Sleep regressions: are they real or a cop out justification to off timing and consistency?
Nov 05, 2020
You’ve probably read all about them – 4 months, 6 months, 8 months, 12 months, 18 months, 2 years sleep regressions.
According to these claims, babies tend to go through sleep regressions around these timelines in their first two years of life. So they give a lot of examples of why your baby who used to sleep so well or take good naps is now up all night and refusing to go down for a nap.
In my experience, there are a few reasons why babies “regress” in their sleep:
- new motor skills that their body just wants to practice all day and all night that affect their sleep just a little
- their wakefulness period is longer so they are in nap transition
- a new or old sleep habit is introduced to the way they go to sleep
- new sibling or stress in the family dynamics
And these reasons could happen at ANY time and just so happen, coincide with the sleep regression timeline. It’s hardly got to do with the age specific reason.
In fact, I dare say that teething (even if it’s the most common thing to blame sleep regression to) is not even in my list of possible causes of sleep regression.
Here’s this week’s question I’m going to address:
“I have recently given birth to my 2nd child and she is going to be 3 months old next week. My 1st born is not taking her nap anymore. She is 2 years and 2 months old. It happens after I came back from the hospital. I know she had a hard time with the arrival of a new sibling. So the whole confinement month, she barely took her nap and was just playing with her grandparents who were here to help me.”
Mom gave more scenarios like tiring out her toddler in the morning by taking her down to the playground to play for an hour, used the same method, but see varying results.
Now, what I hear from this first part of the question is already a big sign why her 2yo is no longer wanting to take her nap. Firstly, there is a new sibling and mom has to rely on the grandparents to help out. In my experience, grandparents, who have the best intention for their grandchildren are usually not so great at keeping the routine and consistency, especially if they have not been hands on with the caregiving of the child.
So this is not a sign that her toddler is ready to drop the nap or going through a “regression”, she just feels out of place with the new routine with a new baby sibling.
I reached out to mom to see if anything has changed and what she has tried. She said her toddler is now taking naps again. What she did was the same thing – took her down to the playground to burn off the energy and set her back on track with nap times.
It’s the same thing right? But from what I gather in her update was, WHO she was BEING when she did that. She was being a nurturing leader, taking charge of the situation, being resourceful with her support system to juggle her newborn and toddler and being intentional with nap times.
Here’s another example, “My 6 months old baby used to be able to sleep without being rocked when he was 4 months old but now he NEEDS to be rocked to sleep. Is he going through the 6 months sleep regression?”
My possible answers to that is yes, perhaps her baby was going through some developmental milestone, and he woke up more frequently than usual. But instead of just sticking to the same way of letting her baby fall asleep, she may have “over-helped” her baby by rocking him back to sleep.
So it’s not just due to a regression per se, just perhaps she introduced a new habit for her baby to go sleep and he has learned to rely on them to fall asleep.
In my Rhythm of Sleep method, I help my clients really nail down their baby’s daytime nap timings and self settling so that any “regression” that might happen would cause minimal disruption to their sleep.
In my own personal experience, when I started healthy sleep habits with Aliya around 10 weeks old, I didn’t see or experience the 4 month sleep regression with her.
And when she did wake more in the night or started demanding for new ways to go to sleep, I’m aware of it and would slip into creating new habits due to traveling, sickness etc, but once we’re back at home, the routine goes back to status quo.
Babies remember and know the new things they learned – including new ways of going to sleep. There is no such thing as they forgot. They’re just simply expressing their autonomy and it’s our job as parents to hold loving, age appropriate boundaries around what’s accepted and what’s not.
It’s up to us to steer and guide them over the sleep bumps and stop blaming it on sleep “regressions”.
Sleep regressions: are they real or a cop out justification to off timing and consistency?p.s. I’m launching my brand new Rhythm of Sleep method online group coaching in January 2020. If you have a baby between 5 to 24 months old and you’re struggling with getting them to have a long stretch of sleep, and you’re looking for a gentle and emotionally respectful way to solve their sleep issues, get on the waitlist here and be the first to be notified when it’s open for enrollment. *hint* people on the waitlist might get to enjoy early bird discounts.