Just when you think you have the sleep thing sorted and you are finally getting at least 7 hours a night, a dreaded sleep regression happens! This can be at 4 months, 6 months, there can also be one around 10 months and then you have the toddler/separation regression. Sometimes it can just happen anytime for no apparent reason!
Sleep regressions usually occur when a baby is going through a developmental leap. These regressions can be small or large depending on the leap. I find that if the leap is related to mobility, like rolling, crawling or walking, sleep can be affected quite badly. The good thing to know is that these regressions will pass. So rather than what should you do when you are faced with a sleep regression, it is more about what you shouldn’t do and then hopefully your baby will return to be a fabulous sleeper!
- Don’t bring them into your bed.
This obviously applies to those babies who are sleeping independently in their own cots already. If your baby is used to sleeping on their own, then the occasional sleep in your bed might be okay, but if it happens more than twice in a row you will never get them out!! Well, it might not be that dramatic, but it will be difficult to get your baby back into their cot because who doesn’t want to sleep next to the best comforter in the world!
- Stick to your same bedtime ritual.
Keep doing what you have always done, even if it is a bit trickier at this time. The bath, book, song, bedtime routine is what they know, so keep doing it and it will help get things back on track. Babies love routine and ritual so this will really help.
- Don’t ignore them or let them cry to sleep.
Just because your baby might be waking more overnight, it is not a time to ignore their cries. They genuinely can’t help the extra waking, so you need to be understanding of why they are waking more and gently help them get back to sleep. Patting, singing, stroking can all be lovely ways to help your baby get through this regression and get them back to sleep in a gentle, loving way.
- Don’t rock them back to sleep in your arms.
If your baby needs assistance to get back to sleep overnight, you can certainly help them, and if they are very upset, you can pick them up and cuddle but try not to let them fall asleep in your arms. Give them a lovely cuddle and some reassurance, then pop them back into their cot so they fall asleep there rather than in your arms. This will help the regression pass quickly and not cause them to expect to be rocked back to sleep.
- Don’t introduce extra feeds.
Once your baby has dropped most or all of their night feeds you shouldn’t have to reintroduce them. So if you are faced with a regression, pat or soothe your baby back to sleep without feeding. Introducing extra feeding overnight will only cause your baby to continue to wake and they may start to wake even more!
- Don’t panic!
Sleep regressions are a normal part of development. They do pass as long as you stick with your routine. If you have to engage some help from your partner, then do it. Regressions are usually short so hunker down and things should be back to normal before you know it.
Article by Wattle Health resident expert, Paediatric Nurse, Jo Ryan.