Complete Guide to Baby & Toddler Sleep Regressions

Baby and toddler sleep regressions are intense. Here’s my complete guide of what they are, when they happen, and tips for you to cope.

You’ve finally got your baby on a good sleep routine and can get a sense of peace.

You might be able to even get more than 20 seconds of sleep (although a solid 6-8 hours might be a bit laughable still).

Or so you thought…. (what did you think you’d actually get some sleep as a parent? Dream onnnnn #teamnosleep)

The reality is this: your baby and toddler are going to experience these nasty monsters called sleep regressions quite regularly for the next few years.

Did I get a head tilt from the new mamas? Did I confuse you just a bit?

Don’t worry, I had the same thought when I first heard of them.

In this post, I’ll be breaking it down for you. This is my complete guide to baby and toddler sleep regressions. Stock up on coffee while you can mama – you’re gonna need it.

what is a sleep regression?

Let’s start with the basics, shall we huh? If you have no idea what a sleep regression even is… well, it’s a period of time which your baby basically sleeps like absolute garbage.

More specifically: a sleep regression is a period in which your wonderfully sleeping baby is not sleeping hardly at all. They may wake up frequently during the night, fight naps completely, wakes up early from them, is hard to settle down to sleep, or suddenly becomes a light sleeper (when they normally weren’t).

This shouldn’t be confused with a growth spurt in which they will actually sleep more soundly and eat significantly more throughout the day.

why do sleep regressions happen?

In the first few years of life, your child is going to experience a lot of changes physically, mentally, emotionally, and so much more.

They will learn all kinds of new thins such as:

  • Holding their head up
  • Pulling themselves up on furniture
  • Feeding themselves table food
  • Speaking words and sentences
  • How the world works around them

And that barely scratches the surface of what happens in the first couple of years! They will experience a giant list of developmental milestones. Now can you imagine what their little muscles and brains experience during that time?

Naturally, they might struggle with sleep for a while. A better word to use for this is actually a transition since what is happening is they are leaping into the next developmental stage of their life.

But since I know you aren’t going to type “sleep transition” into Google… I’ll stick with the term sleep regression 😉

how long do sleep regressions last?

The average sleep regression lasts around 2-6 weeks, depending on the milestones they are currently hitting. A baby that is learning to hold their head up and smile vs a toddler who is learning to walk, say their first words, and getting more engaged in play are two very different scenarios!

They amount of sleep these two age groups get along with how long they struggle to sleep are going to look very different.

Which leads me into the next section… when are sleep regressions most common and how does it look for different age groups?

common sleep regressions

Now, I am listing out basically every possible sleep regression there is. However, the most common ones occur at 4 months, 9 months, and 12 months. Some children will also experience them at 6 months, 18 months, and even 2 years old.

4 month sleep regression

The 4 month sleep regression is one of, if not the most, common sleep regressions out there. Many mothers don’t even know about sleep regressions until this one hits so they run to Google for answers from natural worry.

At 4 months old, your baby is transitioning from being a cuddly newborn that barely does anything besides sleep to a baby that is more interested in the world around them.

Milestones that contribute to this sleep regression may include:

  • Staring to hold her entire upper body up with her arms
  • Mimicking sounds, expressions, and even starting to babble
  • She is grabbing and batting at toys around her and kicking up a storm
  • Rolling over from back to stomach

6 month sleep regression

While a sleep regression doesn’t always happen at 6 months, the possibility is definitely there. At this age, they are becoming more engaged with their surroundings, trying to have conversations, and are starting to really voice their wants and needs.

Milestones that contribute to this sleep regression may include:

  • Possibly starting to crawl around after toys
  • Starting to sit up their own, possibly unsupported
  • Showing signs of readiness for solid foods
  • May begin teething their first set of teeth if they haven’t already

9 month sleep regression

The 9 month sleep regression is another really common sleep regression. At 9 months, baby is experiencing all kinds of milestones. You will notice them grow significant amounts around this time as they become more independent and start showing their personality even more.

Milestones that contribute to this sleep regression may include:

  • Getting up on all fours to crawl around and gain some speed
  • Starting to stand and pull themselves up on furniture
  • Possibly starting to say a few of their first words
  • Sitting up for longer periods without any help

12 month sleep regression

This is another sleep regression that isn’t quite as common, but can happen. At 12 months, they are venturing into toddlers and are becoming much more active within the world around them!

Milestones that contribute to this sleep regression may include:

  • Staring to cruise around by walking along furniture
  • May be walking without help
  • Standing up on their own without your help
  • Understanding 1-step requests like “grab the ball please”
  • Saying more words besides mama and dada

RELATED: How to Create a Calming Bedtime Routine for Toddlers

18 month sleep regression

It’s amazing how much they grow in just a year, isn’t it? It doesn’t stop there though! By 18 months, they usually are really solidifying their newly learned skills as well as becoming more confident.

Milestones that contribute to this sleep regression may include:

  • Climbing, running, dancing, and other physical movements
  • Starting to get way more chatty with added vocabulary
  • Developing separation anxiety when you leave
  • Voicing their wants and needs through ‘tantrums’
  • Teething really intensely with molars appearing

2 year sleep regression

After the 2 year sleep regression happens, you can start to get some relief. They will begin to sleep better and developmental milestones will slow down a bit. However, at 2 years old, they will hit some significant milestones.

Milestones that contribute to this sleep regression may include:

  • Increased motor skills – kicking, throwing, balancing, etc
  • Emotions will start to developing in big ways they don’t yet understand
  • Significantly more words have been added to their vocabulary
  • Starting to have full conversations and speak in sentences
  • Learning to notice bodily functions and when to use the potty

Phew! That’s a lot of growing in 2 years, don’t ya think? Can you even imagine all their brains and muscles experience in that time? It’s no wonder they never sleep in these first years, lol!!

One thing that’s important to remember: sleep is entirely developmental and your baby will sleep when they’re ready as long as you follow their lead.

I hope now you have a deep understanding of what sleep regression is now. But how do you survive all the leaps and transitions when baby doesn’t sleep? If baby doesn’t sleep, that means you’re aren’t either, right?

Well I have a few tips for you…

6 tips to survive sleep regressions

Sleep regressions are hard on baby, and might be even harder on you! Here are some tips that I hope will help you navigate these sleep regressions in babies and toddlers.

follow your child’s lead

First and foremost, follow your child’s lead. If they aren’t tired, try to avoid forcing them to go to sleep. A playful baby isn’t going to sleep no matter how hard you try, anyway.

Pay attention to signs and cues and respond appropriately.

create a safe routine and environment

It’s important that we make our babies and toddlers feel safe within their routine and environment. Try your best to keep the same routine, create a relaxed environment to signal bedtime, and tweak things as needed.

Don’t be afraid to rock them to sleep, swaddle them nice and tight, or other ways to make them feel safe. It’s far more important they feel safe and secure than to be worrying about “encouraging bad habits”.

reach out to your support system

The truth of it is this: you are going to be flat out exhausted for the next year or two. You’ll chug coffee like it’s suddenly dying off the planet never to be found again. You’ll have trouble remembering the last time you got some real sleep.

This is the perfect reason to reach out to your support system, if you have one.

See if you have family members who are willing to come out and play with the baby while you take a nice, long nap. Maybe they can even take the baby out of the house for a bit!

If you don’t have a great support system, maybe consider hiring someone to come watch your littles while you nap, clean your house so you don’t have to worry about that, etc.

PS: Did you know you can order home services on Amazon? You have to be in an area that offers it (which I unfortunately do not, GROANNNN…) but it’s a pretty cool service!

be patient

This will not last forever so try to be patient! I know it’s incredibly rough to feel like your baby never sleeps, but keep in mind that it will come to an end. Your baby is growing in big ways now and their little bodies are adjusting to that.

final thoughts

I hope you have your biggest questions about baby and toddler sleep regressions officially answered! Sleep regressions happen as babies and toddlers reach new milestones and may wake up at night, wake early from their naps, and be more difficult to get to sleep.

You’ll experience transitions and leaps most commonly at 4, 9, and 12 months of age. However, you may also experience some at 6 months, 18 months, and even 2 years.

The best thing you can do is follow your baby’s lead, be patient, and reach out for help when needed. Don’t worry, you’ll eventually get your sanity back LMAO.

Also, consider hiring out babysitting or house cleaning to catch up on some sleep if you don’t have a support system to lend a hand! (Maybe even check out Amazon’s home services)

What are your experiences with sleep regressions? Share some of your best tips in the comments below!

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