Just when you thought you had this whole baby sleep thing figured out and could finally get a good night’s rest yourself, your baby starts waking up at all hours of the night and interrupting your slumber once more. What happened?
This could be a sign of sleep regression — an act that many seasoned parents dread. What is sleep regression, you ask? It’s simple: your baby regresses back to their newborn sleep habits for seemingly no reason. Luckily, this usually isn’t a problem you should be too concerned about.
We’re covering your most pressing sleep-related questions, with the help from expert Kathryn Stagg so your baby (and you!) can reclaim the night and sleep like a… well, like a baby.
What is sleep regression?
A sleep regression is actually a progression. Baby's sleep can be affected when they are hitting a developmental leap because they’re learning loads of new things. This is quite worrying for a baby and they often need lots of support to cope with the new scary world they find themselves in. They also need lots of milk to fuel the extra brain growth. Babies often begin to wake more and feed more frequently during these times.
How should I be putting my baby to sleep?
The short answer: in whatever way works for you. Feeding to sleep is by far the easiest, especially if you're breastfeeding. I'm a big fan of using what mother nature has given us and we have lots of lovely sleep-inducing oxytocin when we feed. So I always suggest using it for as long as it lasts, unless it's causing a problem.
Cuddling, rocking, sling, buggy, car — everything is fine. The most important thing is giving them the opportunity to sleep. It doesn't matter how or where. Later on, you can begin to change the how and where, but to begin with, do whatever works for you and your baby.
What is the right type of pillow to buy for my newborn?
Newborns should never have a pillow. Pillows are a SIDS risk. Babies should sleep on a firm, flat surface on their backs with no extra stuff around them. If you are bed sharing, ensure the duvet and pillows cannot cover the baby. Keep them out of the way to avoid putting your baby at risk.
What sleep training do you recommend and at what age?
Here’s the hard, cold truth: We can't train our babies to sleep better. Babies need to be able to join sleep cycles together without adult intervention. It is a developmental stage, just like walking and talking. And just like walking and talking, they all do it at different ages.
However, there are things you can do to maximise their potential. The most important is to not let them get too overtired in the daytime. Watching baby's sleepy cues and getting daytime sleep and bedtime optimised often has a knock-on effect of improving night time sleep. But babies are supposed to wake in the night. It is protective against SIDS, plus they have small tummies that need filling frequently. Research shows that 80% of 18 month toddlers still wake 1-3 times in the night. It is normal, so relax and accept it as the norm.
How can I help my little one sleep through the night on her own?
If your child keeps getting out of bed and coming back to your room, your first inclination might be frustration, but you should actually feel some sense of pride. You’re their safe place and they keep coming to you because they know that everything in the world is right when they’re with you.
However, they also need to learn how to sleep on their own all night. To start, you can try a rewards system. Give them a "ticket" for every wake up they usually do. They can trade-in one ticket for each wake up. If they have any left in the morning, they can swap them for something nice.
Sometimes, having a link to you can work well. Maybe it’s a piece of your clothing, something that smells of you they can cuddle, a picture of you on the wall, or even a toy who "looks after them like mummy.”
How do I get my baby on a sleep schedule?
This is another painful truth pill to swallow: there really isn’t any such thing. I believe in following your baby's lead, learning their cues, watching them closely, and building a pattern to your day around these. All humans are individuals. Some will fit on to a prescribed schedule. Many won't. It's far less stressful to find your own rather than try to force something that doesn’t work.
From discovering what is sleep regression to understanding the “norms” of baby sleep, remember we’re all in this together. Remember — there will be a day when you get a full night’s sleep again.