better things go, so here’s a little information behind sleep regressions.
What is a sleep regression?
These changes in sleeping patterns usually happen right around the time your baby is hitting some significant milestones. They typically mean more feedings, a fussier baby during the day, shorter and less restful sleep, and difficulty putting baby down for naps and bed. In short, it’s a tiring, frustrating time for both you and baby, but the developments that accompany it are fantastic.
What physical developments can accompany sleep regression?
Your child is developing and honing fine and gross motor skills throughout the first few years of life. Some of the gross motor skills that accompany a sleep regression include:
- Eating solid foods
You’ll notice that your baby tackles those skills one after another, which is why it can feel like regressions last for months and years. Luckily, your baby isn’t going to have a sleep regression for each of those skills individually. Sleep regressions are common at 2 months, 7 months, 9 months, 1 year, 15 months and 2 years.
What can you do about it?
1. Prevent Overtired
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: being overtired is the number one factor that derails sleep. With sleep regressions, your baby is resisting naps, frequently waking at night, and generally getting up to shenanigans. So how do you help her sleep if sleep is the problem?
First, know that this, too, shall pass. Eventually.
Second, stick to the routine. Your bedtime and naptime routines are as crucial as ever.
Third, adjust the schedule to allow for more sleep. Keep an eye out for signs that your baby is tired, and be accommodating. If she needs an earlier nap or bedtime, by all means, give her an earlier nap or bedtime. Do whatever you can to prevent her from getting overtired because that will exacerbate the problem.
2. Manage Your Expectations
Just when you thought things were turning around and you didn’t need to apply so much under-eye concealer, your baby hits a sleep regression. First things first: embrace the suck and know that it doesn’t last forever. Sleep regressions caused by developmental milestones should only last a few days until your baby masters the skill. If they’re lasting longer than that, there may be something else going on.
Part of being a parent is your ability to make everything ok. Owie? Kiss and a bandage. Hungry? Applesauce pouch on demand. Tired? Lovey and a nap. Teeth hurt? A milk-sicle and some snuggles.
But with sleep regressions, it’s harder to make things ok, and that can be frustrating. The best thing you can do is try not to get involved with your baby’s developmental leaps. Your peanut needs to figure out how to move her changing body, and while you can provide some helpful guidance, most of the time, she needs to do it on her own – more on that in the next tip.
3. Help Your Child Practice
Believe it or not, your baby is actually practicing her new skills in her sleep! A lot comes with being able to move on your own, and your baby’s brain can’t wait for some sweet, sweet freedom.
The problem is that when she’s practicing things like sitting or standing, sometimes she will get stuck in the upright position and not know how to get back down. That can lead to a pint-sized panic attack that wakes up you and the rest of the neighborhood. Unless you like getting woken up like that, you need to figure out a way to help her get back down without you.
The key: practice while she’s awake. Help your baby figure out how to get down safely by herself when you’re there to assist her. If she’s sitting up, teach her how to roll onto her side or crawl forward onto her tummy to get down. If she’s standing, show her how to plop down onto her booty without falling backward.
By taking the time to help her build muscle memory during the day, she will have greater success practicing in the middle of the night. One of the worst things you can do is always correct the behavior yourself. By laying her down each time (instead of teaching her how to lay down), you are building up a habit that she needs your help when it’s nighttime. That simply isn’t the case. She can learn how to safely get herself down, but it’s better to teach her during daylight than midnight hours.
Physical developments are an exciting time for both you and your baby. She finally has some independence, and you are scrambling around child-proofing your home that you thought was already child-proof. With these changes, though, your little one might turn into a sleep-averse monster baby for a little while, but know that it will soon pass. By preventing overtiredness, managing your expectations, and helping her practice during the day, you will get through this.