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How to Cope with Sleep Regression in Babies and Toddlers.
You are finally starting to feel like you have the hang of this whole parenting thing, and then your baby goes through their first sleep regression.
A baby that once slept through the night may begin waking and crying multiple times a night.
Sleep regressions are normal and can be a result of teething, physical growth and development, changes to their routine, or new cognitive developments.
In order to cope with sleep regressions in babies and toddlers, you should practice strategies to get your child to sleep, help them sleep through the night, as well as seek advice and support.
Getting Your Toddler or Infant to Sleep
Set an early bedtime.
Babies are usually ready for sleep between 6pm and 9pm.
If you are putting your child to bed later than 9pm, or if they seem to be getting tired before you put them to sleep, try setting an earlier bedtime.
The sleep regression, in some instances, could be due to the fact that the baby is overtired and unable to fall asleep.
Develop a bedtime routine.
A set bedtime routine can help to prepare your child both physically and mentally for sleep.
Choose a few calm and relaxing activities that will help transition your child to sleep.
For example, you may give your toddler a glass of milk, brush their teeth, and then read two stories in bed, before turning out the lights.
Avoid stimulating activities, such as watching television, actively playing, or reading a scary story.
Maintain your bedtime routine.
Many people will change their bedtime routine as a way to cope or manage sleep regression in toddlers.
For example, you may be tempted to stay with your child until they fall asleep as a form of comfort.
This is not a good idea and could lead to the formation of a new habit.
Instead, it is important to stick with your regular routine.
Sleep regressions typically only last 2-6 weeks and are normal among toddlers.
Helping Your Child Sleep Through the Night
Increase the amount you feed the baby.
Infants may experience sleep regression as a result of a growth spurt.
This means they could wake up hungry in the night.
In order to avoid this, try feeding your child more throughout the day.
In some rare cases, you may need to return to giving a late night feeding.
Keep in mind this additional feeding is just temporary.
Talk with your doctor and keep track of the amount you are feeding the baby.
Check on the child periodically.
If your toddler begins to cry in the middle of the night and usually they sleep through the night, you should check on the child.
It is important to make sure that the child is not ill.
Alternatively, they may be having a bad dream and just need to know that you are close by.
Once you have ruled out an illness say “It is sleepy time, close your eyes and go to sleep.”
This will reassure them of your presence without providing them with too much additional attention.
Avoid giving toys, milk, or stories in the middle of the night.
When you check on your toddler in the night, it is important that you keep the visit short and to the point.
Do not try and comfort your child until they fall back to sleep or provide them with toys, milk, or a story.
This can easily develop into a habit because your child will realize that if they cry in the night they get extra parental attention.
Comfort the baby.
For young infants, sleep regression can result from new developmental changes, such as teething.
They are not able to self-soothe, and as a result, you may need to comfort your child to help them get back to sleep.
Try rocking the baby or rubbing their back while saying soothing words.
Practice rolling, sitting, and crawling during the day.
ou can help your baby sleep by giving them time to practice new movements during the day.
For example, young babies are eager to learn to roll, sit, and crawl.
By giving your child time to practice new movements you will exhaust them mentally and physically allowing them to sleep better.
These activities will depend upon your child’s development stage, but may be contributing to a sleep regression.
Seeking Advice and Support
Talk with your doctor or pediatrician.
Although sleep regressions are completely normal among babies and toddlers, you should still talk with your doctor or pediatrician.
In some cases sleep regressions could be a result of an underlying medical issue, such as reflux, asthma, allergies, an ear infection, or sleep apnea.
Find support among friends.
You can also talk with other parents or friends in your life.
Ask them if they ever dealt with sleep regression in their children and how they coped with it.
Knowing that your friends have experienced the same thing, and made it through, can be comforting.
Share the responsibility.
Talk with your partner about the sleep regression and make sure that you both share the responsibility.
For example, come to an agreement about who will be responsible for checking on the child during the night.
Perhaps you can split this 50/50.
This way you will not feel like you are doing it alone.
If you are a single parent you can ask members of your extended family to help out during tough times.
If possible, ask one of your parents to stay with you while your baby is experiencing a sleep regression.
If that is not possible, keep in mind that sleep regressions are short lived and your baby will begin sleeping through the night again.
Understand sleep regression is normal
Always remember that sleep regression is a normal part of child development and that it will pass.
It can be very tiring and stressful at the time, but keep in mind this will not last forever and you are not a bad parent.
Sleep regressions typically take place at 3-4 months, 8-10 months, 12 months, 18 months, and two years.
This can vary depending on the individual child.
Search for the cause of the regression.
Sleep regression is often a result of a major change to the daily routine, or a result of a new developmental stage.
For instance, at around two years of age, children will begin experiencing bad dreams or they may become afraid of the dark.
Once you have determined the cause of the regression, you can tackle that head on.
For example, you could purchase a nightlight to make them feel comfortable at night.
Alternatively, you can talk with them about the life changes (i.e. new sibling, new daycare, etc) so that they become accustomed to the change.