How to Deal with Sleep Re-gression or Should we say Pro-gression

Written By: Sara Fabello

Sleep RE-gression. First let’s get the elephant out of the room. Your child is not regressing - they are PRO-gressing! A progression is defined as the process of developing or moving towards a more advanced state. You child is not returning to a less developed state - yes their sleep might become disrupted but that is completely normal.

Our babies experience the most intense developments during the 4th, 6th and during 8-10 months during the first year. Their development skyrockets, their motor skills are increasing at a rapid pace and cognitive leaps and teething are all common during these times. While you can take this as a sign that your baby is doing exactly what they should be, it can be challenging as you can see your sleep reduced and even your routines completely upside down. The best way to deal with these progressions is to understand exactly what is going on. These major developments are entirely normal and should be expected but each of them are completely unique.

The 4 Month Progression our babies lose their stimulus barrier completely, which protects them from becoming overwhelmed in their new world. This change is often the most challenging for new parents and can last up to a month. You cannot pour from an empty cup so really try and focus on self care during this time and do whatever you need to do to support sleep; in arms, motion naps or baby wear. Do not think that you will be creating bad habits during this time and really focus on supporting your baby with their new skills during the day and offering a menu of soothing support strategies at night. Lean into your instincts and follow those - your baby regulates off of you, so the more comfortable and understanding you are, the more relaxed your baby can be.

The 6 Month Progression is usually due to the new skill of sitting unassisted or rolling which can be accompanied by practising this new skill during sleep and causing wakings. They are also processing their world at new heights and will want extra comfort. Babies coincidentally have a major growth spurt during this time and breastfeeding moms may notice an increase in feedings for nutrition and comfort. Breastfed babies cannot overeat at this age so continue to feed on demand and allow your baby lots of floor play to get moving and continue to practise self care. Take comfort in knowing this progression usually only lasts about a week.

The 8-10 Month Progression is a big one. Babies are teething, exploring solids, cruising all over the place, learning to stand and communicating like never before. Most notably they are learning object permanence and developing separation anxiety. Your baby who once may not have minded if you leave the room are now understanding you are gone and they will let you know they want you back. This progression can last a few months and sleep is nearly guaranteed to be affected. Great ways to support your baby and yourself through this are by playing peek-a-boo, practise stepping away for a short time and letting the baby know you will be “right back”. You can also ensure you are saying goodbye when you do leave so they will begin to understand if you have left you will be returning and if I haven't said it enough - practise self care! This time can feel suffocating for moms as baby is always wanting to be in close proximity but understand that you have done such an amazing job and your baby is truly attached to you.

No matter what age progression you are experiencing, just remember that you are the regulation for your baby and it’s perfectly normal to feel frustrated at times so give yourself the space to breathe and take care of yourself mama! Your baby is doing exactly what they should be and as all things do, this too will pass.

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