Baby Sleep Regressions: The Ultimate Guide to Getting Sleep Again

These tips will help get your baby back to sleep so that you can get some much-needed shut-eye!

Updated April 11, 2023
Mother and baby sleeping

We've all heard the phrase "slept like a baby." This saying implies that you got a good night's rest. The parents of kids ages two and under might question the validity of this age-old adage. Baby sleep regressions are a new parent's worst nightmare - and they seem to be never-ending.

When and why do these changes in your baby's sleep patterns occur? And how can you get them back on track? Don't lose more sleep over this problem. We have simple solutions to your infant-induced insomnia issues!

What Is a Sleep Regression?

Throughout a baby's first two years of life, they will experience shifts in their sleeping habits. Deemed "sleep regressions," these are periods where your baby will go from sleeping soundly through the night to waking at weird hours and even having trouble getting to sleep.

What Causes Sleep Regressions in Babies?

Sleep regressions occur for two main reasons - your baby is learning and growing! All of those big developmental milestones that are making their way onto your Instagram and Facebook pages are to blame for when your baby stops sleeping through the night.

When you really think about it, it makes perfect sense. When you have a lot on your mind after a busy day, it's hard to get some shut-eye. The same goes for your baby! They are learning to sit, stand, and crawl. Their vision and hand-eye coordination are improving. They are trying new foods and learning to talk. That's a lot for a little mind to handle.

Do all babies go through sleep regression? Babies are all unique and when, how, and how long they experience sleep regressions can differ. However, this is common for babies at certain points until about two years old.

Other factors that can impact your baby's sleep:

  • Teething pain
  • Illnesses
  • Growth spurts
  • Disruptions in regular routines
  • Separation anxiety
  • Their changing sleep patterns and requirements
  • Nightmare and night terrors

How Long Do Baby Sleep Regressions Last?

Sleep regressions normally last between two and four weeks, but for some, it can go as long as six weeks. The exact time frame will vary from child to child and will depend on the specific causes for your child's regression.

Baby Sleep Regression Ages

When do babies have sleep regressions? Every baby and toddler will experience sleep disruptions in their first two years of life. These typically occur around the four, six, eight, and 12 month marks as well as when your baby turns 15 months, 18 months and two years old. Here's a breakdown of each baby sleep regression.

Four-Month Regression

This first regression is normally one of the hardest, but it is actually a good thing! Your baby is figuring out how to sleep, which is a stepping stone to you getting a full night's rest in the future.

Four-Month Regression Causes:

  • They are establishing regular sleep patterns.
  • They are going through a growth spurt.
  • They are teething.

Signs of the Four-Month Regression:

  • Disruptions in established nap times
  • Frequent awakenings at night
  • Changes in appetite
Need to Know

Make the four-month regression easier by making tummy time a priority, establishing a regular bedtime routine, and doing a feeding right before bed.

This is also a time frame when babies begin teething. Having frozen and textured teether toys at the ready can help facilitate feedings and make them more comfortable in the periods in between.

Six-Month Regression

By six months, your baby should be sleeping a better through the night, which is what makes this regression so incredibly frustrating.

Six-Month Regression Causes:

  • They are teething.
  • They are going through a growth spurt.
  • They are getting to be more mobile.

You may be thinking, "if they are more mobile - then shouldn't they be more worn out?" Sadly, in the world of infants, they tend to have more sleep disruptions when new skills emerge.

Signs of the Six-Month Regression:

  • Multiple wakings in the night
  • Irritability
  • Taking longer naps during the day
Need to Know

Make the six-month regression easier by sticking to your routine, starting sleep training, slowly removing overnight feedings, and keeping naptime windows consistent.

Eight-Month Regression

Between seven and ten months, your baby begins to become a little person. They are moving and grooving, starting to become more vocal, and they are likely sprouting some teeth! They have a lot going on, which makes this one of the longer baby sleep regressions.

Eight-Month Regression Causes:

  • They are reaching more movement milestones (scooting, crawling, and even walking).
  • They are beginning to babble more.
  • Their nap times are cut down to twice a day.
  • Separation anxiety develops.
  • They are teething.

Signs of the Eight-Month Regression:

  • Refusing naps
  • Having meltdowns at bedtime
  • Extra fussiness
  • Increased night wakings
Need to Know

Make the eight-month regression easier by using a white noise machine to help block out disruptions, continue sleep training and sticking to your routine, and providing them with extra pacifiers in their crib to help them self-soothe when they wake.

12-Month Regression

Congratulations! You survived a whole year with baby. Unfortunately, one of your prizes as they enter toddlerhood is another period of little sleep.

12-Month Regression Causes:

  • They are reaching more big milestones (walking, talking, bottle begins to disappear, big kid foods take over, etc.).
  • Separation anxiety develops.
  • They are teething.
  • They are having nightmares.

Signs of the 12-Month Regression:

  • Refusing naps OR taking longer naps during the day
  • Having meltdowns at bedtime
  • Extra fussiness
  • Increased night wakings
Need to Know

Make the 12-month regression easier by keeping your energized toddler active during the day, giving them lots of love and individualized attention, and continue to stick to your routine.

Toddler Sleep Regressions

Once you reach the toddler stage, you can expect to see regressions at 15 months, 18 months, and two years old. Unlike the first four baby sleep regressions, toddler regressions are many times tied to your child's newly discovered self-awareness.

Toddler Regression Causes:

  • They are walking and talking.
  • Their nap times are cut down to once a day.
  • They begin attending Mother's Day Out and early preschool programs.
  • They begin mimicking adult behaviors.
  • They have separation anxiety.
  • They are having nightmares.
  • They develop a fear of the dark.
  • They get a big-kid bed.
  • They are potty training.

Signs of the Toddler Regressions:

  • Refusing naps OR taking longer naps during the day
  • Having meltdowns at bedtime
  • Extra fussiness
  • Increased night wakings
  • Temper tantrums arise
Need to Know

Make the toddler regressions easier by sticking to your routine, keeping them active, introducing a night light and a transitional object like a blanket or stuffed animal, and implementing active listening.

More Tips for Surviving Baby Sleep Regressions

While it's completely normal for these sleep regressions in babies to occur, there are ways to keep them more manageable. If your baby has stopped sleeping through the night, try these techniques to help everyone drift back off to dreamland!

Mother embracing son that is having trouble sleeping

1. Stick to a Schedule

One of the best ways to battle baby sleep regressions is to establish a routine. Make sure that you are putting your baby down for naptimes and bedtimes at the same times each day. Feedings should also be consistent. Also consider a regular bath time, if your child's skin can handle this nighttime ritual. If not, then engage in infant massage with a relaxing scented lotion.

Remember that deviating from your schedule can have long-term impacts, so try to stick to your routine even on the weekends, over the holidays, and when on vacation. Finally, make sure that your baby is getting enough sleep. An overtired child is harder to get to sleep, which can make the regression worse.

Baby Sleep Regression Chart - Infant and Toddler Sleep Needs
Baby Sleep Regression Daily Sleep Requirements Number of Naps
4 Months 12 - 16 hours 3 - 4
6 Months 12 - 16 hours 2 - 3
8 Months 12 - 16 hours 2 - 3
12 Months 12 - 16 hours 2
15 Months 11 - 14 hours 1 - 2
18 Months 11 - 14 hours 1
2 Years 11 - 14 hours 1
Helpful Hack

When you notice a regression starting, mark down the time frames that your baby gets their rest throughout the day. If a nap doesn't happen, then consider a slightly earlier bedtime to make sure that they still get the right amount of shut-eye.

2. Create a Calming Environment

Another effective way to get your baby to go to sleep and stay asleep is to keep their room dark and quiet. If outside noise is an issue, consider investing in a noise machine, HEPA filter, or humidifier to help block out sounds from the rest of the house.

3. Watch for Sleep Cues

It's also important to pay attention to your baby! If they are rubbing their eyes, pulling at their ears, yawning, sucking on their hands and fingers, or if they are looking for snuggles, put them to bed. Other less obvious sleep cues include attention-seeking behaviors like temper tantrums and clumsiness.

4. Stop Rocking Your Baby to Sleep

Just like your baby needs to learn to sit and stand, they also need to learn how to go to sleep on their own. What this means is that you need to put them to bed drowsy. This allows them to drift off to dreamland without the help of movement. This is also important for preparing your baby to put themselves back to sleep when they wake up in the middle of the night.

5. Let Your Baby Cry It Out

While the automatic inclination for most parents is to scoop your baby up every time they begin to cry, there comes a time when you have to let your baby learn to self soothe. While this can be a heartbreaking task, it's amazing how quickly they calm down once you give them the chance to work it out themselves. However, parents should not use the cry it out method with babies younger than four months old.

Also, always do a mental check first - is your baby fed, dry, and warm? If the answer to any of these questions is no, then this method will not be effective, and the problem needs to be addressed. If the answer is yes, then let them fuss for a few minutes to see if they can get back to sleep by themselves.

6. Get Your Baby Moving

Exercise improves sleep habits! Just because your baby can't stand or walk doesn't mean that you can't give them a mini workout. Tummy time is crucial for strengthening your baby's head, neck, arms, and abdominal muscles. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents start this activity the moment they bring their bundle of joy home.

Also have them do situps, while supporting their head, and assist with bicycle kicks. Once they can support their head, neck, and torso, transition to helping them stand and walk. Try doing some of these exercises right before your baby's last feeding and bedtime.

7. Feed Them Late

When your baby is going through a growth spurt, their body is in overdrive. That means they need to consume more calories! If your baby has stopped sleeping through the night, consider adding in a late night feeding or snack right before bed. Just remember to brush their teeth afterwards, if they have them.

8. Adjust Bedtimes as Naps Decrease

As your toddler gets older, they will need less sleep during the day. When this happens, you need to shift their bedtime to an earlier hour to help them adjust during this transition period.

9. Unplug Devices an Hour Before Bed

Research shows that blue-light exposure before bedtime will suppress your child's melatonin production, therefore making it harder for them to get to sleep. Turn off the television and any devices an hour before bed. This can help them get sleepy!

10. Remember That Fear of Missing Out Is Real

If your little one has a case of FOMO, consider creating the illusion that everyone is going to bed at the same time. You can simulate this by:

  • Turning out the lights
  • Making the house quiet
  • Putting your pajamas on when your toddler does
  • Mimicking tired cues like yawning and rubbing your eyes

This signals to your child that they are not alone in going to bed and won't be missing out on anything!

Other Factors That Interrupt Sleep

Sleep regressions are a normal part of your child's development. However, there are certain health conditions that can disrupt sleep and mimic these natural sleep alterations. Conditions like eczema, for example, are downright uncomfortable and can cause your little one to wake up in the night. Without treatment, it is likely that they will continue to wake at random times.

Also, just like adults, stress can play a big role in your child's sleep cycle. If there have been big life changes like the addition of a new sibling or a death in the family, it can disrupt their sleep. Even frequent travel at the holidays can mess up their circadian rhythm.

Look at the big picture and consider whether there are other reasons contributing to your child's sleep difficulties. Recognizing the issue could be the first step to getting a good night's sleep again, for you and your child.

You Can Survive Your Baby's Sleep Regressions

It might seem like as soon as you start to get your baby on a sleep schedule, they have a regression. Try to remember that these won't last forever, and there are simple things you can do in the meantime to try to get the rest both you and baby need.

Baby Sleep Regressions: The Ultimate Guide to Getting Sleep Again