as published in https://roanoke.macaronikid.com/
Starting the journey of sleep training comes with a lot of questions and concerns. One of the main concerns is the possibility of the dreaded sleep regression. Parents and children work really hard to teach and learn new skills and worry about how these news skills will be affected by developmental milestones, illness, becoming a big sibling, and travel. The not so popular but honest truth is, because children are developing new skills all the time, sleep is not linear. It is not like walking or riding a bike, where once a child knows this skill, the skill sticks. Sleep is much more delicate, and it is important for sleep consultants to be forthright about this fact. Travel, illness, teething, and developmental milestones do play a role in sleep, and regressions can happen. Sleep regressions are actually quite normal, and they can be a good sign that your child is developing and growing. This knowledge does not mean sleep regressions will be something you throw a party about, but it might lighten the frustration a bit to know that they are a sign that your child is developing a fantastic new skill. As a matter of fact, it is common for children to experience 2-5 regressions in sleep per year. So, here is what to know about them and how to navigate.
First, it is helpful to know when to expect these possible regressions. So, below are weeks developmental bursts tend to happen. Wonder Weeks does a really good job at keeping parents posted. Check it out at https://www.thewonderweeks.com/the-mental-leaps-and-wonder-weeks/. It would take an entire different article to go into detail about what your child is learning during each of these wonder weeks. For our purposes, know that your child’s brain is doing a lot of amazing work. And, this is why sleep is a bit more challenging during these times.
Developmental Bursts or The Wonder Weeks
*I am starting at week 12, because we don’t advise sleep training in the first few months.
Separation anxiety between 8-11 months and again between 17-23 months
Cognitive ability for imagination developing around age 2
If you sense your baby needs you to move in closer and offer more support during the above developmental phases, trust your instincts! It is a perfectly good to offer the support they need as they move through these phases. Try not to worry too much about creating a regression or, “bad habits.” Just like us, sometimes babies need an extra amount of comforting. Once babies are out of the weeds of the developmental stage, you can reintroduce a sleep training method that is appropriate for their age and temperament (Finding the fit makes all the difference! Contact me to learn more at candybeers-kim.com). With prior success, babies will catch back on quickly to this familiar routine. I, personally do not consider being at a Wonder Week a true regression. The challenge with sleep is coming for a legitimate and good reason, your baby is growing! And, this stage will pass. The issue for some babies/toddlers is that these stages can create a true regression. You will know this is happening if your baby/toddler continues to expect the same level of presence you offered during the developmental burst, which lasts about a week. In this case, you still want to reintroduce a strategy to help your child regain his/her confidence in sleeping.
Going through a developmental burst and possible regression is similar to those first few weeks of life. You attune to your child’s needs and move in close. This can feel really challenging to do, when worried about how these few days will affect your child’s sleep. I totally get it! Who wants to go through a regression?! They are horribly frustrating, and everyone is tired. But, the best advice I can give is that it is really okay to move in close during developmental spurts, teething, and illness. Once you are out of the weeds, if a regression does develop, re-introduce sleep training.
Travel, moving, or becoming a new sibling is a little different process. We can prep kids for these changes and avoid regressions. A great way to do this is by writing a little book about the upcoming change, validating your child’s experience about it and offering reassurance that he/she will be okay. You can also offer dramatic play that allows your child to practice this new experience and express his/her concerns. Please feel free to contact me for additional information on preparing children for these life events. I am happy to answer questions and lend support on sleep and other parenting interests.