Home Family Infants and Toddlers Expert Tips to Overcome Baby’s Sleep Regressions – International Institute of Infant Sleep

Expert Tips to Overcome Baby’s Sleep Regressions – International Institute of Infant Sleep


As a parent to a curious and energetic 7-month-old boy, like many parents, I have been on a roller coaster ride when it comes to understanding my child’s sleep. He was the perfect sleeper until the 4-month mark, and then, it seems like overnight, sleep became a distant dream for us. In my search for answers and a good night’s rest, I have turned to an expert in the field. Today, it is a pleasure for me to chat with Carla Evans from the International Institute of Infant Sleep. Carla will help us understand more about sleep regression and offer practical advice to our readers.

Welcome, Carla! Many parents are familiar with the term “sleep regression”. This term is thrown around a lot among parents. Can you break it down for us in simple terms?

Carla Evans: Thank you for having me! Of course. Imagine you are learning to ride a bike. Some days you make progress, and other days you wobble more and might even fall. Babies’ sleep patterns are similar as they grow. “Sleep regression” is commonly used to describe periods when a baby, who has been sleeping well, suddenly starts waking up at night, has difficulty falling asleep, or has shorter naps. However, the term is a bit misleading as it implies a step backward in development. But it’s not really a regression. It’s more like they’re “wobbling” because they’re learning and growing. It’s more about progression in their growth and learning, which can temporarily disrupt sleep.

Interviewer: So, in light of all this, are sleep regressions real?

Carla Evans: The experiences parents describe are very real! However, the term “regression” might not be accurate. It’s more about progression and change. Dr. Mindell, a renowned sleep psychologist, has researched this topic. Her analysis was based on data from thousands of mothers but it is important to mention that it was not peer-reviewed. She studied the sleep patterns of children under 6 years of age. She looked specifically for spikes in nighttime awakenings. Interestingly, her research, involving thousands of mothers, didn’t pinpoint specific ages where sleep disruptions were guaranteed to happen. This suggests that while many parents report changes in sleep around certain ages, there isn’t a universal “regression” schedule that all babies follow.

On the other hand, neurologists and sleep experts like Dr. Thomas Anders also weigh in on this topic. With over 40 years of sleep research, Dr. Anders notes that the so-called “four-month sleep regression” is often linked to changes in sleep architecture. That means the way a baby’s brain cycles through different stages of sleep is maturing. He indicates this shift could happen anytime in the first six months and might be more of a gradual transition than a sudden regression.

So, in essence, while the term “sleep regression” is widely used, it’s more about a period of progression and adaptation in a baby’s life. As babies grow, their brain and sleep patterns evolve. These changes are a normal part of development, but they can cause temporary disruptions in sleep. It’s a nuanced area, and even with ongoing research, we are just beginning to understand the intricacies of infant sleep and brain development. The key takeaway is that these periods of change are a natural part of growing up, even if they can be quite exhausting for parents.

Interviewer: That’s interesting! So, is it a normal part of development?

Carla Evans: Yes, this is normal. While it’s a common experience, not every baby will go through noticeable “sleep regression”. There’s a wide variety of normal when it comes to infant sleep. Some babies breeze through these stages, while others might have more noticeable disruptions in their sleep.

Interviewer: Can you explain why some babies seem more affected by this sleep regression than others?

Carla Evans: Every baby is unique, just like adults have varied sleep patterns. Some might be more sensitive to changes in their environment or routines, while others might not seem affected much at all.

Interviewer: As we talk about the 4-month sleep regression, could you describe the signs parents might notice in their babies during this time?

Carla Evans: Absolutely! When your baby hits that 4-month mark, a few things might change with their sleep, and it’s good to be aware. 

First off, you might find your little one isn’t sleeping as much as before. They might have shorter naps. It’s like suddenly, they’re more interested in the world around them than sleeping! 

Then there’s the fussiness. We all get a bit cranky when we don’t sleep well, right? Babies are no different. They might cry more or seem unsettled when they wake up. It’s their way of saying, “Hey, something’s different here, and I’m not sure I like it!”

You’ll likely notice they wake up more during the night. One day your baby is sleeping peacefully, and the next, they’re up every few hours. It can be tiring, but it’s pretty common during this time. Nap times can get a bit unpredictable too. Your baby might resist naps, or the naps might be shorter or at different times than usual. It’s all part of them adjusting to this new phase of sleep development. Lastly, some babies find it harder to fall asleep. Even if they’re tired, they might fuss or resist sleep. It’s as if their little brains are too busy processing all the new things they’re learning to settle down easily.

It’s quite a list, I know! But remember, this phase doesn’t last forever. Usually, it’s just a few weeks, and then things start to settle down.

Interviewer: Carla, what can parents do about the 4-month sleep regression?

Carla Evans: Great question! There are several strategies parents can employ to ease this transition period. 

Interviewer: I’ve heard that letting babies practice their new skills during the day can help. Is that true?

Carla Evans: Absolutely! Around four months, babies are often working on rolling over and are eager to practice this skill, sometimes even at night. By giving your baby plenty of time during the day to practice, they might be less inclined to practice at bedtime, helping them settle down to sleep easier.

Interviewer: Makes sense. What about bedtime routines? How important are they?

Carla Evans: Bedtime routines are crucial. At this age, babies start to understand cause and effect, so a consistent bedtime routine helps them anticipate what’s coming next. In this case – sleep. A simple routine like a bath,cuddles and massage can signal to your baby that it’s time to wind down. Keeping it consistent is key.

Interviewer: And putting babies down drowsy but awake – how does that fit into the picture?

Carla Evans: It’s a foundational habit. By putting your baby in their crib while they’re drowsy but still awake, you’re teaching them the invaluable skill of falling asleep independently. This way, when they naturally wake up at night, they are more likely to soothe themselves back to sleep without fully waking up or needing your intervention.

Interviewer: Nutrition must play a role too, right? How does feeding impact sleep?

Carla Evans: You’re spot on. Ensuring your baby is well-fed during the day is essential. At this age, babies are easily distracted and might not feed fully if there’s a lot going on around them. Try to feed them in a calm, quiet environment to ensure they’re getting enough nutrition to last through the night.

Interviewer: Keeping the room dark seems like a straightforward tip. Does it really make a difference?

Carla Evans: It makes a huge difference. Darkness cues the brain to release melatonin, the hormone responsible for sleep. Keeping the room dark at nap and bedtime can significantly improve sleep quality. In the morning and during wake times, expose them to natural light to help set their internal clock.

Interviewer: Nighttime awakenings can be tough. Any tips on handling those?

Carla Evans: When your baby wakes up during the night, give them a few minutes to see if they’ll settle on their own. If you need to intervene, keep it low-key. Low lights, quiet voice, no playtime. This helps reinforce the idea that night is for sleeping. And yes, avoid screens as the light can be stimulating.

Interviewer: It sounds like extra cuddles during the day could be beneficial. Is that right?

Carla Evans: Definitely! Extra love and affection during the day can provide the comfort and security your baby needs. It can help them feel more relaxed and secure, which in turn can lead to better sleep.

Interviewer: Asking for help isn’t always easy. How important is it for parents to reach out?

Carla Evans: It’s incredibly important. Parenting, especially during a sleep regression, can be exhausting. Encourage parents to lean on family and friends for support. Even a few hours of rest can make a big difference in their well-being.

Self-care is crucial. Parents need to set realistic expectations and understand that sleep regressions are a normal part of development. It’s not a reflection of their parenting skills. Find ways to get rest, even if it means unconventional sleep schedules or taking turns with your partner. Remember, this phase is temporary, and seeking support and taking care of yourself is key to navigating it.

Interviewer: Carla, you’ve given us many helpful tips, but I want to touch on something crucial. How do parents differentiate between normal sleep changes and signs that might indicate a medical issue like reflux?

Carla Evans: That’s a vital aspect to consider. While many sleep disruptions are due to developmental changes, they can sometimes signal a medical issue. Parents should watch for signs like persistent discomfort, especially during or after feedings, excessive spitting up, or inconsolable crying. If your baby is showing any of these symptoms or if something just doesn’t feel right, don’t hesitate to consult your pediatrician. They can help determine if it’s part of the usual sleep changes or something that needs medical attention. Trust your instincts as a parent and seek professional advice when in doubt. Your baby’s health and your peace of mind are paramount.

Interviewer: Carla, your insights have been incredibly helpful for navigating sleep regression. For those interested in helping others with this knowledge, could you tell us how one might become a sleep consultant at the International Institute of Infant Sleep?

Carla Evans: Of course! Becoming a sleep consultant is a rewarding journey that allows you to guide families through these challenging sleep periods. It all starts with a passion for helping families and an interest in baby sleep.

When you’re a parent feeling worn out because your baby’s sleep seems unpredictable and elusive, a sleep consultant is the professional who steps in with a fresh perspective. We start by examining everything from A to Z — the bedtime routines, how the room is set up, even what happens before bedtime. We’re thorough because every child is unique, and so is every family’s lifestyle. We gather all this info to create a sleep plan that’s as unique as the little one we’re helping. 

However, it’s important to remember that we are not doctors. Our first advice to any family is to ensure their child is healthy and any underlying medical conditions are addressed. After the pediatrician gives the green light, that’s where we come in, offering support and strategies to make those sleepless nights a thing of the past. 

Within these guidelines, as a sleep consultant, you offer practical help. You guide families in establishing a consistent, calming bedtime routine that sets the stage for a restful night. You provide insights into ideal nap times, bedtimes, and wake-up times that sync with the child’s natural sleep-wake cycle. This improves not just the duration of sleep but also its quality. You’ll help change sleep associations, making it easier for the child to fall asleep independently and stay asleep through the night.

Interviewer: What’s the first step?

Carla Evans: The first step is education. At the International Institute of Infant Sleep, we offer a comprehensive sleep consultant certification program that covers all aspects of child sleep, from the basics of sleep science to handling specific sleep challenges like the topic that we discussed today – sleep regression.

Interviewer: What kind of background do you need? Do you need to be in a specific field to start?

Carla Evans: No, our program welcomes people from all walks of life. While a background in child development or healthcare can be beneficial, it’s not a requirement. We value diverse experiences because everyone brings a unique perspective to the table. What’s most important is a commitment to learning and a genuine desire to support families.

Interviewer: What does the training involve?

Carla Evans: The training is comprehensive. It includes online modules, reading assignments, and practical exercises designed to give you a thorough understanding of child sleep patterns, common disruptions, and effective strategies to support families. You’ll learn about the importance of routines, how to create conducive sleep environments, and ways to communicate effectively with parents. 

Interviewer: Are there any particular skills or qualities that make someone a good fit for this role?

Carla Evans: Absolutely! Listening and providing support with compassion is key. And of course, an enthusiasm for helping others make all the difference.

Interviewer: Any final advice for those considering this path?

Carla Evans: If you’re passionate about helping families and you are interested in child sleep, I encourage you to explore this path further. It’s a field where you can truly make a difference in people’s lives. Remember, the work you do as a sleep consultant goes beyond nighttime routines. You’re helping to lay the foundation for healthy, happy development. So, if this speaks to your heart, take that first step and see where it leads.

Interviewer: Thank you so much, Carla, for shedding light on the topic of sleep regressions and offering reassurance to many parents out there!

Carla Evans: It’s been my pleasure. Remember, every baby is unique, and so is every sleep journey. Patience and understanding go a long way!

Written by
Clara Underwood

Clara is a lifestyle writer, outdoors enthusiast, and a mother of two. She writes about everything from weekend family outings in nature to fostering emotional intelligence in children. Clara believes that a balanced family life is the cornerstone of a healthy society.