Understanding Sleep Regressions

Sleep Regressions – Are there any scarier 2 words when it comes to your child’s sleep?

I personally don’t care for the word regression – yes sleep can go backwards but the reasoning behind sleep issues coming to the surface is because your child is actually progressing – not regressing. Actively trying to find a new word to describe these occurrences.


Maybe you finally got your little one on a good sleeping schedule when bam – suddenly struggling with nighttime wake ups and napping problems. Knowing when the regressions are expected can help parents feel a bit more prepared.

Here is a quick run-down of the sleep regressions you may encounter during the first 2.5 years of your child’s life. Keep in mind that these time frames aren’t exact, and some children can hit them earlier/later than others – rule of thumb is typically within 4 weeks either way.


4 Months:

This one is a bit different than other sleep regressions because of how it occurs. This one happens due to the permanent change in your baby’s sleep cycles. This is typically the hardest sleep regression for many – and it is a permanent change in your baby’s sleep.


7-10 Months:

This is a wide range of ages but it’s a difficult regression to pinpoint and can really cause some grief with sleep habits. This regression is due to physical milestones such as crawling, pulling up, furniture cruising and sometimes even walking.


12 Months:

Depending on the child, the 7-10 regression can carry into 12 months (awful I know). Not all children will experience this regression. This one is typically due to walking and separation anxiety.


18 Months:

From personal experience, I have always found this one to be the worst. Your child is older, has a ton more stamina when it comes to protesting and likely has some major separation anxiety. This regression is caused by the big language explosion and the peak of separation anxiety.


2-2.5 Years:

Another tough one. This one is again caused my language development and the 2-year molars. Some children will experience this regression and others won’t. More times than not, this regression targets naps, which causes parents to assume their child is done with napping – which is not the case for most!


When going through a regression – it helps to remember why it is happening. They happen due to your child growing and developing, and they will eventually end.


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How to survive:


- Be Patient: Easier said than done I know. These sleep regressions are tough to get through but they will end eventually.


- Be careful with forming habits: I've been there - wishing your child would just sleep again so in a last stitch effort you assist to sleep. While this may not impact some children who were already independent sleepers - this can cause issues for others. If you already have an independent sleeper and start assisting to sleep, it can prolong the regression by creating a sleep prop dependency. Once the prop dependency is formed, it will be hard to figure out whether the regression has ended or not.


-Nap Transitions: Not only do these regressions happen around milestones, but they also land around the time that most are transitioning in their naps. It's important to be mindful of your child's schedule during regressions, and asses if there potentially needs to be a schedule change.


4 Months: 4 to 3 naps

7-10 Months: 3 to 2 naps

12-18 Months: 2 to 1 nap

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