We all know that baby sleep can be a “hot button issue” for moms. We all have our own opinions on what the best method or way to get your child to sleep. Kim and I both know the importance of baby sleep (we see the difference in our boys when they have had a good sleep!), but we certainly are no experts! We found someone who is an expert on baby sleep and we could not wait to share her with you! We are so excited to announce today’s guest post! We have a sleep specialist who will be doing a monthly post on Baby Sleep!!! Let’s face it…this is one thing we all need…. SLEEP! The reason we wanted to partner with Kathy is because she feels that getting your baby to sleep is not a one size fits all method! She feels that there are different ways to help your child sleep based on your child! You can find out more on her website, Dreamy Babies! If you are a new mom and aren’t sure where to start, I would recommend reading her tips for encouraging healthy sleep habits article first! I feel like this article is a good starting point for anyone!
Today Kathy, from Dreamy Babies, will be talking about sleep regression which is something every child goes through. She knows the ins and outs to baby sleep so please send us your questions and we will have her base her posts off what YOU want to hear! Happy Sleep!!!
“Before I became a parent, I had never heard of a “sleep regression”. Actually, I didn’t hear about a lot of things before I became a parent and didn’t know much about (baby) sleep. To me it was simple: if you were tired, you slept. Makes sense, right? We all know that once you have children, things that usually makes sense in the adult world doesn’t quite apply to children. Your could be one of the lucky ones and have a baby who loves to sleep but dreamy baby or not, at some point, your child will fight sleep; it’s just what they do and really, can you blame them? There’s a world waiting to be explored and sleep just gets in the way. When your child doesn’t sleep, neither do you. You are tired, your child is tired and you’ve tried everything you could do to get him to sleep. Tweaking his schedule. Putting him down later. Putting him down earlier. Rocking. Patting. Shushing. Lying down beside her. Nothing seems to be working and your baby is not sleeping, crying, wakeful and taking forever to go to sleep. Fighting sleep. Does any of this sound familiar?
Parents are often at a loss when their baby – perfect sleeper or not – suddenly doesn’t.want.to.sleep. At all. And like I said, when your child isn’t sleeping, no one is. I will let you in on a little secret: it’s normal and it’s called Sleep Regression. My daughter, Kayla, is 2 years old and we’ve been through almost all of the typical sleep regressions but have come out victorious at the other end. As horrible as it feels when you’re in the trenches of a sleep regression, the good news is that it’s normal, it’s temporary and indicates that your child is growing well.
Sleep regressions are phases that many children go through due to physical and/or cognitive developmental milestones; sometimes these milestones occur simultaneously which really does a number on their sleep. These milestones whether that be crawling, standing, walking, cruising or even talking causes sleep disruptions because when a new skill is learned, that’s all their little brains can think about. What we need to remember is that children learn everything; things that we often take for granted such as tying our shoe laces, stacking blocks, walking, running – these are things that children find fascinating once they learn how to do it which means they have to do them over and over and over again. It preoccupies every waking second and unfortunately, every second that they should be sleeping. Sleep regressions seem long and painful because your child turns into a shell of her former self – she will become clingy, whiny, fussy and cry a whole lot. Sleep a lot less. Your weapon against sleep regressions other than this article? Information and preparation for the likelihood that at some point, your child will encounter a sleep regression. Here’s the low-down of what you can expect.
The 9 month sleep regression
This one is a doozy because I was completely unprepared for what was to follow. Actually, this takes a lot of parents by surprise because for a lot of parents, their child’s sleep usually stabilizes around 5-6 months. But 9 months is a very tough age for sleep; your child is likely learning to crawl, sitting well, perhaps even starting to pull himself up and cruise. He is probably teething like crazy as well so combine all of this together and you have one sleepless child.
This sleep regression usually starts around 8.5 months and lasts for about 4-6 weeks. Yes, you read right – FOUR WEEKS TO SIX WEEKS. Signs of the regression are characterized by sudden wakefulness, major sleep resistance for naps, bedtime or both. Early morning wakings and night wakings. Fits of crying and extra fussiness. Separation anxiety will peak and your child will cling to you; wailing if you step away from him for a second. Bedtime will become a battle and your child will most likely fight sleep and cry when being place in his crib or in my case, cry during the entire night routine. If you’re one of the unlucky parents, your child will exhibit all of these signs for the entire 4 weeks.
So how do you deal? After researching and educating myself on the different ages (and signs) of sleep regressions, I discovered that sleep disturbances are only temporary so I just followed our daily schedule/ routine and put Kayla down for naps and bedtime at her regular times.
What I recommend is to follow your schedule and daily routine. Keep in mind that your child is going through a lot both mentally and physically so she may be experiencing some feelings of anxiety and insecurity. The predictability of your daily routine and schedule will bring your child a sense of security so stick to your schedule. If she is especially clingy, fussy or whiny, give her some extra cuddles and kisses. It is also likely that she’s teething so the fussiness may be attributed to that; if this is the case, you can administer some homeopathic remedies for mild discomfort or some acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain.
Dealing with sleep resistance can be tough; especially if your child cries before going into his crib. Calm him down, pat his back and when he’s calm, put him back down. Your child is tired from all the activity so he needs sleep more than ever. You may have to sit with your child for a little while until he falls asleep or you can leave him for a few minutes on his own to see if he settles and goes to sleep. You know your child best so do what you’re comfortable with to calm him down. With Kayla, I spent lots of time with her; played peek-a-boo games to reinforce object permanence, gave her extra cuddles and if she needed to be held or stuck to me, then I carried her around as much as she liked. We followed our normal sleep routines and she went into her crib at her regular nap and bedtimes. She didn’t go down without a fight though; that was the hardest part for me. As soon as I turned off the light, she would start crying – something she hadn’t done since she was about 3.5 months old – so it was almost like she was a newborn all over again! I soothed her as much as I could and when she was calm, I would put her back in the crib. What I didn’t want to do was keep her awake any longer than I had to because although she was fighting sleep, I could tell that she was tired. She would cry on and off for a few minutes and then thankfully, she would go to sleep.
Nights were pretty much the same and after a few minutes of calming and shushing, she would go to sleep. We were lucky in that she didn’t have any night wakings or wake up early for the day. If your child wakes up at night, go to her, make sure that she’s ok and calm her down. If her teeth are bothering her, give her some homeopathic remedies to ease the discomfort or medication if she’s in pain. Hold her for a few minutes and then let her go back to sleep. Whether you wish to bring her back to your bed so that everyone can get some sleep is up to you; however I have found that most kids will fuss for a little while in their crib and then go back to sleep.
Just remember that there is light at the end of the tunnel! Your child WILL return to normal as will her sleep patterns. After 4 weeks, Kayla’s sleep regression mysteriously disappeared and she was back to her normal self.
The 12/13 month sleep regression
While this regression doesn’t usually involve a lot of crying, it does involve a lot of sleep resistance, especially for naps. Every parent who has contacted me when their child turns one always asks: “what is going on with my baby’s sleep? She is not napping anymore!”. I have found that naps are most affected when your child turns 1 year old. You will find that she is just not that tired before first or second nap (or both!) and she will take a very long time to fall asleep. Some children skip naps altogether or take short naps. This regression lasts anywhere from 4-6 weeks and your frustration will be at an all-time high as your child – while obviously tired – will suddenly perk up during nap routine and rather than fall asleep within his normal 3-5 minutes, it will take him around 20-30 minutes, sometimes longer. Because of this nap resistance, many parents are led to believe that their child is moving to one nap but do not fall for it! At 1 year old, your child is not ready for 1 nap and in doing so, he will become severely overtired which will only lead to a whole new set of sleep issues aside from the regression.
What you can do is tweak your child’s sleep schedule to allow for more wake time between naps. If you find that your child is resisting his afternoon nap; delay that nap by 15-30 minutes but continue to put your child down for both naps as he will be tired. If he is not crying but just playing around in his crib, leave him; remember that while he may not be sleeping, crib time is still considered “rest”. Since your child will likely be up longer during the day, stick to his regular bedtime. I found that although Kayla fought sleep tooth and nail during the day, she was pretty good with bedtime and went to sleep rather quickly; no doubt because she was up for longer stretches between naps.
Just like the 9 month regression, the 12/13month regression will disappear and your child will return to normal sleeping patterns.
The 18 month sleep regression
After everything that you go through during the first 14 months, the sleep Gods will grant you mercy and you little one will likely fall into a great, predictable sleep pattern that works for everyone from 14 months onwards…. that is until your child reaches 18 months.
I was fully prepared for this regression, having been through and survived all of our other sleep challenges and regressions so when the day came that Kayla suddenly started crying going down for sleep, it didn’t really phase me. I was prepared for the crying, fussiness, sleep resistance and tantrums; what I wasn’t prepared for was the extremely short naps and when I say short naps, I mean she would fall asleep after some crying and then wake up crying 15 or 20 minutes later! I tried without success to get her to go back to sleep but she was all wound up and ready to go, so for the next month and a half, she was going to bed about 1 hour earlier because she was taking such terrible naps.
I found the 18 month regression to be the toughest, mainly because she was only sleeping once per day. By the time children turn 18 months, many are already on one nap and parents are often fretful when their child refuses to sleep, skips their nap or sleeps for such short a time to even be considered a nap. Your child will exhibit the same signs as the 9 month regression except there will be major nap resistance to a point where your child won’t even sleep and night wakings will occur because your child will likely be overtired.
Usually bedtime battles aren’t frequent as they are so tired from being up so long during the day however, just be sure to put your child down to bed at least 45 minutes to 1 hour earlier for the night if naps have been short or non-existent. Stick to your regular schedule. Reduce stimulation if your child has not napped or had a short nap so that he doesn’t over-exert himself. The most important thing is to try and avoid the overtired state by putting your child down early for the night. At the time of her 18 month regression, Kayla was going to bed promptly at 615pm instead of her regular 715pm bedtime and she would literally take 2-5 minutes to fall asleep because she was so tired. We had some night wakings which I tended to her to make sure everything was ok but these wakings didn’t happen too often.
As with all other sleep regressions, you just have to wait this one out. I was at a point where I considered myself a ‘veteran’ since Kayla has always thrown me in for a loop when it came to her sleep. I simply followed the schedule, kept in mind that it was just a phase and will pass and after 4 weeks, she stopped all the bedtime drama and went back to her normal sleeping patterns. Actually, right after her regression ended, we had about 3 months of beautiful sleep – 11-11.5 hours of night sleep and wonderful 1-75.2 hours of day sleep.
The 24 month sleep regression
So you would think that after 18 months of unpredictable sleep, I wouldn’t be phased by the next big regression that I was preparing for: the 24 month regression. I had heard many stories about this regression – that baby learns to climb out of his crib which introduces a whole new set of problems: transitioning to the toddler bed for safety reasons on top of dealing with this regression. Fortunately for us, we never encountered that problem however, Kayla did go through this regression and while I was fully prepared to deal with another round of sleep resistance and drama, what I wasn’t prepared for was the length at which Kayla was resisting to go to sleep; as in taking up to 2 hours of fussing and whining in the middle of the night before going back to sleep. I was also taken aback by the fact that instead of just crying before sleep, she would cry for me, as in “MOMMY!! MOMMEEEE!!! DON’T LEAVE!!”. Oh, that was so heart-breaking.
At 24 months, this regression is very similar to previous ones however at this age, children will go to great lengths to resist sleep. Stall tactics begin (more water, need to go to potty etc) so be prepared to adjust your sleep routines to incorporate these stall tactics so that your child can’t ask for one more drink of water or trip to the potty before she goes into her bed. Some forewarning also helps; I have found that telling Kayla we only have a few pages left of our book before it’s time to go to sleep helps to avoid or at least reduce resistance.
So what did I do? While I followed the schedule and daily routine as I always did during these phases, the only thing I did different was that at night, I resorted to lying down beside Kayla’s crib until she fell asleep. While I knew that the regression was temporary, the way she cried was so different from the other times – other than crying for me – but it was as if she didn’t like being alone in her room. My gut was also telling me that something was different this time around and I couldn’t put my finger on it but I couldn’t just leave her crying in her crib; that just didn’t sit right with me. So lying down with eliminated the tears but it also seemed to bring her comfort. She would fall asleep faster with me in the room after which I would leave so in the grand scheme of things, it didn’t seem so bad and it worked for us. I also extended our sleep routine and included more reading this helped her relax and unwind before bed so our night routine changed from about 15 minutes of reading in her room to about 30 minutes. When Kayla is about 2.5 years old, I plan to use a reward system/positive reinforcement to begin removing myself from her room (not lying down beside her crib) but for now, she’s getting the rest she needs and everyone is happy.
But what do YOU do? For one, always follow your schedule. At 24 months, children are extremely active and while they will do whatever they can to resist sleep, keep in mind that they need to sleep otherwise you’ll end up with an overtired child and in toddlers, overtiredness manifests in frequent tantrums and meltdowns. You should also think about your comfort level and your tolerance for tears (and words) during sleep resistance. Some parents will complete the routine and put their child to bed; crying or not. Some parents would rather find another solution to reduce the tears. For me, I was ok with some crying but I was powerless when Kayla was crying for me. My lying down was our solution to eliminate tears and she was getting the rest she needed however, this may not work with other families who have multiple children to tend to. Your best bet at this age is to figure out what works for you whether that be co-sleeping for a while or implementing some creative solutions.
Just remember that all sleep disturbances are temporary and can be changed with some good planning, consistency and patience. It’s also good to keep in mind that while your child may not be sleeping now or may need you to sleep beside her it’s not forever – it’s not like she’ll be 14 and needing you to help her fall asleep or lie down beside her as she drifts off. Savour these moments because we all know that our children grow up so fast!”
For more information about sleep or sleep solutions, please visit me at www.dreamybabies.ca or contact me via email firstname.lastname@example.org