Infant sleep regressions are a hoax…
Why you need to stop worrying a “sleep regression” is going to dismantle your baby’s nighttime sleep.
“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)
I can’t tell you how many times parents write to me, insisting they are experiencing a “sleep regression” at whatever age their baby is when they reach out with trouble. Even worse is when everything is going well with their baby’s sleep, and yet they are still terrified at the idea of this unavoidable “sleep regression” they have been warned about. Somehow parents believe their sleep progress can be dismantled at any point in time and that just simply isn’t the case (but more on that later).
To give you an idea of how out of control it has become, if you type “sleep regression” into a search engine and any number after it, you will see a plethora of content prepopulated, insinuating there is literally a sleep regression at every single age. I like to think this is done in an effort to make parents feel better about their sleep difficulties, but I think it’s wrong to lead parents to believe there is nothing they can do to help their child sleep better. Blaming infant sleep troubles on a “sleep regression” seems like a cop out of sorts.
In no way am I trying to negate whatever sleep mess you are going through right now. Clearly you have found this blog post because something is going on with your baby’s sleep or you are one of the parents I mentioned above…preparing for “what’s to come”… I realize it can be super triggering for me to proclaim sleep regressions aren’t a “thing” when you feel like you are in the midst of a major one. But my mission is to help parents understand there is always something to do to work on your baby’s sleep, and you aren’t a helpless victim to these “sleep regressions” that everyone likes to scare parents about.
I am here to tell you, sleep regressions aren’t real, or at least not in the sense they are often portrayed. Please don’t buy into the scare tactics and false parenting narratives that come the minute you are pregnant, struggling with new parenthood, and/or dealing with sleep issues. We don’t need to blame a regression (or teething) for why things feel messy. When things feel like they are falling apart, it’s much more likely that your baby’s needs have changed, and you simply need to make some changes to their routine, to get back on track and sleeping well again.
How I understand “sleep regressions”
I don’t believe in sleep regressions. The periods people refer to as regressions are simply periods of time where the amount of daytime sleep baby needs (to get to bedtime without becoming overly tired) clashes with the total amount of daytime sleep needed and we can (sometimes) see a nighttime disruption. In lay terms, baby gets “too much daytime sleep” and that is what causes the new night wakings.
For example, a 4-month old baby needs a maximum of 16 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period,, but needs 5 hours of nap time spread over 4-naps to ensure they don’t become overly tired during the day. This leaves only 11 hours of sleep possible at nighttime and this is why we can sometimes see a nighttime sleep disruption.
What can further cause things to digress, is when this disruption happens, and parents feed baby back to sleep at night because “nothing else works”. Adding a nighttime feed back in can further perpetuate night wakings, and the next thing you know, baby’s nighttime is a mess, which leads to daytime being a mess and everything feels like it’s falling apart. In many senses, when you arrive at this place, you have regressed from where you were, but I want you to understand there is ALWAYS something we can do to work through these periods and keep the sleep.
How to handle these periods
The best way to handle these periods is to ensure baby is fully fed during the day (so you aren’t tempted to resume night feeds or add extra night feeds), make sure you aren’t letting baby stay awake too long during the day, and limit daytime sleep to what is age-appropriate. This will help to keep sleep disruptions mild, short, and/or non-existent, whenever these periods happen.
Whenever you feel like things are changing for the worse, I suggest grabbing your age-appropriate monthly guide and making sure your baby’s daytime is on point for their age. If you are within 2 weeks of a new guide, and things feel like they are changing, it’s okay to slowly begin moving into the new guide. This may involve increasing Optimal Wake Time (OWT) by 5 minutes, slightly lessening daytime sleep, and/or slightly increasing milk intake.
If you work to ensure baby’s food and sleep needs are met fully at each and every age, you should be able to confidently handle any new nighttime sleep disruption you may be facing with ease and avoid developing any new behaviors that could lead to further sleep disruptions.
How to avoid these “regressions” in the first place
How can you avoid these periods altogether?
Make the deliberate choice to work to establish consistent nighttime sleep for your family. Start as early as possible, but just start. If your baby is older, and things are “falling apart”, then decide to do something about it from this moment forward. It’s never too late to start working on consistent nighttime sleep.
How do you do this?
- Pay attention to what/how much your baby is eating.
- Pay attention to how long your baby is staying awake.
- Pay attention to how much your baby is sleeping during the day.
I know this may sound like crazy advice because you are likely reading this in sleep deprivation hell, but if you throw out the idea of unavoidable “sleep regressions” and choose to accept there is always something you can do (from birth) to get your baby to consistently sleep through the night, you will be well on your way to navigating whatever sleep period you are currently in.
The Full Feedings Method is here to help
The Feedings Feedings Method was created to teach you how to establish and maintain consistent nighttime sleep for your family, via a simple 3-step method, monthly guides, and a searchable help guide called Other Ingredients, that houses over 80+ videos and 50+ PDF’s to help you navigate through any sleep troubles you may encounter.
The truth is, I want you to establish consistent nighttime sleep by 8 – 12 weeks old, so nothing ever feels like it’s falling apart. When you establish consistent nighttime sleep from birth, you should be able to easily navigate transitions like teething, rolling over, crawling, and solids, without any major sleep disruptions, as long as you stay on top of baby’s monthly changes. While I want every parent to begin from birth, you can easily start my method at any age, as long as baby is still napping.
My infant program is recommended from birth – 12 months old and my toddler program is recommended from 12 months old until baby stops napping.
Click here to learn more about what you can do to make sleep a reality for your family. Quit hoping it’s going to get better and do something about it…