A Blog from Your Kaiser Permanente Pediatricians in Northern California

Baby in crib

Baby Sleep Regression? Think of It as Progression

Your baby was sleeping fine for weeks and then suddenly they’re up multiple times each night. What happened? A friend may tell you, “They’re having a sleep regression!”

This concept is popular, but research hasn’t supported the idea that your baby’s sleep may revert to an earlier stage of waking up more often. It’s true that sometimes their sleep pattern seems to have slid back. But I suggest you think in terms of progression rather than regression!

There are many reasons a baby who was sleeping well may start to wake more. Most of these have to do with developmental milestones. During the first year, your baby learns so many new skills: rolling over, sitting up, pulling to stand, and walking. They also start to:

  • Babble and then talk. 
  • Have physical growth spurts.
  • Develop stranger anxiety and understand that when you walk out of the room you can be called back. 

All of this is progression along a normal path of development. But – it’s also rough on sleep!

The key to surviving these periods of nighttime waking is usually to stick to a clear bedtime routine that gives your baby a chance to learn to soothe themselves to sleep. Of course, increased night waking can come from physical discomfort. Ear infections and teething are classic culprits! So check with your pediatrician to be sure all is well. Then, if the night waking is exhausting you and making it hard for your family to get enough rest, you may want to consider sleep training.

Start by giving your baby a chance to learn to fall asleep on their own. All of us – including babies – wake up several times a night. Adults know how to roll over and go back to sleep. But if all a baby knows about falling asleep is the feeling of you holding, feeding, or rocking them then that’s what they’ll need to get back to sleep each time they wake up. They need to find their own tricks!

Have a clear nighttime routine – feed, bathe, change them. Read a book together. Then lay them in their crib with a pacifier and maybe a mobile to look at and some white noise, and walk away. A brief period of fussing is okay for a baby over 4 months. Longer fussing? Read about basic sleep training options.

It’s normal for babies’ sleep patterns to change as they grow and develop. Patience and consistency will get you both through the rough patches and to periods of better sleep!

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