Turns Out, You Can't Control Sleep Regressions

It's no secret that baby sleep is an elusive topic in the parenting world. From night feedings to night weaning to night wakings, there's a lot to consider when trying to put your baby on a path to healthy sleep, especially when you've just become comfortable with your baby's sleeping routines, and it changes. Teething, illness, and growth spurts can all affect your baby's sleep, and they all seem unavoidable. But, what about sleep regressions? If you're as short on sleep as I am, you might wonder, "can I prevent my baby from having a sleep regression?"

A sleep regression is what baby sleep experts call it when your baby, who seemed to be sleeping just fine, suddenly has a hard time going to and staying asleep. Sleep regressions often coincide with cognitive and developmental milestones, according to The Baby Sleep Site. The most common infant sleep regressions occur at 4 months, 8 months, and 11 to 12 months.

According to Marietta Paxson, MS, sleep consultant of Little Dreamers, the 4-month regression is not an actual regression, but your baby finally growing out of their newborn sleep stage. When babies are newborns and young infants, they don't sleep in stages, Paxson mentions in an interview with Romper. Adults cycle between light and deep sleep, whereas newborns tend to deep sleep all of the time, regardless of where they are.

So, these regressions are actually developments, and a sure sign that your baby's growth is healthy and on track. The "regressions" to follow, at 8 and 11 months, are typically of the same nature — developmental and cognitive progressions that lead to a (hopefully) temporary disturbance in sleep.

Basically? There may not be a way to prevent sleep regressions from occurring. Paxson notes that the best way to help a baby overcome sleep regression is to help them learn how to fall asleep on their own. Once babies learn how to fall asleep unassisted, they can also fall asleep unassisted during the night from frequent wakings.

According to Dr. Jackie Romanies, a pediatric chiropractor from Plano, Texas, consistency is also key when it comes to helping babies through a sleep regression. In an interview with Romper, Romanies says keeping a predictable bedtime routine, and using infant massage to cue sleep onset, can ultimately help babies become comfortable sleeping on their own, without the assistance of one or both parents.

Sleep regressions, like most other baby phases, do pass. Just like many of baby's other phases, it is something they have to work through on their own, in their own time. The best you can do, as parents, is to stay consistent and supportive and dream of the day you'll sleep once again. (Daydreaming, obviously.)