I’ve always wondered where the phrase slept like a baby came from. Newborns only sleep a few hours at a time, and while their sleep improves as they get older, they still aren’t sleeping full nights until they’re close to a year old (and sometimes later).
And then there are sleep regressions.
Wait, no one told you about sleep regression? You’re not alone. No one told me, either. In fact, most new mothers I’ve come across have never heard of the few weeks where babies will suddenly wake up more often at night.
For my husband and I, the first big one hit at four months, and we had no idea what was happening. Were we not feeding our baby enough before bed? Was his room too hot or too cold?
Finally, I googled it. I only had to put in a few words before the auto-fill gave me “Why my baby won’t sleep four months.” Yup. It’s that common. So how come I’d never heard of it?
Experts say there are two major periods of sleep regression: one at four months and another at nine to eleven months. Our son went through a “mini” sleep regression at six months, as well, when he hit a growth spurt.
According to the Baby Sleep Site, newborns spend most of their sleep time in very deep REM sleep. When they hit that four-month mark, however, their sleep pattern changes to a more adult sleep cycle, meaning they sleep in cycles of light and deep sleep. That change can be very disruptive for infants — and for parents, too.
The Mayo Clinic lists a number of strategies to help babies develop healthy sleep patterns. We found that creating a consistent bedtime routine and putting our son down before he’s fully asleep really helped. Around dinnertime, we feed the little guy, give him his bath, and let him relax with us and a bottle on the couch. This process signals bedtime. When he’s drowsy, we put him in his crib and try to get him to fall asleep on his own.
Nine to eleven months
This age is usually a major milestone for babies, according to the Baby Sleep Site. They’re either sprouting teeth, learning something new, growing, or some combination thereof. Because there’s so much going on, babies will wake more often at night for a few weeks.
Our little guy is growing, crawling, and sporting three new teeth. For a handful of days, he began waking at about 3 am, looking for food or a little comfort. To help him sleep, we upped his dinnertime portion to make sure he was full at bedtime.
As tough as it is, we also wait a few minutes before we answer his cries. He’s beginning to learn how to put himself back to sleep, and we don’t want to hinder that process!
Other Sleep Regressions
Babies may experience regressions any point in their first few years, when they’re growing, teething, or learning something new. They usually only last a week or two, and parents can use whatever methods work for them to get their baby through it.
Our little man regresses whenever he hits a growth spurt. If he doesn’t put himself right back to sleep, we get up and feed him, using soft light and low voices to let him know that it’s not time to get up. After a few days, he sleeps through the night again.
Have you developed any unique methods to get your little one through sleep regressions? Share them in the comments below.