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Baby Sleep Regressions: How to Cope Through Each Stage

After the birth of my son, one of the most common questions I got was, “How is he sleeping?” I thought that people were just exaggerating about how tiring a new baby was; he started out sleeping long stretches and had no problems putting himself to sleep.

Right around four months, though, I started to understand what having a baby that never sleeps was like; sleepless nights turned into delirious days, naps were a distant memory, and diet coke was coursing through my veins.

After all the Google-ing, reading, and research, I found out that my child isn’t broken; most babies experience what many call “sleep regressions,” a period of time when infants’ resting habits change, night wakings occur, and naps often become shorter.

What is Infant Sleep Regression?

According to the Cleveland Clinic, infant sleep regression1 is “a common phase when children slide backward regarding maintaining a consistent sleep pattern.” Your baby may have a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the night, notes Kelsey Atkinson, founder of Kelsey Atkinson Counselling and Sleep Consulting.

Sleep regressions are very common, and many babies experience at least one while growing, so you’re not alone as a frustrated, exhausted parent.

When do Sleep Regressions Happen?

Sleep regression will vary for every baby, but it typically begins when an infant is around four months old2. A sleep regression period can last for up to six weeks before your baby returns to more typical sleep patterns.

The 4-month sleep regression is the biggest one, but there are also 6-month, 8-month, 12-month, and 18-month regressions.

What Causes Infant Sleep Regression?

Newborn babies sleep a lot, but their sleep is usually segmented into chunks of several hours at a time1. The reason new babies can’t sleep for longer periods, such as an entire night, is because their circadian rhythm (the body’s 24-hour clock) hasn’t developed yet1. Newborn babies are spending a lot of their sleeping time in deep sleep. As adults, our circadian rhythms are fully developed, which is why we’re able to sleep for longer than four hours at one time, and we cycle through each phase of the sleep cycle3.

The 4-month infant sleep regression occurs once babies begin spending less time in deep sleep and more time in the other phases of the sleep cycle, much like adults1. The Cleveland Clinic explains that “Adjusting to lighter phases of sleep can make babies more likely to wake up for a bit, leading to a temporary regression1.”

Stephanie Hewitt, founder of Stephanie Hewitt Sleep Consulting, explains that sleep regressions that occur after the 4-month regression are “usually due to growth and development such as rolling, sitting, pulling up, walking and talking, and awareness of separation.”

Is Infant Sleep Regression Real?

Type “sleep regression” into any search engine, and you’ll get millions of results. This term is commonly used among parents, doctors, and scientists, but it does create some misconceptions about what is actually happening to your baby.

Merriam-Webster4 defines regression as the “reversion to an earlier mental or behavioral level”, but in reality, your baby is not forgetting what they have already learned or regressing at all. Rather, a sleep regression actually means your little one is continuing to learn and develop.

So many changes occur in the first two years of life: your child begins smiling, laughing, rolling over, developing a solid sleep cycle, sitting up on their own, crawling, walking and more.

During these developmental milestones, babies are constantly practicing these skills, attempting to master them, and research suggests5 that until they do, sleeping often takes a backseat.

Rachel Gorton, certified infant and toddler sleep specialist, explains: “Even though these phases sometimes come with less sleep, they are important to your baby’s emotional and physical development. In other words, they need to happen.”

What can you expect at each sleep regression age?

Sleep regression periods usually occur before a new skill is obtained, whether it’s developing a circadian rhythm or learning to crawl, but every baby is different and develops on a different timeline.

Whether your baby is going through these stages earlier, later, or not at all, this is totally normal. The American Pregnancy Association6 explains that even premature babies can catch up quickly and develop at a similar rate to full-term babies. As always, if you have any concerns about your child’s development, discuss them with their pediatrician.

4 Month Sleep Regression

As we discussed, four months is around the time that a baby can start to form their own sleep cycle that looks much like ours, albeit shorter1. After the newborn stage, infant rest becomes more predictable and cyclical; babies spend a lot more time in REM sleep7 than we do and can be awakened more easily during the stages of lighter sleep. As babies get used to lighter sleep stages, they may experience more night wakings1.

Learn more about the four stages of sleep.

There is a ton of brain growth happening, so, along with sleeping less, your baby might be extra hungry6. Plus, as time goes on, babies start to be much more aware of the world around them, which can cause distracted daytime feedings leading to more night wakings out of hunger6.

6 Month Sleep Regression

By the time your little one is six months old, they might begin to push up on all fours, start lifting their head while sleeping, have probably been rolling for a while, and can grab onto lots of objects6. All of these milestones are fun and exciting for your baby, which likely will make them less inclined to sleep and more excited to stay awake. 

​​Why Your 6-Month-Old Suddenly Won’t Sleep

Your Baby is More Mobile

Developing new skills opens a brand new world for our busy-bodies. Before gaining motor skills, your tiny tot has been entirely reliant on others. Achieving this freedom opens up new possibilities for our little adventurers; even if they don’t fully grasp what those are, the practice of independence alone is reason enough to dive in.

The Found Their Voice

Hearing your baby’s voice is a massive moment for parents, and now that they’re babbling, you might be surprised at how much they have to say. For them, finally being able to express themselves is hugely liberating. Having the skills to do this is something we adults frequently take for granted.

Teething Pains

If you think your baby is teething, you can offer them teething toys to chew on, or even a damp washcloth, as it’s soft and malleable. A particularly inconsolable baby could be a sign of something more serious, so be sure to talk with your doctor to rule any illness out.

A Sudden Growth Spurt

Growth spurts can’t happen properly all on their own. Your growing bean will need supplemental help to fuel these bursts in development. They might nap longer, sleep later, or be a bit fussier as they grow tired more quickly.

How to Help Your 6-Month-Old Sleep Through the Night 

Getting your little party animal to calm down for bed when they’re feeling excited or restless can be a struggle. Read on for how to help these common issues.

Stick to Your Schedule

Practicing healthy bedtime habits during sleep regressions is one of the best ways to adhere to a routine. Despite difficulties around this slumber setback, having the foundation of a predictable schedule can keep your little night owl calmer than they might have been otherwise.

Offer Quiet Reassurance

Softly “shushing” your little one can sound similar to the whirring noises they once enjoyed while immersed in the amniotic fluid inside your tummy. That’s why white noise machines are popular with babies—it’s louder living inside a belly than you might think.

Get More Exercise

Ensuring your child is adequately stimulated could be one of the best ways to help your youngster sleep through the night. Getting the proper amount of stimulation and exercise is not only essential to tire your rascal out but crucial for their developing brain as well.

Encourage Some Independence

Emboldening your child to do things on their own from the start can be hard. As parents, we naturally want to be there every step of the way, and sleeping on their own is no different. However, doing so will boost their courage and confidence to not only trust in parents but trust in themselves as well.

Naps on the go are probably a no-no at this point, too. There might be a car nap here and there, but for the most part, your baby might be too interested in the exciting stuff going on around them to get some solid rest. Missing a nap throughout the day can cause a baby to be overtired, making them more difficult to put down for bed, or may cause midnight wakings.

Six-month-old babies also move from babbling to saying one-syllable sounds like “ma6.” As your baby finds their voice, they might be too chatty to fall asleep; after all, they can finally be a part of the conversation.Your six-month-old also may develop separation anxiety. Between four and eight months old, babies develop object permanence10, which means they know objects exist, even where they’re not within eyesight. They then develop a mental image of the object.

8 Month Sleep Regression

At eight months, your baby is probably in the beginning stages of cruising around, scooting, crawling, or even pulling themselves up6. They are probably playing with toys like never before, speaking multi-syllabic words, and fine-tuning their motor skills6.
Unfortunately, all these fun things can cause some issues with your baby’s sleep; for example, you might enter their room and find your baby pulling themselves up on the rails of their crib trying to practice standing instead of sleeping. After taking everything in throughout the day, falling asleep at night could be hard because your baby is overstimulated.
Your eight-month-old might also drop one of their naps, which could lead them to be overtired at bedtime while they are getting used to fewer naps during the day. This sleep regression is pretty variable and can occur anywhere between eight and 10 months.

11-Month Sleep Regression

Managing Sleep Regression in 11-Month-Olds

Navigating a regression can be a lot of trial and error, but there are some foundational steps you can take to help mitigate these bumps in the road. We recommend trying a combination of these tips, seeing what your baby responds best to, and then sticking with that.

Maintain Nap and Sleep Schedules

Establishing a regular sleep schedule and nighttime routine can make a tremendous difference when navigating sleep regressions. Bedtime should be the same each night, and the nighttime routine should be something quiet and relaxing to let your baby know it’s time to get sleepy.

Need help? Read more about bedtime routines for babies.

Create a Positive Sleeping Environment

It’s crucial to provide a comfortable environment for your baby so they can feel secure and relaxed enough to fall asleep. Not only is it important to enforce a bedtime routine so they associate certain activities with bedtime, but once inside their bedroom (or yours if you’re co-sleeping), you should ensure that there is minimal light and little sound. White noise or sound machines can also help relax a baby into sleeping.

Break Negative Sleep Associations

If you’re stuck in the habit of nursing or feeding your baby to sleep, they can become dependent on this routine, leaving you obligated to get up each time they do. To break this habit, try an eat, play, and sleep schedule. This will put a bit of a buffer between eating and sleeping to help break the association between feeling full and sleep.

Practice Sleep Training With Your Child

There are many methods of sleep training, but currently, the American Academy of Pediatrics supports the “graduated extinction” method in which you slowly increase the amount of time you wait to respond to your baby’s cries after putting them to sleep. You’ll still be offering some comfort, but you’ll also be slowly allowing the child to learn to self-soothe.

Want to know more? Check out our complete guide to gentle sleep training here.

Reschedule Bedtime and Wake Up Time if Necessary

If your baby is waking up earlier than normal, you can move up their bedtime accordingly. Experts advise putting your baby to bed at night when they are drowsy but not yet fully asleep, so putting them to bed earlier could be even more helpful.1

Encourage Daytime Skill Practice

Letting your baby play with safe items and baby toys will stimulate their brain and body. Doing this will help not only their development but also tire them out, allowing them to go down easier when bedtime rolls around.8

Try to Be Flexible

Remember, sleep regressions happen, but they don’t last forever. Try to have patience during this time.

12-Month Sleep Regression

At 12 months, your baby will soon be taking their first step and saying more words6. They are also probably becoming increasingly interested in reading and practicing understanding language even if they are not fully talking quite yet, and they have likely heard the word “no” a time or two6.

Main Symptoms of 1-Year Sleep Regression

Setbacks in sleep can appear in multiple ways. As each munchkin offers their own individual characteristics and personalities, they could be exhibited differently. Signals can range from fussiness at bedtime to more energy at night to more frequent wakings during the night.

Frequent Wakings at Night

If your tyke was sleeping through the night and suddenly is having frequent wakings during the night, this can be a reliable indicator of a setback in rest.

Increased Hunger

A sharp increase in hunger can be attributed to their mere need for fuel. As they’re enduring this developmental burst, this has to be nourished somehow to be sustained.

Baby Fights Sleep

It’s extraordinarily common for toddlers to fight sleep. At about 12 months of age, they are developing rapidly. 

Increased Fussiness

With a sharp increase in mobility and communication skills, they likely won’t be as interested in naps when sleep regressions come around.

Main Causes of Restless Sleep Among One-Year-Olds

There’s a variety of reasons why your toddler may not be sleeping. Below we’ll discuss the reasons and how you can work to combat these issues.

Communication Development

Before you know it, you may have a chatterbox on your hands who wants to have a stimulating conversation all night long. While nighttime is for sleeping, they may not be as ready for bed as you are.

Increased Awareness

With the increase in their abilities, your tyke may suddenly start to notice things they may not have before. It may be more difficult to put them down in their crib for a nap because they now realize that when that happens, you’ll be leaving them alone to fend for themselves.

Higher Mobility

Your tot is growing at a rapid pace, and this includes their physical functioning as well.

Less Need for Sleep

Growing up, their body will begin to change, and they may need less time to recharge.
As fun as this stage is, the way that your baby is recognizing and interacting with their surrounding environment can make sleeping seem boring.

One-year-olds are growing rapidly and might show signs of being hungrier than normal, refusing their second nap, and protesting bedtime6. Most kiddos are not ready to drop to one nap at this age despite their vehement denial. 

This sleep regression period can occur between 10 and 12 months old. Like other sleep regressions, this period should only last a couple of weeks at most, so try to stick it out.

18-Month Sleep Regression

Baby sleep can fall by the wayside at this age, while more developmental milestones are going on. Some milestones your toddler will experience at 18 months old are drinking from a cup, climbing onto a chair on their own, and following one-step directions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention11.

The sudden need to be independent can create some issues when it comes to putting them down; when your baby feels like they no longer have a choice of what to do, the crib might feel more like a prison than a place to get cozy11.

While it is normal, this stage can feel like it is the most difficult because with personality comes the ability to be defiant.

AgePossible Developmental ChangesAverage Day SleepAverage Night Sleep
4 monthsRolling Sleep cycles Growth spurts4-5 hours9-10 hours
6 monthsSocial awareness Separation anxiety Teething Babbling No more naps on the go4 hours10 hours
8 monthsPracticing fine-motor skills Babbling Separation anxiety Scooting or crawling Pulling themselves up3-4 hours11 hours
12 monthsTaking steps Language development3 hours11 hours
18 monthsIndependence Walking Language development Dropping to one nap2.5 hours11 hours

Source:Infant Sleep12

Are There Long-term Risks Related to Sleep Regression?

No, there are no long-term risks related to infant sleep regression. Sleep regressions are temporary and once milestones are reached, baby sleep patterns generally return to normal or improve. During these regressions, though, bad habits or coping techniques can be formed, which can lead to some potentially dangerous situations.

Bed sharing, falling asleep while holding your baby, and using a swing or rock-n-play for unsupervised sleep are all against the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) guidelines for safe sleep13 and can potentially lead to suffocation and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Although these long, sleepless nights during your baby’s regressions are seemingly endless, try to remember that it is temporary.

Questions about Infant Sleep Regression to Ask Your Pediatrician

Does sleep training work?

Baby sleep training14, or “the process of your baby learning to fall asleep by themselves”, is a hot topic among parents, but the Duke Department of Pediatrics15 has found sleep training to be effective and safe. There are many different methods and no shortage of books and blogs about sleep training; generally, it works best when your baby is around four months old14. Be sure to ask your doctor about their opinion and what might work best for your child.

Crying for more than three nights! Help!

A common sleep training method is to let your munchkin “cry it out,” meaning your kiddo has to learn how to fall asleep on their own, without intervention14. For some, letting your baby cry it out is quick and easy, but each family is unique.

When choosing a sleep training method, regardless of which technique you’re using, the degree of crying could coincide with how long the child has been accustomed to the approach, and your family may need more than three days to get used to the new routine14.

If letting your little one cry it out doesn’t feel right for you, chat with your pediatrician about alternative approaches.

Could the problem be something else?

Sleep regressions are a sign of normal development, but sometimes other issues could be causing additional sleeping difficulties. Acid reflux, teething, and growth spurts are among the few things that can interfere with a good rest9.

If your baby is still struggling after a week or two into their sleep regression, discuss your concerns with a doctor.

Baby Sleep Regression Tips

Natural development will cause your infant to be more interested in what is going on around them, so external light and sound might be disturbing his or her sleep. Be sure to keep their room extra dark with blackout curtains or blinds for optimal rest, and drown out sounds like the doorbell ringing or your dog barking with a sound machine.

Babies are generally not scared of the dark, and white noise17 often helps them sleep better by reminding them of similar sounds they heard in the womb.

Consider Getting Help

While hiring a nanny for these sleep regressions probably isn’t in the cards for most, enlisting help can be helpful. You and your partner may want to split the night shift so that losing sleep is not quite so detrimental.

If you are a single parent, consider asking a family member or friend if they can watch your baby for a couple of hours while you catch up on some shuteye. Most loved ones would probably be happy to help, and those couple of hours can make a huge difference.

Establish a Consistent Bedtime Routine

Babies, just like adults, thrive on routine, and implementing regular habits is a perfect way to make bedtime easier. Research shows16 shows that bedtime routines lead to fewer night wakings in both infants and toddlers in just a matter of days.

Regular feedings, baths, or a book before bed could help your baby understand when it is time to wind down. Atkinson suggests creating a soothing sleep environment for your baby by ensuring the bedroom is “calm, comfortable, and conducive to sleep”, along with using “a white noise machine, blackout curtains, a lovey or stuffed animal to help create a soothing and calm atmosphere.”

Whatever you decide to put into practice, make sure you stick to it to keep nights as predictable as possible.

Keep in mind that switching to an earlier bedtime while keeping your routine intact could improve your situation. “Many children experiencing sleep regressions are overtired because of short naps or night wakings,” according to sleep expert Lori Strong. She explains that “a temporary earlier bedtime [could] help keep children rested.”

Related: Best Baby Crib Mattress

Increase Daytime Feedings

As your baby becomes more associated with the world around them, feedings start to get a lot less exciting. Unfortunately, if your baby doesn’t get enough to eat during the day, they are probably going to wake up due to hunger at night.

If distracted eating is a recurring issue, try feeding in a dark, quiet, unstimulating environment.

By making sure they are getting enough to eat during the day, you can be reassured that those night wakeups are probably not for hunger and address the real issue at hand.

Experiment with Bedtimes

Putting your baby down at the right time might just be the most important part of getting a good rest; a baby that is not tired yet will refuse to sleep, but overtired babies can be impossible to calm down. Getting that happy medium is important for the best rest.

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to bedtime, so trial and error will serve you well. Every baby is different, and each one needs a different amount of rest. Stanford scientists recommend you try to plan a bedtime that blocks out around 10 to 12 hours of nighttime sleep12. Patience is key.

Light and Sound-Proofing

Natural development will cause your infant to be more interested in what is going on around them, so external light and sound might be disturbing his or her sleep. Be sure to keep their room extra dark with blackout curtains or blinds for optimal rest, and drown out sounds like the doorbell ringing or your dog barking with a sound machine.

Babies are generally not scared of the dark, and white noise17 often helps them sleep better by reminding them of similar sounds they heard in the womb.

Avoid Caving to Bad Habits

While it might be easier in the short term to bring your baby into your bed or nurse or rock your baby to sleep every time he or she cries, this can create some crutches that they might start to rely on. Ultimately, your baby will be a better sleeper if they can fall asleep on their own in their own bed, but during these regressions, getting up five, six, or 20 times a night can be draining.

Stick to your guns and know that this phase is only temporary. If you find yourself wanting to co-sleep, the AAP recommends sharing a room18 rather than the same bed.

Practice Self-Care

To be the best parent or caregiver you can be, taking care of yourself is key. Know when you need a break and ask for help before your breaking point. If you can’t nap, try to get out of the house, grab yourself a smoothie, get a massage, or spend some time with friends.

Remind yourself that this is a completely normal and temporary part of your child’s development.

Infant Sleep Regression FAQs

How long does sleep regression last?

Your child may experience sleep regressions from the time they are four months old until they are 18 months old. Each of these regressions can last anywhere from a few days to six weeks2. Every baby is different, so try not to compare your baby to other children around their age.

How long does 4-month old sleep regression last?

The length of the four-month sleep regression will depend on your baby and can last anywhere from a few days to around six weeks2. The four-month sleep regression is the biggest sleep regression due to the development of the circadian rhythm, so it may last longer than other regressions that your baby experiences2.

Do all babies go through sleep regression?

While sleep regressions are very common among babies, not all babies go through sleep regressions2. Remember, every child is different.


As a parent, I am constantly surprised by how much I don’t know, but the thing that gets me through the tough times is knowing that I am not the only parent going through these ups and downs.

Remember that regressions are a regular part of development and are necessary for kids to learn and grow. Try out the tips we’ve listed above to help you navigate these sleep challenges and be sure to find ways to take care of your own sleep and well-being as well.

 Jess Carpenter

Jess Carpenter

Content Writer

About Author

Jess is only serious about a few things in life: sleeping, writing, and making the perfect chocolate chip cookie. In her free time, you’ll probably find her having a dance-off to ‘80s pop with her family or watching scary movies with her cat, Waffles.

Combination Sleeper


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