You won’t hear me talk much about sleep regressions. I talk about sleep disruptions or disturbances. Technically, it’s the same thing, but I prefer to think about these “regressions” a little bit differently. The term regression seems to imply that your baby has simply forgotten how to sleep well, which is not the case. They haven’t entered a “less developed state” as the term suggests. I see moms, blogs, books, etc. all talking about sleep regressions as these dreaded moments that happen at specific times- the 6 month regression; the 12 month regression.
It is true that sleep disturbances happen at those approximate time frames, however, it is not simply due to the age of the child. These “regressions” are not age related, they are directly related to learning– and even more specific to learning the big skills- the milestones. Rolling, sitting, standing, walking, etc. These milestones tend to happen around the same relative age, and therefore, the sleep regression months came about.
We have been incredibly lucky in this house, in that when we enter one of these phases, it only impacts Caroline’s naps and never her nighttime sleep. For some, it is the opposite, and for many it will disrupt both day and night sleep.
The good news is that these disturbances are typically short lived (although in the moment a week may not seem short at all), and you can help your little one to get through them.
The way to identify that you are in a “regression” is by taking note of any new skills that are being learned. If you can tell that your baby has been focusing on learning something big, that is most likely the cause, and yes, you are in a “regression” or sleep disruption phase. If you do not see that your little one is focusing on learning new skills, you might be needing a schedule change instead.
Here are some resources that focus on identifying if you may need a schedule change.
If you have identified a skill that your little one is trying to master, however, and sleep of any sort has been disrupted, you can help your baby to move through this period by doing one simple thing: give them LOTS and LOTS of practice with that skill before naps and before bed.
For us, sleep disturbances have happened when learning the following skills : sitting, standing, and currently- walking. I woke up this morning and realized that every other time this has happened, I took my own advice and gave her lots of practice. This time, for some odd reason, I had forgotten to focus ALL of our attention on her new skill. We had been practicing, but not enough.
Caroline is 11.5 months old, and she is no longer napping. She has had an awesome schedule for mooooonths! So, this is odd for her. It has been a full week of this. She takes maybe 2 catnaps, sometimes only 1, and has been going to bed super early as a result. This, of course, causes her to wake early, and the viscous cycle repeats. She isn’t walking on her own yet, but is incredibly excited to get there. It is all she wants to do (once I get her going). So, today… I took her outside (her favorite place to be), and we walked. Forever. And ever. We explored. We walked again. She took her 1st tiny little step on her own today! At times, she insisted on only holding only one of my hands and walking. She used her walker and started walking ahead of it. This was when the one tiny step happened…she went around her walker, let go, and took a step. AMAZING! Guess who’s now sleeping for the first time at her usual nap time in over a week!?!?! That’s right, Mama! I should have remembered my own advice several days ago. She will most likely still wake a bit early since she is so focused on practicing this skill, but this is definitely going to help us move forward. Update: she’s taken both of her naps today and taken steps on her own multiple times!! She took 4 steps at once! So glad I took my own advice and did a crash course training day in walking haha! Trust your instincts, mamas!
So, whether you call it a regression or a disturbance/disruption, one thing is for sure- sleep will be lacking and new skills will be learned. Help your baby master that skill, and you will be on the other side of this phase in no time.