Sleep Regressions, What are they?

Sleep regressions get a little bit of a bad rap. You might cringe at the thought of your child going through a sleep regression, especially if they’ve gotten to a place of better sleep. But, sleep regressions can also mean that incredible milestones are happening! Think about how much cognitive and physical growth happens around the time a child learns to roll over, sit up, crawl, walk, verbalize and everything else in between! Imagine seeing the world around you change at a rapid pace, of course it’s going to affect sleep.

Below is a list of notable sleep regressions that your child may experience:

Remember, every child’s experience is unique when it comes to sleep regressions.

4 months old-

  • This is a big one! At 4 months old, your child’s circadian rhythm is balancing itself out and a huge cognitive shift occurs. While you may have been able to rock your baby to sleep and transfer them to their sleep space easily in the past, their new awareness of the world around them can make this a difficult task. Baby should be giving you their longest stretch of sleep during nighttime hours at this age; to help promote this, let a lot of light into your house during the daytime and keep the nap environment dark, cool and consistent. Many babies will go through a period of time where they wake up and want to party at night or refuse to nap. Bedtime should be getting earlier and earlier at this point and 2-3 night feedings are very typical at this age. You may find that dream feeding lengthens your baby’s sleep, but for some children it has the opposite effect. Try and aim to have your child’s longest stretch of undisturbed sleep occur before midnight. The first half of the nights’ sleep is actually the most restorative part of the night, so aim for feeding after midnight. Remember to remain as consistent as possible!

6 months old-

  • Rolling over, sitting up and scooting may be a frequent occurrence in your household at this time. You’re likely to catch your child practicing their new skills in their sleep space which can make bedtime seem more like gymnastics! The world looks so different from their new vantage point! Provide your child with lots of floor time (please speak to your child’s pediatrician about the appropriate length of time), the quicker they master their new skills the sooner their sleep will balance out. Remember, all of this exertion of energy may call for an increase in appetite! Maintain an early bedtime!

9 months old-

  • Typically between 6-8 months of age, children make the switch from 3 naps to 2 naps. Crawling is either happening or is on the horizon. By 9 months, a 2 nap schedule is likely the norm but often times night wakings or early morning wakings occur. Try providing your child with an extra early bedtime especially if they were up early or frequently the night before.

12 months old-

  • For my daughter, this was the toughest regression! She just wanted to stand and shout, but can you blame her? Standing is SO fun! She would often refuse her afternoon nap and went through a bit of a fake 2-1 nap transition. That transition does not typically occur until between 15-18 months, so I knew she was NOT ready. I continued to offer her 2 naps a day and after about 3 weeks, it passed. Mom win!

15-18 months old-

  • Most children transition from 2 naps to 1 nap during this time. You might notice your child is waking up early, fighting bedtime or fighting their afternoon nap. There is a huge shift in sleep needs during this time. This transition can take a while to get through, so have patience! Some children do great with staying busy throughout the morning and are able to transition down to one afternoon nap, others need their naps to be slowly capped, and have their morning nap pushed back in increments. Early bedtimes will be your best friend during this time.

2 years old-

  • This is prime age for fighting nap time. 2 year olds LOVE to trick their parents into thinking they don’t need a nap anymore. There is also a language burst that often happens at this age! I assure you, they are too young to make the no-nap transition. This regression is difficult in the way that toddlers are so much more expressive in their protesting and hard to wrangle in the evening when they hit their overtired state due to a skipped nap. Fighting naps can lead to over tiredness, which can lead to a later bedtime which results in waking up early, and the cycle continues. The solution: consistency AND an early bedtime. Children do not typically “sleep in” until they hit school age, therefore they need to catch up on sleep during the first half of the night, by going to bed early.

3.5-5 years old-

  • Getting rid of nap time can be a difficult adjustment. Ideally, this would occur between 3.5-5 years of age. Some families are okay transitioning much earlier because it suits their day to day activities better, but children truly do need that extra daytime sleep until they’re at least 3.5. Dropping a nap all together is not likely to happen overnight, so have patience. If your child is regularly melting down around 4:30/5:30pm, they’re probably not ready to say goodbye to their nap yet.

Other causes of sleep regressions:

  • a change in sleep needs, such as a nap transition.

  • a change in sleep space

  • illness

  • travel

  • potty training

  • transitioning to a big kid bed

Remember, although it may be extremely exhausting at times, your child is blooming with growth and curiosity- it will pass!


one mama bird to another