Children are bound to have set backs and fluctuations in their sleep patterns from time to time. They are also going to regress on occasion and put up a fight when it is time to sleep. Sleep regression is all very normal and is their way of testing boundaries. Therefore, as always, remain confident in the rules you have created surrounding bedtime, and remain positive in your abilities to enforce them.
When my clients go through the sleep training process, they learn so much along the way; not only about their child but about child sleep patterns in general. When a sleep regression occurs down the road, they have the knowledge and resources to address it properly. My Sleep Training Packages not only include the customized sleep plan and two weeks of support, but also a Sleep Success Packet. This will tell you exactly how to handle each sleep set back as well as step-by-step instructions covering all of the sleep milestones your child will experience through age five.
The first thing to do is remember not to panic! This is easier said than done, but it is important. Both parents should always be on board with the guidelines and need to present a united front. The minute your child discovers the weakest link, they will pounce! Be assertive and set a good example by making your own sleep a priority and they will follow your lead, and don’t forget they can sense your anxiety.
Look at the situation from an outside perspective and take into account more than a 24 hour period. If your child has an off day, don’t worry and just enforce their regular routine the following day. If the sleep regression continues for several days, use process of elimination to assess the situation. Are they not feeling well? Are they teething? Did they just reach a milestone?
When a child reaches a milestone, such as crawling, standing, walking, etc. there is often a disruption in sleep patterns. The way to avoid this is to make sure you give your child plenty of opportunity to practice their new craft during the day.
When dealing with an illness, respond as you feel necessary. Babies are not machines, and we are not monsters. Our children need us to comfort them when they are sick and tend to their needs. Once your child is settled, and you have offered them relief in the form of medication, essential oils, or whatever you feel is appropriate to the situation, place them back into their crib. Once you have done everything you can and they are calm, the best thing is for them to get their rest.
If your child is teething, this can get tricky. Teething can start very early on, much earlier than a tooth even appears. If you start breaking your sleep rules every time you think your child is getting a tooth, you will enter onto a slippery slope and before your know it, their schedule will be thrown off. Instead, offer them comfort such as some relief in the form of medicine if you so choose and then put them back to sleep. You do not want a tired child on top of a child suffering from teething pain. Baby Orajel works very well, as does Hyland’s teething tablets.
Your interactions and responses to your child at night are key and should be your main point of focus when correcting their set back. This is more often than not what causes the most issues for parents.
Example: Your child has a rough night sleeping and you change your response to him by rocking him to sleep, sleeping with him, feeding him to sleep, etc. For some children one night of major change and inconsistency in your response is all it takes to throw them off and cause a regression. Therefore, when you are dealing with a sleep regression, make sure you remain super consistent and always follow through!
Last but not least, make sure bedtime and nap time are occurring at the right hour; not too late and not too early. If your child has reached the age where they are now experiencing a different biological sleep wave than before, you need to get them on that new sleep wave.
*If you suspect that there could be a medical issue going on please see your child’s physician.
Remember, don’t panic! Sleep regressions are bound to happen and you are more than capable of getting things back in order. Remember that you are the parent and you make the rules and create the structure. Bedtime and nap time are non-negotiable. No one knows your baby like you do and you are the one that knows what needs to be done in order to remind them of their routine/schedule so that the entire family can continue getting the rest they deserve!