You know what one of the worst sleep through the night myths out there is, in my opinion? The myth that once a baby starts sleeping through the night, that’s it – night waking over! Forever! And they all slept happily ever after.
Except no, that’s not how it works. Yes, teaching your baby to sleep through the night, or teaching your toddler to sleep through the night, is a huge milestone. And once your little one is capable of sleeping through the night, you can look forward to lots of rested, sleep-filled nights.
But sometimes, even ‘good’ sleepers turn ‘bad’. That is to say that sometimes, babies and toddlers who have been sleeping through the night for weeks, or even months, suddenly start waking again. This is normal – sleeping through the night is not a ‘one and done’ kind of thing.
But why do babies and toddlers who have been sleeping through the night suddenly stop? That’s what we are tackling in today’s article, readers. So read on for details, and find out why your baby or toddler’s nighttime sleep may have suddenly taken a turn for the worse!
Baby or Toddler Stopped Sleeping Through The Night? 7 Reasons Why
- Sleep regression — This is your most likely culprit. Sleep regressions often creep up out of nowhere,and they tend to wreak havoc on sleep – both the nighttime AND the nap time variety! Your little one’s age will be a factor here – if your baby or toddler is around 3 or 4 months old, between 8 and 10 months old, around 11 or 12 months old, 18 months old, or 2 years old, then you can probably attribute the new night wakings to a sleep regression.
- Growth spurt — Babies and toddlers go through a series of definite growth spurts in the first year, and those growth spurts can affect sleep in a big way. Namely, during a growth spurt, you may notice that your baby or toddler wakes in the middle of the night feeling hungry and wanting to eat. This can happen even if your little one has been sleeping through the night, with no night feeds.
- Teething — By age 3, your toddler will have a mouth full of teeth – that’s a lot of tooth-growing in just a few years! No wonder, then, that teething pain and discomfort seems to constantly plague babies and young toddlers. And, of course, teething impacts sleep; an imminent tooth can make for sore gums, which in turn makes for night waking.
- Illness — Cold and flu season is (thankfully!) just about done here in the U.S., but a wise parent knows that illness can strike anytime – and those illnesses affect sleep. And even something as innocuous as a mild cold can really do a number on a baby or toddler’s sleep, leading to lots of extra night wakings.
- Nap Transition — Your baby or toddler’s nap needs change quite a bit in the first 18 months of life, and all those nap transitions tend to keep your little one’s daytime sleep and feeding schedule in a fairly constant state of change. Naps may happen later than usual, or not at all, and those changes to daytime sleep will definitely impact nighttime sleep.
- Schedule disruption — Sometimes, things come up – and those things don’t always fit into your schedule. “Schedule-busters” like vacation, or maybe an after-school sport activity for an older child, can disrupt your baby or toddler’s schedule to the point where night sleep will be affected.
- Big life change — Big changes, like moving to a new house, the birth of a new sibling, a separation or divorce, etc. will definitely impact sleep. Changes like this may cause separation anxiety to grow worse, for one thing – toddlers may become extra-clingy, and may become fearful and weepy at bedtime. Even babies will feel these changes, though, since they will no doubt mean disrupted schedules.
Your best bet in the case of a sleep regression is to wait it out as best you can, without reverting back to old sleep associations.
Your best bet in the case of a growth spurt is to offer extra feedings, and to remember that the growth spurt will pass. (Really, it will!)
Your best bet in the case of teething is to offer a little bit of pain relieving medication (although you will absolutely want to check with your baby’s doctor first!) You can also try giving your baby something firm to chew on (even better, something cold and firm.)
Your best bet in the case of illness is to ask your doctor what you can do to help your baby or toddler feel more comfortable.
Your best bet in the case of a nap transition is to make sure that your little one isn’t napping too much during the day, and to make sure that all naps are over before dinnertime – no evening ‘naps’ allowed! 😉
Your best bet in the case of a short-lived disruption (like a week-long vacation, or a holiday) is to get back on track as soon as you can. In the case of a longer-term disruption (like an after-school program that lasts 8 weeks, for instance), you may want to adjust the normal schedule to accommodate this new activity.
Your best bet in the case of a big life change is to offer your baby or toddler extra comfort, and to operation a modified schedule (if necessary) while the changes are happening. Then, get back on track as soon as possible once the change is done.
Help Your Baby or Toddler Sleep Through The Night Again
It’s true that babies and toddlers who know how to sleep through the night don’t do so always and forever. There will be night wakings, and sometimes, there’s really nothing you can do to avoid those night wakings (like in the case of illness, or growth spurts, or sleep regressions).
But remember, if your baby or toddler has never slept through the night, and still needs to be constantly rocked or nursed or held to sleep, you may have a bigger sleep problem that you need to deal with. Sleep associations like these can be changed, and you can help your baby or toddler learn to fall asleep on his own (which is the first step to learning to sleep through the night).
If you’d like to personalized help in changing your baby’s sleep associations and working towards sleeping through the night, we are here for you! Our personalized consultation packages offer a range of support, and our trained sleep consultants are ready to work one-on-one with you to improve your baby or toddler’s sleep. Take a look at our consultation packages, and see which one looks like a good fit for you.
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Once you purchase, you will immediately receive access to the Helpdesk, and you can set up your account, fill out your Family Sleep History form, submit it to a consultant, and get started on the journey to better sleep!
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If you’re looking for ways to get your baby or toddler into a healthy sleeping routine during the day, I encourage you to explore Mastering Naps and Schedules, a comprehensive guide to napping routines, nap transitions, and all the other important “how-tos” of good baby sleep. With over 45 sample sleep schedules and planning worksheets, Mastering Naps and Schedules is a hands-on tool ideal for any parenting style.
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