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5 Ways to Survive Sleep Regression

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For the first six or seven years of my sons’ lives, I worked in radio. I hosted a morning show and had to be bright, perky, and chatty at six every day. I basically needed an IV of coffee stuck in my arm. When I look back at the years when my first one was a newborn or better yet, when my second was a newborn and the first was under two, I really don’t know how I did it. I bet if I listened back to some of those shows, I’d hear myself speaking nonsense, because there is no kind of tired like mom tired.

Having a baby waking you up multiple times a night is brutal, and what makes it even harder is that you’ll get in a groove and start seeing gains, and then bam—sleep regression happens. Just thinking about it is enough to bring me to tears. It’s just so hard. So what do you do when you have taken a few steps back with sleep regression? First, know that you will survive this. Here are 5 ways to make it through this phase.

1. Remember, sleep regression is natural and expected.

Not only is sleep regression normal, but it’s also a sign of growth! Here are the sleep regression ages and the milestone your baby is reaching with each age that is causing him or her to lose sleep.

4 months – In this case, sleep regression happens simply because your baby is starting to experience sleep phases, much like we do as adults. It’s natural for him or her to wake up. If your baby knows how to self-soothe and can fall asleep on his or her own, you might not even notice this stage.

8 months – There are so many changes happening right now! It’s a wonder they fall asleep at all. Life is just so exciting with new teeth emerging, crawling, pulling up to stand, and all the language being absorbed.

12 months – This sleep regression stage can start around 11 months if your baby is ahead of pace on other developmental factors. It’s common for babies at this age to start to fuss about taking a second nap. Parents often assume this means they can cut back to one nap per day. Most often it’s just a month-long phase, so keep up with nap two. It will help with your sanity, too!

18 months – For many parents, this phase is the hardest. Your baby is now a toddler with a voice and a will. Some are very mobile and climbing, others are struggling with separation anxiety, and some are cutting multiple teeth.

24 months – Although there are some internal changes going on, like the ability to have nightmares, toddlers often experience sleep issues at two years because of external factors, like a new bed, a new sibling, longer wake time, and the start of potty training.

2. Don’t try to make your baby more tired.

An exhausted baby does not fall asleep more easily or stay asleep longer. Not only should you not keep him or her up longer, but it might actually be more helpful for you to put your baby to bed fifteen minutes earlier. One of my favorite truths from this phase of parenting is this: With babies, sleep begets sleep.

With babies, sleep begets sleep. Click To Tweet

3. Maintain your routine.

So many things are changing for your little one. Keep whatever you can the same. Bathtime, dim lights, a rhyming bedtime story, and a sweet lullaby make up a simple routine that will cue your baby that it’s time to wind down.

4. Put your baby to bed while she’s still awake.

This is a good tip even if you’re not in a phase of sleep regression. Everyone loves snuggling a sleeping baby, but it’s better for your little one if he or she learns to fall asleep on his or her own. If babies can fall asleep while lying in bed, they’ll be able to fall back to sleep after waking up in the middle of the night. The result: You’ll both get back to sleep sooner!

5. Ask for help.

New parents usually feel emboldened to ask for help from friends and family, but once the newborn or maternity leave phase ends, it might feel like an imposition. Truth be told, you need help during sleep regression time, too. When you feel sleep regression coming on and you know you’ll be up in the middle of the night more often, ask for help during the times of the day when you can sneak in a quick nap. Even a little bit of rest or a hand folding laundry will recharge your batteries to face another night.

Besides coffee, what has helped you deal with your baby’s struggling sleep schedule?


Do you have any tricks to help yourself fall asleep when you are having trouble?

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