Getting your baby or toddler to sleep can, more often than not, be a parent's worst nightmare. It seems like just when you think your child is finally sleeping through the night consistently, a sleep regression will sneak up you and ruin everything. To make matters worse, it appears as though every parent you talk to has their own baby sleep advice, and they can have a tendency to perpetuate myths about sleep regressions that, according to experts, just aren't true at all.
So what is a sleep regression, anyway? According to The Baby Sleep Site, sleep regressions are "a period of time (anywhere from 1 – 4 weeks) when a baby or toddler who has been sleeping well suddenly starts waking at night, and/or skipping naps (or waking early from naps) for no apparent reason." The biggest myth that some people believe in regards to sleep regressions is that they aren't real and are just "excuses" that parents come up with when they "fail" at getting their baby to sleep. According to The Baby Sleep Site, not only are sleep regressions real, but they aren't your or your baby's fault.
According to Linda Szmulewitz, a licensed clinical social worker and certified gentle sleep coach, sleep regressions typically happen right before your baby meets a new developmental milestone, like crawling or walking. Fortunately for tired parents, according to Kim West, LCSW, The Sleep Lady, regressions are short phases and should pass in a few weeks. You can rest easy knowing that they are normal parts of child development, and not a sign that something is wrong. So with that in mind, here are a few other sleep regression myths you should feel free to ignore:
Myth: They Aren't Real
Even if you've never heard of the term "sleep regression," if you have a baby or toddler, chances are, they have experienced one. According to the Baby Sleep Site, while some people claim that sleep regressions aren't real, they totally are, and research agreed. More than a few studies have successfully linked sleep troubles with developmental milestones like crawling. As a mom, I could have told you that.
Myth: Your Baby Will Experience A Sleep Regression With Every Developmental Milestone
According to Linda Szmulewitz, a licensed clinical social worker and certified gentle sleep coach, sleep regressions typically happen right before your baby meets a new developmental milestone, like crawling or walking. However, you shouldn't be alarmed if they don't have a regression when you expect them to. According to same site, babies will rarely have a sleep regression at every age when they are common.
Myth: You Can Fix Them By Co-Sleeping
While many parents hope that co-sleeping or bed-sharing might solve their baby's sleep problems and help them get past regressions, experts at the Baby Sleep Site warn that co-sleeping can actually result in your baby sleeping worse, not better. According to the same site, while it may seem to help for a few nights, co-sleeping can increase parents' anxiety, cause them to wake up at every peep, and create "sleep associations" for your baby where they need to be touching you to sleep.
Myth: They Are Your Fault
According to The Baby Sleep Site, sleep regressions are really no one's fault, they are just a part of parenting a baby or toddler that's completely beyond your control. So you shouldn't feel bad about not being able to predict or fix your baby's sleep regressions. Instead, you should learn to recognize them when they are happening, and try to make it through alive.
Myth: You Can Prevent Them If You Sleep Train
According to The Baby Sleep Site, even parents who have successfully sleep trained their babies experience sleep regressions. The site tells parents to try to keep themselves from feeling discouraged. Instead, you should consider how you want to respond to a regression, and stick with that plan, writing:
"If you decide that you want to do anything and everything you can to help your child sleep during these regression periods, that’s fine! It may mean new sleep habits you have to undo later, but if you are OK with that, then it’s all good. If, conversely, you want to get through a sleep regression without creating any sleep issues you’ll have to work through later, that’s fine, too."
Myth: You Can Predict When They Will Happen
While Dutch researchers Hetty van de Rijt and Frans Plooij mapped out 10 common ages when your child might experience a sleep regression, in their book The Wonder Weeks, the researchers write that your baby may or may not follow this schedule. And according to Linda Szmulewitz, a licensed clinical social worker and certified gentle sleep coach, sleep regressions can seem like they happen out of the blue and for no apparent reason. That's because, while often associated with your baby meeting a new developmental milestone, like crawling or walking, you probably won't know what's causing the problem until afterwards.
Myth: They Will Last Forever
Fortunately for tired parents, according to Kim West, LCSW-C, The Sleep Lady, regressions are short phases and should pass in a few weeks or less. If your child's sleep does not seem to improve after two to six weeks, West warns that it's probably not a sleep regression, but a different issue entirely that may require professional help from a sleep consultant or pediatrician to pass.
Check out Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:
Watch full episodes of Romper's Doula Diaries on Facebook Watch.