Debunking the Myth of Infant Sleep Regressions: Why There’s Always Room for Improvement

On my first day back at work after having my daughter (who was 14 weeks at the time) a very well meaning colleague (who did not have children) asked me how she was sleeping. I replied “Great! She’s been sleeping through the night since she was 8.5 weeks old (thanks Ann).”

She then said “she hasn’t had the 4 month sleep regression yet? I guess it’s coming, every baby has that.”

My heart sunk. We had been doing so well with sleep and eating, was it all really about to fall apart? I knew the Full Feedings Method didn’t believe in sleep regressions in the typical sense (because we always think there’s something to work on with infant sleep) but was it all really going to come crashing down soon?

I’m pretty sure I called my husband in a panic. And he replied as he always did, what does Ann think (I wasn’t working for Full Feedings yet) and I said I think we just have to keep following the guides and limiting daytime sleep while increasing Optimal Wake Time (OWT) slightly. And so we did.

My daughter is 3 years old and I’m still waiting for that 4 month sleep regression.

Parenthood comes with its fair share of challenges, and one of the most common topics that can leave new parents scratching their heads is infant sleep. You may have heard about the dreaded “sleep regressions” – those periods when your baby's sleep patterns seem to take a nosedive, leaving you feeling exhausted and desperate for answers. But what if I told you that infant sleep regressions might not be as real as you think?

Before you throw your hands up in frustration, let's take a closer look at why infant sleep regressions might not be the culprit behind your baby's sleep troubles.

Understanding Infant Sleep Patterns

Babies are constantly growing and developing, both physically and mentally. As a result, their sleep patterns can vary greatly from one stage to another. What may seem like a regression could actually be a natural part of your baby's development.

Sleep Is Dynamic

It's essential to recognize that sleep is not static – it's dynamic and ever-changing. Just when you think you've got your baby's sleep routine figured out, they might throw you a curveball. But rather than labeling it as a regression, consider it an opportunity to adapt and evolve your approach to infant sleep.

This is why with The Full Feedings Method® we follow age-appropriate monthly guides that slightly increase OWT, decrease total daytime sleep, and increase milk intake as needed. By slowing lessening that daytime sleep while also increasing time awake + making sure baby is age-appropriately full, we’re adapting their day to meet their ever changing sleep needs. Infant sleep really does change every 2-4 weeks, and staying on top of that is so important to avoiding “regressions”.

If you are a member of The Full Feedings Method® Online Programs, and you’ve gotten away from the MONTHLY GUIDE and you’re noticing sleep disruptions, it’s okay! Take a deep breath and go back to the guide! If after a week or so you don’t see improvement, let us know and we can help point you in the right direction.

The Myth of Regression

“While experts (and parents) agree that sleep patterns can vary wildly throughout a baby’s first two years, no rigorous data support the notion that nap and nighttime changes happen at predetermined times or are linked to specific developmental milestones.” (SOURCE: NY TIMES)

And while the term “regression” implies a step backward or a return to a previous state, when it comes to infant sleep, there's always something new to learn and work on. So, instead of viewing your sleep disruption as a setback, see it as a chance to fine-tune your baby's sleep environment, routines, and habits.

Yes, there will be times where your baby struggles a bit more with sleep than they normally do, but we believe there is almost always a cause and therefore something we can do to actively work on improving their sleep. Regressions being this scary time when sleep is just going to fall apart no matter what, really is just a way to scare new parents (unfortunately).

Identifying Potential Factors

Instead of attributing changes in your baby's sleep patterns solely to regression, consider other factors that might be influencing their sleep. Teething, growth spurts, illness, changes in routine, and developmental milestones can all impact your baby's sleep. By identifying these factors, you can better understand and address your baby's sleep challenges.

If your baby is teething, they’re likely eating less during the day. So waking at night isn’t directly caused by a regression or teething, it’s likely caused by slight hunger. If this is the case, add back in a dreamfeed until they’re back to eating normally during the day

Tips for Managing Disrupted Sleep

The Full Feedings Method® was created to avoid having any disruptions with your infant or toddler's sleep. By managing your little ones age-appropriate needs and making changes as needed, you can avoid having any major sleep disruptions. Some helpful things to remember if you are going through a period of regressed sleep:

      1. Consistency in routines (bedtime and nap time)
      2. Creating a sleep-friendly environment (dark, quiet, comfortable)
      3. Offering comfort without creating new sleep associations
      4. Adjusting nap schedules if needed, these adjust monthly the first year
      5. Ensuring adequate daytime nutrition and activity

Developing Healthy Sleep Habits

Regardless of whether you believe in infant sleep regressions, fostering healthy sleep habits is essential for your baby's well-being. Establishing a consistent daytime & nighttime routine, creating a conducive sleep environment, and responding to your baby's cues can all contribute to better sleep quality for your little one.

Seeking Support

Parenting can feel overwhelming at times, especially when it comes to sleep struggles. Don't hesitate to reach out for support from healthcare professionals, parenting groups, or sleep consultants who can offer guidance and reassurance.

It’s important to remember that for most of human history, people lived in family groups and parents all parented together. It’s not realistic that we live up to today’s standards of being able to “do it all” alone. Whoever is in your support network, include them in the journey, They’re there for a reason and, chances are, they love you and your baby and want to help.

Embracing the Journey

Parenthood is a journey filled with ups and downs, and infant sleep is just one aspect of that adventure. Instead of fixating on the concept of sleep regressions, embrace the opportunity to learn and grow alongside your baby. Celebrate the small victories and remember that every baby is unique.

While infant sleep regressions may seem like an unavoidable obstacle, they're not as inevitable as you might think. By reframing your perspective and focusing on proactive strategies for promoting healthy sleep habits, you can navigate the challenges of infant sleep with confidence and resilience. Remember, there's always room for improvement, and with patience and perseverance, you'll find what works best for you and your baby.

And if you need any help, you can learn more about our affordable NO CRY IT OUT sleep methods here. If your baby is still napping, we can help your family achieve sleep.