In the first two years of your little one’s life, you can expect them to go through five different sleep regressions. They’ll all need a slightly different touch, they’ll all ask for you to practice consistency, patience, and persistence (and believe me – at times it feels like you’re getting a LOT of practice!), and – best of all – they’ll all pass after about 2-4 weeks if you’re consistent with your approach.
Here’s everything you need to know about each sleep regression stage.
4-month sleep regression
This will be the first sleep regression you and your little one will work through and oh boy, is it a big one!
At around 4-6 months of age your little one goes through a permanent neurological change in sleeping patterns. They shift from ‘baby’ sleep cycles (up to 6-8 hours) to ‘adult’ sleep cycles (between 2-4 hours). This is why your previously well-rested little one may now begin to wake more frequently!
This is the perfect time to start working on healthy sleep habits. At this age you can start to see how any long-term sleep associations might be coming into play and whether those associations are now helping or hindering your little one’s sleep. These associations could include their dummy falling out, making them unlikely to re-settle between sleep cycles without it, or waking between sleep cycles in a motionless cot when they’d fallen asleep being gently rocked. To put it in adult terms, it would be like us going to sleep in our bed and waking up somewhere else, like on our couch. We’d feel perplexed, frazzled, and unsettled too!
During this time, it’s important to help your little one to develop healthy sleep associations that will empower them to resettle on their own. While it’s completely (and biologically) normal for babies to wake overnight, it’s not beneficial for either you or your little one if you need to get up multiple times through the night to help them resettle between sleep cycles.
At this age, your little one can also start to build up sleep debt. With their circadian rhythm now functioning, they can no longer run on short cat naps throughout the day. They need at least one opportunity for a consolidated and restorative daytime sleep, which will help them to sleep better at night. Without it, the cortisol levels in their body will promote the release of adrenaline, and this will change their partial arousals to full wake ups overnight.
Read more about the 4 month sleep regression here
9-month sleep regression
Your little one’s second sleep regression will occur at around 8-10 months of age. If you haven’t already heard the term ‘separation anxiety’, it will become a popular phrase at this point.
At this age your little one starts to realise that they are a separate person from you. They begin to understand that you – and the objects around them – can come and go, which can make sleep quite a challenge. As is the case with every sleep regression your little one will go through though, how you approach the separation anxiety stage will determine how quickly you progress back to regular sleeping patterns.
Hint: Help your little one with the concept of object permanence by playing games of peek-a-boo. This will show them what is gone is not gone forever.
Further disruption to sleep around this time can be linked to new physical milestones, like learning how to sit up, crawl, and pull themselves up to standing. I mean, why should they just lay there and sleep when they can move themselves around like this now?! Fortunately, this too should all pass within a short period of time, and with lots of practice during the day to help build muscle memory.
Throughout this sleep regression remain consistent in your settling approach. Don’t introduce any new sleep props to your little one that you’re not wanting them to keep long-term.
12-month sleep regression
When they’re close to celebrating their first birthday, your little one will go through their 12-month sleep regression. This really isn’t surprising, because there’s quite a lot going on for them at this time, from crawling to taking their first steps, and learning how to communicate with those around them!
Often the 12-month sleep regression presents itself as your little one refusing to go down for their second nap, but don’t be fooled! Most babies aren’t ready to drop their second nap until they’re around 15-18 months old, so you’ll need to push through this.
If you’re dealing with a little one going through this sleep regression stage, check out my 3 top tips to surviving your child’s 12-month sleep regression – you’ll find my favourite gems in there on how to handle this stage.
18-month and 2-year sleep regressions
Your little one will experience additional sleep regressions at around 18 months and 2 years of age.
Both stages are caused by rises in their cognitive development, which is exciting because it means they’re learning and absorbing so many new things in their world!
You can commonly experience a second wave of separation anxiety, nap refusal (check out nap transitions for more information, early rising. Be patient and consistent as always.
As you’ve now learned through your little one’s previous sleep regression stages, these final stages are:
- something every child experiences
- completely normal
- best handled with consistency and patience.
You’ve come this far Mumma – keep doing what you’ve been doing and be confident; your little one is just going through yet another change in their development and, just like you did every other time, you’ve got this.
Want some extra help?
If you’d like some extra help, you can book in for a one-to-one session. I can give you more great advice on how you can help your little one work through their sleep regression, tailored specifically for your family.
Booking in is easy – just fill out the form on my contact page and I’ll be in touch!
Want to know the ins and out of the sleep routines that I recommend? Download my comprehensive nap routine guide. This is a 35 page guide, from 6 weeks to 4 years which breaks down each age and stage not only in awake times, but also gives you total day sleep requirements and provides detailed explanation of two different routines for each age group for you to learn and understand more about daily sleep needs for your little one.