Your little one is constantly changing. Just when you think you’ve found a consistent sleep schedule for your new baby, they suddenly begin having difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. If this sounds familiar, the next parenting hurdle has appeared: sleep regression.

Dealing with sleep difficulties that seem to come from nowhere can be frustrating and tiring for you as well as your baby. If you’re in the throes of sleepless nights (or sleepless naps!), the experts at Mustela are here to help. We’ll explain what sleep regression is, why it happens, and what you can do to work through it.

What Is Sleep Regression?

Sleep regression is more than just one night of bad sleep. Simply put, it’s when your baby or toddler was in a pattern of sleeping well and then suddenly has trouble falling asleep or staying asleep (naps or nighttime).

If your child has only had a night or two of poor sleep, it could just be that they are sick, stimulated by changes in the environment, or discombobulated from travel.

But if your baby has trouble sleeping for more than a couple of consecutive days, you are probably dealing with sleep regression. Depending on the baby, sleep regression can last anywhere from two to six weeks.

This change in sleeping habits usually occurs around developmental milestones when your baby’s body and mind are undergoing significant changes. You might even notice that your child is extra hungry and clingy.

To help you tackle the sleeping woes, let’s talk about various sleep regressions and the developmental milestones around them.

Developmental Milestones And Sleep Regression

happy baby on his tummy, wearing a blue onesie

You’ll clap and cheer when your little one learns to roll over by themselves or takes their first steps. But their new achievement might go hand-in-hand with a few weeks of sleep regression.

Let’s take a look at what’s happening to your little one during these times.

The Four-Month Sleep Regression

Around four months old, your baby’s sleep cycle is undergoing significant change, which may mean trouble sleeping. Plus, they are reaching some pretty big developmental milestones, like rolling over.

Your infant might start rolling over at night, which could wake them up or make them feel stuck if they don’t want to be on their tummy.

The Six-Month Sleep Regression

Around six months, your baby may begin sitting up by themselves, crawling, or cutting teeth. Some little ones even start trying to pull up to stand.

All of this exciting new movement and development can be the cause of sleep regression around six or seven months of age.

The Eight-To-Ten-Month Sleep Regression

If your baby hasn’t yet, they will begin to experiment with crawling and standing around eight to ten months. This might also be when your little one starts missing you when you’re not around.

That’s right — separation anxiety. It can make bedtime a nightmare.

The Twelve-Month Sleep Regression

If your little one isn’t already walking, get ready for those first steps soon! Additionally, this is the time when your baby’s brain is busy as they’re learning to communicate and use words.

Around one year of age, your baby might also start to transition from two naps a day to just one, which means they may fight that second nap.

The Eighteen-Month Sleep Regression

This sleep regression is largely related to behavior. Your little one is learning how to express their opinions and push boundaries. They may not want to go to bed at all, or they may want you to stay with them.

Plus, since they are learning to communicate more and more, they might have trouble turning their brain off to fall asleep.

The Two-Year-Old Sleep Regression

baby girl awake in her crib during the two year sleep regression

Sleep regressions aren’t just for babies! Two year olds are sometimes beginning to move out of taking a nap during the day, which means they might resist nap time. And when that happens, your little one may have trouble falling asleep at night because they’re overtired.

Similar to the eighteen-month regression, it might also be that your child doesn’t want you to leave the room or that they’re now capable of expressing their desire not to go to bed.

Your toddler’s imagination is also active at this age and might keep them from falling asleep easily (monsters, anyone?).

5 Tips For Surviving Sleep Regression

The important thing to remember when you’re in the middle of any sleep regression is that it won’t last forever. But in the meantime, you’ll need some tips and tricks to survive.

1) Practice Good Sleep Habits

For the best chance for your baby to snooze soundly, create an atmosphere that promotes sleep.

  • Dim the lights and keep all screens out of their nursery.
  • Keep their room cool.
  • Dress them in pajamas that are appropriate for the temperature. If your little one deals with itchy eczema, help them rest easy with Stelatopia Skin Soothing Pajamas, designed especially for eczema-prone skin.
  • Keep the house as quiet as possible and use a noisemaker to drown out street noise if necessary.
  • Put them to bed with a pacifier. This is considered safe sleep and might help your little one soothe themselves back to sleep.
  • Figure out your child’s sleeping schedule, which is usually not a fixed time but, rather, a certain number of hours since they last woke up.

2) Maintain A Routine For Naptime And Bedtime

Having a pre-sleep routine will help your little one (baby or toddler!) clue into the fact that it’s time for bed. Your bedtime routine could include a bath, pajamas, and a couple of songs or books.

Especially when you’re dealing with the eighteen-month or two-year sleep regression, make sure you stick to your routine and boundaries! If you read one story before bed or sing one song, don’t always let them talk you into “just one more.”

Also, consider keeping your toddler in a crib (rather than moving into a toddler bed) so they can’t get out of bed during a sleep regression period.

If a bath is part of your wind-down routine, use products that are gentle and won’t irritate your baby’s delicate skin. Between Foam Shampoo for Newborns, Bath Oil, and Multi-Sensory Bubble Bath, Mustela has something to make bath time special and soothing for every age.

Giving your baby a massage before bed can also be a great addition to your routine to help them calm down. A massage with Mustela’s Baby Oil can moisturize your little one’s skin and help them relax at the same time!

3) Put Your Baby To Bed Drowsy

While it’s tempting to enjoy all the baby snuggles you can, avoid putting your baby in bed completely asleep. Instead, rock and snuggle until they’re sleepy, then place them in their crib to fall asleep on their own.

During a sleep regression, you might find yourself doing whatever it takes just to get your little one to fall asleep. However, you do want your baby to learn how to fall asleep (and put themselves back to sleep) alone.

Comfort your little one during the hard moments, but avoid using a technique that they’ll later come to rely on to fall asleep.

Similarly, give your baby plenty to eat during the day to accommodate their growth spurts and all the changes in their body, but don’t rely on a bottle to get them to fall asleep.

4) Don’t Let Your Baby Become Overtired

If your baby is moving from two naps to one nap or one to none, you probably have an overtired little one on your hands. If your baby is too tired at the end of the day, it will be even more difficult for them to fall asleep.

Instead of getting rid of a nap entirely (or going immediately from two naps to one), insist on rest time even if you know your child won’t fall asleep. Also, consider making bedtime earlier when naps become shorter or disappear altogether.

5) Consider Sleep Training

Sleep training is not for everyone, but it can help your child figure out how to go to sleep, soothe themselves, and fall back asleep without any help. Experts recommend beginning around four to six months old.

baby sleeping on their back in a crib

In the end, sleep regression, like all phases of raising a baby, will pass. Until it does, stick to your routine to help your baby get the sleep they need now and create good habits for the future.

Set your little one's nursery up for good sleep, keep them cozy in their pajamas, try a calming massage with Mustela’s Baby Oil, and help them learn to fall asleep on their own. Soon, your baby’s sleep regression will be a thing of the past and you — and your little one — will be sleeping soundly again!