A Guide To Dealing With Your Baby's Sleep Regression

A Guide To Dealing With Your Baby's Sleep Regression

Every new parent knows how much of a handful their bundle of joy can be during their first few weeks with them - at least until they get into the rhythm of things. Moreover, it's always a memorable moment when their baby finally manages to sleep through the night so they can catch up on some much-needed rest. But what if this peace ends abruptly? Now, your baby, who used to be able to sleep a solid eight hours, suddenly wakes up several times at night. What exactly is going on?


This natural phenomenon is called "sleep regression" among babies, an expected change in infants where they suddenly switch to an inconsistent sleep schedule. Read on to learn why sleep regression occurs, how long you can expect it to last, and some handy tips to get you and your baby sleeping well again.


Babies And Sleep Regression


First, it is essential to know that babies get plenty of sleep, but not always when you want them to. In general, newborns spend 16 hours of the day in slumber; by three months old, this averages around 12 to 15 hours. The issue lies in that they don't exactly do all this sleeping in one go. As babies doze off in relatively short bursts, they rarely sleep for more than four hours before waking up again for a short while, and the cycle repeats itself.


With that said, what's the reason behind this erratic sleeping schedule? The most common cause is that their circadian rhythm, that 24-hour internal body clock that guides us throughout the day, still needs to develop fully. Thus, as infants establish their body rhythms, their daily schedules may suddenly change and cause sleep regression. Over time, their sleep pattern begins cycling through phases of light and deep sleep, similar to that of adults.


However, several factors can contribute to sleep regression, such as:


  • Growth spurt or a developing brain
  • Illnesses like an ear infection or a cold
  • Teething pain
  • Disruptions in their daily routine


Given that these sleep troubles are primarily due to your child growing and maturing their neurological development, it may be better to see it as a progression rather than a regression. Some of the main changes you'll see with your baby's sleep during this period are shortened sleep cycles for daytime naps and nighttime sleep of about 35-45 minutes and two hours long, respectively. In addition, your little one will fully rouse between sleep cycles instead of drifting between them automatically as before.


With sleep now a conscious activity for your toddler, you may need to repeat their routines associated with sleep, like being fed, rocked, or patted to sleep each time they wake between cycles.


When Does Sleep Regression Occur?


The timing of sleep regression differs from one baby to another as research has not observed regressions occurring like clockwork at specific ages among infants. Although there are discussions of it happening around four months old, regressions may coincide with developmental milestones and growth spurts during your little one's first year. Sleep regressions typically don't last long, only about one to two weeks before babies get back on track with their sleeping schedule. That said, the exact duration will depend on the cause and thus varies from baby to baby.


Signs of Sleep Regression


Apart from frequent waking throughout the night, there can be various signs of sleep regression based on the other causes of your child's sleep problems.


1. Difficulty falling asleep at bedtime
2. Sudden resistance to daytime naps
3. More fussy or cranky than usual


How To Deal With Sleep Regression


Sleep regressions serve as a gentle reminder for parents to build a consistent sleep routine with their baby. Below are some tips to achieve that.


1. Apply sleep training


Sleep lessons should be at the top of the list. Every baby needs to learn this early on. With the help of the graduated extinction method of sleep training, as endorsed by The American Academy of Pediatrics, babies can learn how to self-soothe or self-settle, so they fall asleep on their own. This approach entails parents slowly increasing how long they wait before responding to their crying child after putting them to bed. This is the gentler alternative to the cry-it-out method, where there is absolutely no response to tears.


2. Feed your child well during daytime


Hunger can also cause disrupted sleep among babies, so feed your little one with nutrient and calorie-rich foods, so they won't cry out of hunger midway through a nap or sleep at night. Feeding them something 15 minutes before bedtime is a great wind-down routine that can help make them sleepy.


3. Create a distraction-free environment

A calm atmosphere is another key part of winding things down for your baby and getting them ready for sleep. Prevent overstimulating them before bedtime by setting the mood in their room. This means no visual distractions and turning down the lights, so your baby understands this is a time and place for sleep. Singing them a nursery rhyme or softly reading to them can help reinforce this message. In contrast, provide them with plenty of interaction and playtime during the day so that they learn that daytime is awake time.


4. Put your baby to sleep while they are awake

When putting your child to bed, make sure they are not yet fully asleep. Look for the common cues and signs that they are drowsy, like eye rubbing, yawning, or grabbing their ears. By having babies start out awake in their crib, they can learn to fall asleep by themselves so that if they do wake in the night, they will experience returning to their slumber without help.



Sleep regressions are a natural phase in your baby's growth and will eventually pass. While they are certainly not fun for anyone, the tips shared above should come in handy in helping you navigate your child's scattered sleep schedule. And if your child can't seem to get over their sleep troubles or have concerns regarding the cause, never hesitate to consult their paediatrician for help.



Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.