Child sleep problems are equally challenging for both parents and children. It can be even more challenging when you don’t know if it’s a sleep regression, a habit, or a phase that prevents your child from getting the sleep he needs. Here’s everything you should know!

When you first became a mother, seeing your baby’s eyes for the first time overwhelmed you. Now, a few months into the future, you’re faced with another overwhelming experience: you’re wide awake at 4 am, begging him to go to sleep.

It happens to most parents.

Your baby would cry for 3-4 hours every night before going to sleep, require hours of bouncing to get drowsy, and wake up every 2 hours at night wanting to nurse.

And it’s horrible.

Apart from being sleep deprived and fighting with your partner, you’re always worried if there’s something wrong with him. Is he in pain? Is he trying to tell me something? 

Most parents struggle to understand whether their baby is going through a sleep regression, a phase, or a bad habit.

I’m here to try to clarify the confusion about your child sleep problems.

When is it a sleep regression?

Several common sleep regressions can disturb your child’s sleep routine:

  • The 4-month sleep regression: if your child was sleeping well and suddenly began waking up a few times per night, crying, he may be going through the first sleep regression called the four-month sleep regression. Apart from a disturbance in sleep, other signs include fewer naps, changes in appetite, and fussiness. The first sleep regression happens due to changes in your baby’s brain as he’s trying to adapt to his new environment. 
  • The 8-month sleep regression: when your child reaches eight months, he may start having trouble sleeping again. In some cases, this is due to the 8-month sleep regression resulting from rapid growth and brain development. His brain is just overwhelmed from so much information, and it makes sense that he’s having a hard time adjusting.
  • The 18-month sleep regression: around this age, your child is a walking and talking toddler. As a result, he may go through the 18-month toddler sleep regression that has to do with his newfound independence. Another cause may be separation anxiety. He was used to having his parents around 24/7, and now you start leaving him alone for nap time and walk out of the room at bedtime. 
  • The 2-year sleep regression: two-year-olds are going through significant life transitions, such as transitioning to a big-kid bed and potty training. It’s also around this age when toddlers start having nightmares. All of these factors can lead to an exhausting sleep regression. 

What’s important to remember is that these sleep regressions are temporary and usually last for about 3 to 6 weeks. Hopefully, after a few weeks, he will go back to how he was sleeping before.

Watch out for the signs to determine whether your child’s sleep problems are due to sleep regression or something else. 

If your child starts sleeping well at night more quickly than 3 weeks, then it may be that he was struggling with other factors like baby teething or a change in schedule.

However, if he still struggles with sleep after the 6-week mark, it may be a sign that your child has a bad sleep habit. 

child sleep problems a habit or a phase

When is it a phase?

A sleep phase can happen due to a developmental milestone and a change in your child’s external environment. 

Although sleep regressions happen due to development, it’s important to say that not every developmental change results in a full-blown sleep regression.

 For example, a developmental milestone may be learning to stand up, crawl, roll, hand gestures, talk, eat solid foods, etc. As small as these changes may seem, they can make a child feel unsettled, overtired, or overstimulated. As a result, child sleep problems may appear. 

In the same way, changes in the external environment can lead to a sleep phase. These changes can include welcoming a new baby into your home, moving to a new home, going on a vacation, or your child getting sick.

When is it a habit?

A general rule of thumb is to wait a few weeks to see whether the sleep regression or the phase will fade.

For example, after paying attention to when the symptoms began and noting what major change took place at that time, you can determine what’s the root cause of the issue for the child sleep problems.

However, if a few weeks pass and the symptoms persist, I advise parents to take action. 

Another thing to keep an eye on is to see whether your child’s sleep problems become even worse. For example, if he was waking up three times per night and is now waking up six times every night, that is excessive even for a sleep regression. That would be another reason to start working on improving your child’s sleep. 

child sleep problems sleep regression or a habit

What can you do if your child has a bad sleep habit? 

As soon as you feel like you can’t function in everyday life due to sleep deprivation, and see that your child is struggling is well, it’s time to do something about it.

One way of helping your loved one grow out of his child sleep problems is by sleep training. I work with many parents with babies and toddlers who are going through the same issues.

If you’re looking for ways to get your baby or toddler into a healthy sleeping routine, I always advise starting sleep training as soon as possible.

Whether it’s gentle sleep training a baby or sleep training a toddler, I can help you create a personalized sleep plan just for you and your family. I will be there to help you with every step of the way, offering you tips and strategies for how to best implement sleep training into your child’s routine.

Moreover, if your child doesn’t respond well to the sleep training method, we can always tweak the plan as needed. 

Are you ready to say bye-bye to persistent nighttime struggles?