what not to do during a sleep regression
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7 Things Not To Do During A Sleep Regression

It’s tough, but it’ll pass.

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Why is it that just when you think you have this whole baby sleep thing conquered and you're finally getting those coveted eight hours, the sleep regression comes? After you rule out fever, teething, a dirty diaper, or any other possible discomfort, you may decide that your child is having a “sleep regression.” While there may be ways you can try to help get your baby back into his routine, here are a few things NOT to do during a sleep regression.

Sleep regressions are tricky things — they’re not an “official” thing. Usually ‘sleep regression’ simply means that a baby or toddler is suddenly sleeping less-well than they were. But don’t freak out! Stick to your routines — in fact, you should cling to them even more tightly during a sleep regression — and you’ll get through. Some parents will notice their baby is waking more often than usual and then a week after that starts, the baby hits a new milestone, like crawling or pulling themselves up. Other possible causes of a few bad nights of sleep run the gamut — everything from separation anxiety to their sleep cycle shifting to a change in temperature in the room could cause a few bumpy nights. Babies are not robots after all — they are entitled to a bad night of sleep every now and then. Regardless of the cause, it can throw off a very hard-won sleep routine and make you feel like you are starting from scratch again.

As you wait for the sleep regression to pass, here’s a quick list of things to avoid so that your short-term problem doesn't become a long term one, because you need to get them back on track. Sleep, for mom and baby, is hugely important for successful parenting.


Don’t let them sleep in your bed

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In general, Dr. Ken Feuerstein, a pediatrician in New York, tells Romper that once you let them in, it's hard to get them back out. And of course, if your baby is under a year old, bed-sharing is considered unsafe by the American Academy of Pediatrics.


Don’t punish them

Babies don't understand timeouts and you can't take away their screen time, but even something that might seem to be an age-appropriate punishment, like withholding toys, doesn't really work. Dr. Feuerstein suggests using positive reinforcement for older children, so get out those stickers and reward charts and get ready for some positive reinforcement.


Don’t give up your bedtime routine

Even if you feel frustrated and like they will never get back on track, keep following your bedtime routine. Baths, books, cuddling, however your family chooses to introduce sleep, stick to it. If bedtime has gone off the rails, it might be time to tighten things back up, suggests Dr. Elizabeth Super, an associate professor of pediatrics and clinical pediatric sleep physician at Oregon Health & Science University. Maybe “they're really needing a parent to lay with them to fall asleep. Maybe that goes fine at bedtime. But, we know that all kids and adults wake up about every three hours, and now that 18 month old may need the parent to be present again to return to sleep in the night.” So, Super really encourages the parents she works with who are dealing with a sleep regression to look closely at what’s going on at bedtime. “Ideally you you should be saying goodnight, I love you, and leaving the room,” she explains.


Don't ignore them for hours on end

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Dr. Feuerstein suggests if your child is crying for a long period of time, it’s perfectly OK go in and check on them. He says to make it quick, though. Just spend a few minutes, reassure yourself that they’re safe, and are not fussy because of a fever or other illness.


Don't rock them back to sleep

If you’re baby is over four months old, you’ll probably want to let them try and figure out how to go back to sleep on their own. Rocking, feeding and other ways of helping to soothe them back to sleep that involve your presence are what Super calls “maladaptive sleep associations” and make it difficult for them to sleep through the night.


Don’t medicate them

Hopefully this one is a no-brainer, but do not give your baby or toddler any kind of medicine to make them drowsy. Do not use Benadryl to get you through the regression, says Dr. Feuerstein. He says the same goes for Xanax, shots of alcohol and any other drugs. And yes, these are actual questions he's gotten from parents in his practice. Yikes.


Try not to panic!

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When it's 4:30 a.m. and you need to be up for work in two hours, it's understandable to be desperate to get the baby back to sleep. And when you haven't slept a solid night in days, sometimes you can lose perspective. Repeat to yourself, this is temporary! You can do this.

Whatever is going on with your child’s sleep, DO hang in there. It’ll pass, and you’ll all get some good rest soon. Promise.


Dr. Elizabeth Super, an associate professor of pediatrics and clinical pediatric sleep physician at Oregon Health & Science University

Dr. Kenneth Feuerstein, a pediatrician in New York

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