We spend so much time putting in the effort to teach our babies how to sleep independently. So when they stop sleeping through the night, it hits us hard. Sleep regression can be challenging, but as we already know, so is parenting. However, there are ways we can help and things we should avoid to get them back on track. When tackling sleep regression, here are some questions & tips to explore.
1. Are you following appropriate wake-windows?
How much sleep did your child get during that given day? Wake windows are a crucial factor in terms of your children’s sleep schedule. Long naps may require your child’s bedtime to be pushed back a half-hour or so, and short naps may mean an even earlier night. If you find two naps are causing their sleep schedule to be later than 8 PM, you may want to transition them to one nap a day. I transitioned my daughter to one nap around her first birthday, but I know other parents who hold off until their babies are between 15-18 months.
2. Is your child familiar and comfortable in their room?
Do you try and spend portions of your day playing with your child in their room? When I first sleep trained our baby, I took the time to get familiar with her settings. We would play several hours a day in her room, and I made sure all diapers changes happened in there as well. If your baby wakes up, you want them to feel safe wherever they are. By getting your baby acclimated to their surroundings, when they wake up, they will contact secure, even when you are not in sight.
3. Is your child’s room set up to help them sleep?
In a previous blog post, I discussed the battle I had with my husband over a sound machine and blackout shades. Initially, my husband was against both additions. However, blackout shades and sound machines can make a huge difference. My daughter would only nap for about 30 minutes at a time. Upon research and the Taking Cara Babies sleep program, I learned all about our sleep cycles. Josi would wake up, see her mobile, and everything she could play with. By removing her mobile and darkening her room, she would put herself back to sleep when she would wake up after 30 minutes.
We have a dog in our house who loves to bark and a video game addict (cough cough, my husband) who tends to shout from time to time. As annoying as that can be, a sound machine keeps all outside noise out of our daughter’s room. Plus, when she hears the sound machine turn on, she instantly calms down and understands it is time to sleep.
4. Does your child use a “security” blanket?
Teaching your baby how to self-soothe can be challenging, but we can help. If your child doesn’t have a lovey or blanket that they love to carry around, you should try to find something they love. Giving them a “security blanket” during those unexpected wake-ups may help put themselves back to sleep without your help.
Bonus tip: If or when you find a blanket that your child loves, buy extras! You do not want to be in a situation where their blanket is lost, and you have no back-ups!
5. Does your little one use a sleep sack?
I think many parents try to get their babies out of sleep sacks too soon. I genuinely believe that our daughter understands that it is time to go to bed when we put hers on. It also keeps her warm and makes it harder to crawl out of her crib. You can read all about the sleep sacks we used by checking out my previous blog post. Are you aware of sleep cues?
6. Is your child exhibiting sleep cues?
All children are different and show exhibit other sleep cues when they are tired. Maybe your child rubs their eyes; perhaps they request their pacifier or blanket, maybe they lie on the floor, whatever the case may be, figuring out what your children’s sleep cues are. Once these are figured out, and you see your child exhibiting that habit, start their nap or nighttime routine. The last thing you want to do is to cause your child to catch a second wind.
7. Does you have a bedtime routine?
Naptime routines can be tricky since you never know what the day may bring, but when I turn on our daughter’s sound machine, put her in her sleep sack, and give her favorite blanket, she understands it is time to settle down. Once I turn off the light, I sing the same song every night a couple of times and put her in her crib.
Her bedtime routine consists of a bath, followed by her milk and a half-hour of her favorite show. Once we turn off the TV, it’s storytime, and then she goes to bed. Some children cannot watch any television before bed since it tends to keep them awake. If that is the case, find your child’s favorite books and read them the same ones every night before bed.
8. Do you feed your little one during nighttime wake ups?
Giving your baby anything to eat or drink during nighttime wake-ups is one of the biggest mistakes parents can make. You are keeping them up for longer than necessary, but you are also training them to think midnight snacks are okay. These late-night bottles can also affect your child’s overall oral hygiene. Going to bed without brushing their teeth can cause decay and cavities. That is why nighttime feedings, after a certain age, should be avoided at all costs.
9. Do you go into your child’s room when they wake up?
Running into your child’s room every time they cry can create bad habits. You are essentially telling your child that if they call, you will come to their rescue. Try your best to stay out of the room. Your baby needs to learn how to self soothe. Although making them cry it out can touch, it is the best thing you can do to get your baby to sleep through the night. If you feel the need to go into their room, avoid removing your child from their crib. Instead, lay your baby back down and gently rub or pat them on the back.
This Too Shall Pass
As I always say, no one knows your baby better than you. Sometimes, late-night wake-ups can be a warning sign to an oncoming cold, ear infection, or even a dirty diaper. Listen to your gut and do what you feel is best. Keep in mind that sleep regression is a part of almost every parent’s world and can be bought on by various things. Although I am in no way, shape, or form a sleep specialist, I understand the power of sharing victories of my own to help fellow parents. Below I linked some of my favorite products that helped manage sleep regression and our over-all sleep issues.