Let’s Talk "Regressions"

4 Month sleep regressions, 9 month sleep regressions, 2 year sleep regressions:

Let’s Talk "Regressions"

I’m on the mom boards. Are you? I think I’m on them all.  I love me a good recommendation from a mom about something. There’s something a little more authentic about a real testimonial from a real person doing real things (sorry Jessica Alba). So when I’m looking for advice on a new product, or why my 3 year old melts down when I ask her to put on shoes, I look to see what other moms are doing, pick the strategies I like, research more and go from there.

I’m also (obviously) checking out the sleep questions. I find this incredibly helpful for my practice. I know what moms are talking about in the world of sleep and what is being suggested to them. And ladies, not all advice is created equal. Well-meaning–yes! Definitely! Moms love helping another mom in distress. But based on sleep science? Best practices? Supportive of mom and baby? Maybe not…

So today, I’m going to talk to you about ‘Sleep Regressions’ and give you some information about what they are and what to do about them. I’ve put regression in quotes because I really don’t refer to them as such. A baby/toddler doesn’t decide one day to stop sleeping. They don’t suddenly lose all of their sleep skills, rather, they stop sleeping when their brains start moving a mile-a-minute due to a developmental milestone.  They are actually doing the opposite of regressing. They are progressing, and they are literally thinking about the new skills they are acquiring at all times. ALL TIMES. And, if they’re not thinking about it, they’re trying it out (Hello rolling, standing, crawling). They don’t care that it’s 3 am and they haven’t slept yet. They just don’t.

(Amanda and Baby 2 During her 4.5-month developmental milestone. No sleep to see here…)

So what’s an exhausted parent to do?

  1. Know that there aren’t pre-described ‘regressions’. Don’t believe me? Google the 4-month sleep regression. Then google the 5 month one, and then the 6 month and the dreaded 7….See where I’m going with this? Babies are always learning new things, and their sleep is likely to be disrupted while doing so. BUT you will find a well-intentioned person on the internet telling you that there is definitely a regression at this time, and you’re going to just have to deal with it, etc. My advice? Don’t subscribe to that way of thinking. Know that baby is learning something right now, and it’s likely that in another month or two, baby will learn something again and likely have a few bad nights. And then move on. It’s normal.
  1. Keep on keeping on. When baby is going through their regression, you keep doing what you did before. Stay consistent.  They may need extra cuddles, extra nurses/feedings, and lots of love, but in order to help them (and you!), you need to stay consistent with all of your actions regarding sleep. If baby was going down awake before, then we’re going to keep putting baby down awake. I can’t tell you how many client emails start with ‘She was sleeping so well until the (insert month number) regression…’ I get it. You’re doing whatever it takes to get baby to bed, but in that process, you could be helping baby develop an association outside themselves to fall asleep. And that isn’t going to help anyone in the long run.
  1. Self-care. When baby isn’t sleeping it does a number on us. I wish that society would stop asking parents to suck it up when they’re sleep deprived. The research on this is unbelievably clear. We do not function well when we are not sleeping, and our body’s response to this is to behave as if it were impaired by drugs or alcohol. So get help. Call an in-law, actually sleep when baby sleeps, hire a cleaner if you can afford it. Take care of you and don’t subscribe to the people who tell you ‘this is normal, you’re going to have to power through’. It is normal–for baby. Not for you. So don’t feel bad if you need help.
  2. Don’t let things go too long. Developmental Milestones should only last a week or so. If baby isn’t back to sleep after this time, it may be time to help baby learn/re-learn his/her sleep skills. Get back on track!

Good luck, moms and dads. You can and will get through this!

If you’re on month 2 of a sleep ‘regression’ it may be time to give me a call. We can chat (for free!).

Whether you’re at the beginning stages of sleep training with your baby or you just want to improve your mental health as a parent, the sleep consultants at Baby’s Best Sleep are here to help.

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