The first time your new baby hits a sleep regression it will take you by surprise.
Whether your child is a champion sleeper, or a bit of a nightmare, the regression is a massive shock – as it hits unexpectedly and marks a massive change in behaviour by your baby.
They go from sleeping peacefully for hours at a time to waking up screaming every 20 minutes.
It’s not an easy time, but regressions do not last forever.
When do sleep regressions hit?
My first baby never regressed at all – I know, I hate me too. However my second child seemed to be in a constant state of regression. I once wondered if she could possibly regress from how badly she was sleeping already, as that would surely mean she never slept at all!
There is a general consensus that the first sleep regression hits at about four months. The next hits between eight and 10 months. Then you get a nice break before the 18-month sleep regression and then the two-year sleep regression.
But this is not a definitive guide. Sleep regressions generally happen when you child is going through some kind of developmental leap. This could be learning to roll over, crawl, or talk. Growth spurts also have an impact on sleep. Some children won’t follow the pattern outlined above, so don’t expect this to happen. Every child is different.
These are my top tips for coping with sleep regressions:
1. Surrender to it
Accepting that this is happening and there’s nothing you can do about it is one of the best things you can do.
The mental stress of coping with a child who is awake constantly throughout the night is hard to deal with, so keep your spirits up by accepting that this is how things are for now. They will not last forever, this is not a sign of how your child will behave every night for the next five years!
2. Make a joke
Laughter really is the best medicine. The four-month sleep regression is particularly hard-going. If you can make a joke out of it with your other half, somehow, then you will lift your spirits a bit, even for just five minutes.
3. Get help
Don’t be afraid to call for reinforcements, it doesn’t make you a bad mum! Consider hiring a cleaner for a one-off to give you a break one week, or ask your parents to visit and give you a hand if your other half is working.
4. Remember to eat and keep hydrated
Depression and anger are fuelled by dehydration and hunger. Don’t forget to look after yourself when coping with a sleep regression.
5. Consider co-sleeping
This can really help, as you don’t have to keep getting out of bed to deal with a screaming child.
However it’s not for everyone and you do need to follow the guidelines as set out by The Lullaby Trust in order to co-sleep safely.
If you decide it’s not for you, think about how to make the nights easier on you by putting a pull out bed in the baby’s room so that you can sleep closer to them.
6. Take it in turns
If you are breastfeeding, it can be hard to hand over responsibility for the night shift to your other half.
If expressing is your thing, then do give it a try. This way your hubby could do the night shift while you sleep. Giving yourself just one night off can make a huge difference.
If this isn’t possible, then get your other half to take the baby out for a couple of hours in the morning so that you get the house to yourself and you can sleep undisturbed.
7. Survive any way you can
Some would advise you not to get into bad habits at this point. I say survive any way that you can. If that involves rocking baby to sleep, then do it. If it involves introducing a dummy, then do that. If you think feeding them to sleep is the answer, then just do it.
All habits can be broken if you want to break them. Yes it can take a couple of weeks, but when your baby is only sleeping for 30 minutes at a time, who cares about bad habits for now!
8. Offer extra feeds
You’ve probably got into a bit of a rhythm by the time the four-month sleep regression hits, but don’t be afraid to break the routine.
Offer extra feeds whenever you think your baby may be hungry, as they can really guzzle through milk during a growth spurt. Don’t worry about this becoming a habit, they will calm down once the phase has passed.
9. Don’t overdo it
Try to avoid making big plans for this period. Going out is a good idea, but don’t plan 10 activities a day. Being on the go can tire you out even more when you’re not sleeping properly.
10. Keep up the bedtime routine
It’s hard work to keep any kind of consistency during this time, but do try to stick with a consistent bedtime and a routine. I’m not saying you should force the issue, because that’s just stressful for everyone!
Rather, just try to keep attempting to show your baby that it’s nighttime by dimming the lights and keeping things quiet after bedtime. If your baby is cluster feeding, then just go with it. It’s exhausting, but it will end!
I hope these tips are useful! Remember that you will make it through unscathed and that regressions are only temporary.
Is your child going through a sleep regression now? How are you coping? I would love to hear from you.
Want more posts about baby sleep? Check out these:
Sleep training: What is it and what options are there
11 myths about baby sleep