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What are Sleep regressions?

If you are a parent or you work with children, you have most likely heard about sleep regressions.

In this article, I will try to explain what is going on.

Developmental changes

Children are constantly changing, growing, adapting and learning. Each child reaches their milestones at different rate e.g. not every baby sits up at the same age.

When children are learning, their brain is processing a lot of new information.

Research has shown when a baby has spent time in the day practicing a new skill e.g. maybe crawling, their brain is still active when they go to bed. This is maybe why your child finds it difficult to settle at night while they ponder their new found super power and even practice it in their cot! The part of the brain they have been using the most, in this case gross motor skills, is still firing & lighting up like a firework show even after they go to sleep.

Amazing, right!?

What will happen during a sleep regression

I don’t really like term regression, and in fact, there is no scientific evidence to back up sleep regressions!

There is plenty of evidence about development, and also about how a baby’s sleep matures and evolves.

What parents usually notice is that their baby’s sleep suddenly changes. They might notice any of the following

  • Refusal to nap
  • Waking soon after falling asleep
  • Resistance to fall asleep at bedtime
  • More night waking
  • Waking up early in the morning
  • Waking up seeming tired still

It’s often a combination of all these things. As frustrating and worrying as it is, I can assure you that your baby hasn’t lost the ability to sleep, it’s just sleep isn’t a priority for your little one during this developmental leap.

When do ‘regressions’ typically occur?

Sleep distributions can occur at any time of developmental change. There are, of course, some well-known times around 4-5 months and 8 months.

4-5 month ‘regression’

As a newborn, your baby transitioned from awake to asleep via REM (dreaming) sleep. The brain activity during REM sleep is very similar to the activity during wakefulness, and babies often fall asleep easily – whether in your arms, during a feed, or with a little bit of movement.

Their sleep cycle is also quite short, and they simply alternate between REM sleep and deep sleep. As their sleep cycle matures, they transition from awake to asleep via a completely new state of sleep that they have not experienced before – light sleep. It’s a type of non-REM sleep, and may well feel quite unfamiliar to your baby. For this reason, it seems that many babies suddenly struggle to ‘switch off’ and go to sleep.

4-5 month old babies are often distractible, stimulated by their environment, eager to interact and learn, and find new experiences, places and people exciting. At this age babies are learning a huge amount, cooing, smiling more and perhaps rolling.

Also they are starting to be able to stay awake between naps for longer now, typically having 4 naps per day.

During any phase of development, babies may seem unsettled, and will need more support to enable them to sleep. In truth all of us have times we cant sleep due to studying, stress or excitement. These different emotional states can have us all laying in bed for hours waiting for our minds to switch off. However, it’s only a phase in our life, and your little ones too. We don’t lose the ability to sleep and helping them with good sleeping habits now will help them to cope with all of these states throughout life.

8 month regression

At this age, babies are babbling, probably learning to stand with some help, crawl, clapping hands, waving and lots of other new tricks.

If your 7-9 month old baby has suddenly become fretful when you leave to go to the bathroom, or answer the doorbell, chances are separation anxiety is to blame.

Around this time You may need to drop the last nap of the day this typically occurs around 8-9months.

Remember to make the lunchtime nap a bit longer and the bedtime a bit earlier, or you’ll end up with an overtired baby by bedtime, and you may get sleep resistance due to excessive tiredness.

How to help your baby during sleep regressions

Focus on the things you can help you baby with, it’s easy to feel out of control at this time.

  • Keep calm. Babies pick up on our vibes! It’s understandable that you’d find bedtime and nap times stressful if they have suddenly become a challenge. Remember it’s temporary.
  • Re-evaluate your naps. Does your little one need to drop a nap? Watch your baby’s individual tired cues and try to be responsive to them.
  • Maintain your predictable, positive and calming routines. Stick with whatever worked before… don’t switch things up.
  • If naps have shortened, stay close to your baby so you can help them transition between sleep cycles. You could lay a hand on them as they stir and guide them back to sleep.
  • You could consider using white noise with babies under 6 months, and pink noise with babies over 6 months. Studies have shown pink noise promotes deep sleep.

How long do sleep regressions last?

Sleep regressions last between 7-10 days, on average.

During this stressful time parents contact me after trying numerous methods, to settle their baby. Because what they did before has no soothing effect anymore. My advise during this unsettled time is to stay consistent in your response.

Studies have shown it can take 2-3 weeks to form a habit, so try not to switch things up.

Stick to what your baby knows, weather that’s rocking or patting them to sleep.

Then once the developmental leap has ended they will fall back into their sleeping patterns more quickly.

Sleep regressions can cause parents a lot of stress. But sometimes the fear of one can be worse than the experience. Try to stay calm, and remember that all phases eventually come to an end.

*useful tools The Wonder Weeks App*

I am a Maternity nurse and Holistic Sleep Coach, offering home consultations, as well as Skype or telephone consultations helping families throughout the uk and overseas.

Night Nanny

Diane has helped us for 6weeks now, she is a reassuring presence. Guiding us through those first few hazy days.
Diane met us at home on our first day back from Northampton general hospital.
It was such a comfort to know she would be there waiting for us.
She stayed with us for the first 72hrs, then looked after our son, 3 nights a week.
I never felt as though Diane was taking over,
My husband & I felt safe to sleep & recover
Knowing our son was being cared for.
Sleep deprivation is overwhelming, I spent the first 3months in a daze with my first child.
Having a Maternity nurse/ night nanny,eliminates this.
Diane was also able to gentle stir my son into a lovely routine, her knowledge and understanding helped us through some tricker times too.
Don’t hesitate, invested in sleep 💤

Kristina & mark73086EC2-0498-43CD-87B5-2FD39C055939

Diane held our hands & guided us through.

When our daughter turned 6 months old her sleep routine changed overnight. All of a sudden she wouldn’t settle and woke on average every 3 hours. After 4 weeks of sleep deprivation I contacted Diane. She talked us through why our baby was doing what she was, and guided us through the steps to amend it. We followed Diane’s technique for settling her and kept to the feeding and nap schedule that we were given. Now, 8 days since we started my daughter sleeps from 19.00 till 07.00. I can’t believe the transformation, thank you Diane!

Keeping your toddler help while you feed the Baby!

Do you have a toddler and a new baby?
Or are you expecting one soon?

If you are in this position, this tip may be useful for you.

Put together a special ‘feeding basket’ for your toddler, for each time you are sitting feeding your baby. Put in toys, books and a doll that they haven’t seen before. Things like sticker books, or fuzzy felt work really well as you can help them with one hand.

It is nice to put a doll in the basket, as then your child can ‘feed’ their baby like you are doing with their brother or sister.

If you are breastfeeding, lots of toddlers pretend to breastfeed as well, it is really cute, and keeps them entertained while you are tied up with feeding!

Pop to the £ shop and get a few things each week to add in, so there is always something new in there for them to find!!

Give it a go! 9AB4629C-4EB8-4434-8D20-99E898A4C49A

Sleep consultant via books

What additional value will a sleep consultant provide, if I’ve already read all the books??

There is a lot of information out there and it can all seem a bit overwhelming sometimes – especially if you’re struggling with sleep deprivation too! When you’re tired, it’s hard to see the wood for the trees and even if you have some idea of what you need to do, it can still help to have this broken down, or actually shown to you.

I will customise an approach for your child – one that also takes into account your personal views, philosophies and practices around parenting.

Unlike a book, I can answer questions and offer you support daily. If needs be I will change course mid-week or tweak routines to suit you and your baby ensuring a great result.

Happy Baby!

I went to Diane for some help with my 8 months old and 3 year old. The 8 month old was breast feeding 2/3 times a night but waking about 5 times expecting me to settle him. The 3 year old kept coming into our bed and waking up the baby and us a few times as well. So in total I was getting no sleep… I was exhausted all the time!
I spoke to Diane and we chatted through the issues and how best to deal. We agreed a structure to try to follow. 1 week later I now have two children that sleep through! Go to sleep at 6.30/7pm until 6.30/7am. I’m ecstatically happy! And have had the most sleep this week than I have in 3 years! Most importantly the baby and toddler are happy too because they are getting better quality sleep. X thank you Diane!

I wish I had contacted Diane sooner

I contacted Diane when our 15 month old daughter was still getting up in the night for 3 bottle feeds and then waking at 5am for the day. I also couldn’t get her to nap in the day without taking her for a walk or a drive. This is my second child and I had similar problems with the first and I just couldn’t put up with it any more. I needed to sleep!
Diane came to our house and we talked through our daughters routine and agreed on some changes and a tactic to use during the night. By day 4 she was napping in the day straight into her cot and having no milk in the night. She barely cried and soothed herself back to sleep when she did wake.
It took less than a week for her to sleep through and she stays asleep until at least 6:30. Today I had to wake her up at 7:30!
I’m so happy with the result and only wish I had contacted Diane sooner!

Good nights sleep

I contacted Diane for help with my 8 month old … he had developed a severe sleep association with being breastfed to sleep, which had resulted in him waking every hour like clockwork all night every night and led to me having to co-sleep with him at night and for all his naps. He was permanently overtired from all the broken sleep. I was so miserable about being bedbound for so many hours every day, it was affecting my relationship with my partner and I had so little time to go anywhere or do any housework.
Diane stayed overnight and gave me the support I needed to break that feeding to sleep association.
That first night, and every night since, my baby has slept through whole night in his own room! A week later and he is SO much happier now that he is getting such a good restful sleep every night. And so am I! Thank you for your help Diane 🙂 x

Help your child adjust to the clock change

SPRING IS COMING

In two weeks the clocks go forward by an hour, if your child is an early waker, then losing an hour of the night may be a good thing for you as 5am suddenly becomes 6am this may be just temporary, as within a few days, most babies adapt to the new time.

If you are happy with your child’s current sleep routine and want to keep things as they are, here are some tips:

* A week before the time change, start to put your child to bed 10 minutes earlier than usual, increasing by 10 minutes every night until Saturday night when you put them to bed at 6pm. So they are ready for the change.

* You will need to adjust nap times too, 10mins per day. So your routine stays on track.

* Now is the time to put up some black out blinds, if you haven’t already. Each night before bath time go up stairs and close the curtains. So upstairs is quiet & sleepy zone.

* You may find your child wakes a little earlier, because you are putting them to bed earlier. Don’t worry this will balance out when the clocks go forward. If they are happy in their cot/bed in the mornings leave them be & try to increase this by 10mins each morning. Obliviously if they are upset get them up.

This can be a tricky time, if you need help please call me

Sanity Saver

Diane has been my sanity-saviour! After 2 years of many nightly wakings, long & difficult bedtimes and most of all sharing our bed with our son nearly every night…we now have a happy 2 year old who sleeps through in his own bed AND he even naps during the day!! Diane gave me the advice and help I needed, was very understanding and didn’t make me feel I was doing something wrong…she just told me how I could do it differently! She made me feel at ease on how to ‘tackle’ the situation and after 2 weeks of sleepless nights we have now made it and seen the end result!! It’s amazing!! Thank you so much Diane!! To all mummies out there struggling…don’t hesitate…just pick up the phone and give her a call, she’s brilliant! X
Mrs Tiley  Jan 2016