Sleep regression in babies : what to do ?

Published : 12-05-2022 15:23:12
Categories : baby-sleep

Sleep regression in babies : what to do ?

You were finally content to see your little one sleeping calmly through the night! But for the past few days your baby has started crying as soon as he has to sleep, wakes up regularly at night and the naps are getting shorter and shorter. If all went well until now, it is quite possible that the baby is in a “sleep regression” period! These phases are completely normal for babies who have trouble assimilating changes either in their environment or in their own bodies. Your little one is growing up and it's not easy every day. These periods can be more or less long but generally last between 5 and 15 days.

So how do we detect these phases of regression? What to do to help your baby regain their sleep rhythm?

What causes sleep regression in babies?

Sleep regression has two main triggers:

The first one is a change in the baby's environment. Was he sick recently? Has there been a major change in his life (moving into a new house, change of custody, the arrival of grandparents at home, vacation, etc.)? In the first year of life, babies need regularity and consistency to be able to learn. And especially to learn how to sleep! The smallest change can have a big impact. The rules change and the baby doesn't understand.They must adapt, which results in a phase of sleep regression. Changes in the family routine, illness, or others, can lead to small adaptation periods for a baby who has difficulties sleeping.

Then, babies need to deal with the changes in their bodies and minds. During the 24 months, your kid must learn to sleep, learn to walk, to speak and many other things. It's a lot for his brain which must, during the night, process all these fast changes. This is called physiological sleep regression. They are much more common than regressions due to environmental changes and often appear at similar times. Baby needs your support to get through them.

Recognizing sleep regressions

To recognize these phrases, the keyword is disorder. Your baby was sleeping normally when suddenly:

- Baby cries at bedtime

- Nocturnal awakenings are increasing

- Baby is grumpy during the day or asks us more often than usual

- Naps are getting shorter

- Baby shows an increased appetite

- In short, baby's sleep pattern is disrupted.

The most common periods of sleep regression and their explanations

Here are the most favorable periods for the appearance of a sleep regression in babies. Remember that it is very rare for a baby to go through all these phases! They usually last from 5 to 15 days.

Between 4 and 6 months: It is during this period that the baby's sleep evolves. Until now, most babies sleep when they want and wake up mainly because they’re hungry. At this stage, your baby discovers the adult day/night rhythm. The sleep structure gradually changes to reach that of an adult (REM sleep, light sleep, deep sleep). It doesn't sound like much to us, but it's a huge milestone for baby! Their sleep needs also change and they are more sensitive to noise and light. It's not easy to grow up! This new skill is also related to the evolution of your relationship with your child. We often talk about separation anxiety, a baby doesn’t want to be separated from their parents. It is extremely common to see a 4-month-old baby going through a difficult sleep period. This period is specifically complex if it corresponds to the return to work by the parents.

Between 6 and 9 months: In this period, we talk about separation anxiety at its peak. When you leave the room, your little one can think that you’re not coming back. They need to gradually learn how to be independent and understand that you are never far away. This step is crucial because it allows the baby to understand that they are a separate person and that they cannot always be with Mom or Dad. It is also during this period that babies develop their motor skills. Baby moves in the crib, discovers the sitting position, and even crawls. All this can prevent him from sleeping well.

After 12 months: So many other elements come into play after baby’s first birthday and so we have more reasons for a disturbed baby's sleep. Learning to walk (12 - 15 months), language (around 18-24 months), discovering your personality, and the “no” phase (around 2 years) can lead to a period of regression. If he sleeps badly, before being worried, ask yourself if your baby is not taking a leap in his learning of the world and in the discovery of his identity. Growing up takes a lot of energy. Each milestone is important. What seems for us to be small steps are in reality gigantic for your little one in terms of effort.

Régression du sommeil chez bébé

How to handle baby sleep regression phases?

Sleep is a long apprenticeship. Sleeping well shouldn’t be taken for granted. Periods of sleep regression are quite normal in the development of your little one. It's even a good sign as long as they don't last too long! To help them get through these times that are just as difficult for you as for them, here are some tips:

Regularity: If there is one word to remember when it comes to sleep and babies, it is regularity. An age-appropriate rhythm, a regular evening ritual can only lead to a baby who sleeps like an angel. So if there have been changes in family life lately, it may be worth trying to get back to more regularity. Baby has a vital need for sleep consistency. Being impacted by the slightest change, putting an effort in the sleep ritual can really help them get through this difficult phase. If it is not possible to return to the previous rhythm, it is important to be supportive and understand that you little one is doing their best to adapt. Maintain your rhythm with regularity and everything will be back to normal. If your baby is still having trouble sleeping, they may have grown up and a modification in the ritual is needed!

Show up for your baby: Kids need adults to understand the world around him. Do not hesitate to explain and show to your baby that you are nearby, that you are there when they need and that they are not alone even if they don’t see you! To help your little one become independent, small games like hide and seek can teach them these concepts. Even when baby no longer sees you, she knows that you are not far away! When babies get a little older, explain to them that they have to sleep alone, that you trust ,them and that it's for their good.

A sleep-conductive environment: Take a look at the baby's room and look for elements that could interfere with sleep. Check the room temperature (it should be between 18°C ​​and 20°C). Ask yourself if it is completely dark at night! Finally, check that the bedding is well suited to the age and needs of your baby. If your little one is big enough, you can also help him to improve their environment by giving them small choices (for example the color of the night light, the place of the toys, etc.).

Listening: These periods are difficult for the baby. It’s not a choice, and it’s not on purpose! Even if sleep regression can affect the rhythm of life of the whole family, these periods are only transitory. Essential to the development of your little one, sleep regressions are signals that the baby is reaching a new milestone in their development. By showing your love and support, by listening, you will help them flourish while strengthening the bond between you!

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