What is a regression? According to Webster's dictionary, a regression is “a return to a former or less developed state.” A sleep regression describes periods in your baby’s life when her sleep habits take a major change. Your baby may begin to wake many times throughout the night, naps may become inconsistent, falling asleep becomes a challenge, and your little one is more clingy and cranky.
There are several reasons why your child may be going through the nine-month sleep regression.
- Lots of learning: Around this time, your baby is going through major cognitive development. Many are learning new physical skills (pulling up, sitting, crawling, cruising) and mental skills (stacking, sorting, emerging verbal skills). This is a lot of new information and an extraordinary amount of work for their little brains to sort through. Babies’ brains often use the downtime when they are supposed to be sleeping to master these skills.
- Dropping that third nap: Most babies have transitioned to two naps per day by the time they are nine months old. If bedtime has not been adjusted earlier to make up for the longer wakeful period between the end of the afternoon nap and bedtime, your little one is likely to become overtired. An overtired child has a harder time settling at night, wakes more throughout the night, and often wakes earlier in the morning.
- Poor sleep habits: Not enough zzz’s over the last nine months may finally be catching up with baby . . . and Mom and Dad, too. If your baby has never been a good sleeper, it is hard to blame any change on a sleep regression. Now may be the time to teach your little one to become a healthy sleeper so that both of you can get the sleep you need and deserve!
What to do?
- Stick to your routines as much as possible. Babies thrive on consistency and structure.
- If you need to make minor adjustments to your schedule and routine during a sleep regression, that is OK. However, do your best not to create any new habits that you will need to break once the regression has passed.
- Consider an earlier bedtime to make up for any lost sleep as a result of inconsistent naps and night wakings.
Renee Wasserman, PT, MPH, founder of SleepyHead Solutions, is a Family Sleep Institute-certified Infant and Child Sleep Consultant. She offers many services including phone, email, Skype/FaceTime, and in-person consultations to solve your child’s sleep challenges. Feel free to email her with any questions. You can find out more information at her website and on her Facebook page.