Parents, does it ever feel like the first year of your baby’s life is just one long sleep challenge? Between sleep regressions, teething, illness, growth spurts, and nap transitions, it can feel like your baby will NEVER sleep soundly, because just when you find your sleep “groove”, another change or transition rears its ugly head.
This is especially true of sleep regressions. There are three sleep regressions that we commonly see happen during the first year of a child’s life, and since each one can last for 6 weeks (or perhaps more, in extreme cases!), it can feel like you are moving from one regression straight into another
However, we also commonly hear parents refer to baby growth spurts as sleep regressions. Indeed, some sleep consultants and experts call baby growth spurts sleep regressions, and vice versa.
So what’s this about? Is a sleep regression the same as a growth spurt? Are the two related? Or are they completely different?
Let’s take a look!
Sleep Regression: A Look at Common Baby Sleep Regressions, and Why They Happen
As I mentioned before, we commonly see three distinct regressions during the first year of a baby’s life.
4 Month Sleep Regression
This sleep regression is tough on parents – it can sometimes feel like you’re straight back to having a newborn again, especially if your baby was sleeping through the night and napping well before the regression started! The 4 month regression happens because your baby’s brain and sleep patterns are maturing and changing. Before 4 months, your baby’s sleep patterns are very different from yours; during the 4 month regression, your baby’s sleep patterns are maturing and becoming much more like yours. As a result, you may find that your baby wakes more frequently at night and too early at nap time; this is usually a result of waking between sleep cycles. You can read our original 4 months sleep regression article, or you can read a newer, updated 4 month sleep regression article as well.
8 Month (or 9 Month, or 10 Month) Sleep Regression
If you manage to get your 4 month old sleeping well after the 4 month sleep regression, you’re not out of the woods yet – you still have the 8/9/10 month sleep regression to contend with! The cause of this regression is pretty easy to spot, for most parents – at this age, your baby is going through major developmental milestones! From 8-10 months, most babies are becoming expert crawlers, they’re pulling up on furniture and beginning to cruise around, and they may even be starting to walk. What’s more, your baby is learning a lot of hand-eye coordination at this time – by 8 months, most babies are becoming able to spot a toy they want, creep/crawl over to it, pick it up with their pincer grip, and then inspect it closely (and perhaps try to eat it!). Truly, this window of time is an explosion of physical development for most babies. No wonder, then, that sleep is disrupted – their brains and bodies are learning so many new physical skills!
12 Month Sleep Regression
This sleep regression is less-common; not every child will go through this one. That may be because it has more to do with naps, and therefore doesn’t have the same overall impact on sleep. Specifically, this regression is characterized by a 12-month old suddenly refusing to take two naps, and refusing to sleep during the first morning nap. Lots of parents assume this means it’s time to transition from two naps to one, but we discourage this. Most babies aren’t actually ready for just one nap per day until between 15 months and 18 months. So really, this regression has a lot to do with your baby consolidating sleep differently – by 12 months, your baby is likely sleeping very long stretches at night, and getting just 2-3 hours of sleep in naps. This change in sleep consolidation can cause a brief “nap strike” right around 12 months of age. You can read more about the 12 month sleep regression here.
Baby Growth Spurts: When They Happen
If you feel like 3 sleep regressions in the first year of life is a lot, just wait until you see how many growth spurts you can expect in the first year:
- 7-10 days
- 2 weeks
- 4 weeks
- 8 weeks
- 12 weeks
- 4 months
- 6 months
- 8.5 months
- 10.5 months
- 12.5 months
Of course, your baby won’t experience growth spurts at exactly those times (babies aren’t nearly so predictable!) but you can use these as rough estimates. Baby growth spurts are short intervals (usually about a week) during which time your baby will have an increased appetite, and will often wake more at night to feed. And baby growth spurts affect sleep, too. During these baby growth spurts, your baby may also seem extra-sleepy, so even though sleep may be interrupted by extra feedings, you may find that your baby’s overall sleep amounts per day are greater during the growth spurt than they usually are.
Sleep Regression vs. Growth Spurt
So, is a sleep regression the same as a growth spurt? The short answer is no. For one thing, a baby will go through far more baby growth spurts during the first year than she will sleep regressions. Additionally, based on the information above, you can see that sleep regressions have much more to do with mental and physical development, and less to do with simple growth and weight gain. What’s more, the sleeplessness that comes with growth spurts has a cause – baby growth spurts cause babies to wake more often at night, and early from naps, because baby is hungry and needs to eat. But that’s not true of sleep regressions; during a sleep regression, your baby will wake more at night and have interrupted naps, but you may not be able to find a cause at all (indeed, because often there is no cause that you can see – it’s due to mental and physical development). Finally, growth spurts are usually short-lived (about a week) whereas a sleep regression can last up to 6 weeks (typically 2-4 weeks).
That said, if you compare the timing of each sleep regression against the list of baby growth spurts, you’ll notice significant overlap. Many of the baby growth spurts on the list coincide with the sleep regression stages. So, while sleep regressions and baby growth spurts are not the same thing – you can’t use the terms interchangeably – it’s likely that a sleep regression impacts a growth spurt, and that baby growth spurts impact sleep regressions.
36 thoughts on “Sleep Regression, or Growth Spurt? Or Both?”
My Daughter is 18.5 month old. We had a personalized plan and we‘ve been working with Nicole when my daughter was around 1 year old. She used to wake up 7-8 times at night, crying and looking for a boob. We have been threw all possible regressions, teething, growth spurts. After working with Nicole we had a success and my daughter learned to fall asleep without breast in her bed. We could also extend feedings and instead of 5 night feedings we had just one and one in the morning. But in the last 3 weeks everything went other direction and my daughter stared to wake up every 1.5-2 hours looking for a breast. She got 3 new teeth but I guess this is not the only reason! If I would not breastfeed her, she cries hours long until she gets it. Than she falls back asleep until next round.. We don’t know what to do with her, I planned to stop breastfeeding soon but I don’t see any way to do it! I tried to extend feeding but she gets so upset, screams and she can do that for a very long time! Please could you advice something?
I’m so sorry to hear you’re experiencing some new sleep troubles! I’m going to ask our client relations team to reach out to you so we can get you some more help. Please hang in there!
My son suffers from severe reflux and a diary/whey protein allergy that wasn’t discovered until he was 10 months old. He is now 16 months and I am struggling with two things – him going to sleep on his own and as of recently waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to self – soothe (not sure what is going on) any advice would be helpful
Thank you for visiting The Baby Sleep Site! I’m sorry to hear you’re struggling so much with your son’s nighttime sleep. Based on your comment, we would need a little more information about what’s going on to help. Would you please send a brief summary of your son’s eating and sleeping schedule to us at [email protected], and a little bit about what’s happening at those night wake-ups, so we can get you some resources to help? We look forward to hearing from you. Please hang in there!
Hi. My son is 10.5 months. He’s always been a good sleeper and napper. We avoided the 4 month regression. A few blips here and there but nothing major. We have a strict bedtime time and routine. According to the wonder weeks app we are in the middle of leap 7. He is army crawling and standing and pulling up the whole day. Last week he barely napped – 2×30 min per day and would wake up screaming bloody murder. Nights were ok. Last 3 nights BOTH naps and bedtime have become murder. He also is ravenous. I have no clue is it’s teething molars, growing pains and a getoerh spurt, separation anxiety, regression, or what? We gave him Tylenol two nights and he slept ok. Thoughts?
@Michelle – Thank you for reading and for sharing with us. It definitely can be difficult to tell a sleep regression from a growth spurt since the “symptoms” of both often overlap especially around 10 months of age. It sounds like your little guy is learning new skills AND burning through lots of calories during the day, both of which can cause more night waking and the sleep regression triggered by these milestones. The good news is that this is generally just a phase that lasts a couple weeks before it passes and we often advise not to develop a long-term habit for a short-term phase. If you find you’d like more support during this time, please consider reaching out to our Client Relations team for more guidance. Hang in there, and please keep reading!
Our son is soon to be 5 months old and his whole schedule is in disarray: He used to take 3 naps of 1 to 2 hrs long during the day, and eat 5 times during the day only. He used to go from 8 pm to 6.30 pm with no food, only waking up in the early morning with or without being able to sleep again soon. This week he has been eating every two hours, wants to eat in the early morning (4 am), some days takes a huge 3-hour nap or no nap in 4+ hours. We would not think much about it but he gets very cranky and cries a lot. This morning he ate 7 ounces more than what he is used to, and before going to bed, vomited a lot! Getting the kind of worried here.
@Dan – Thank you for reading and for sharing. Kiddos do tend to sleep more and eat more when going through a growth spurt. If you’re worried at all about what you’re seeing from your little guy, don’t hesitate to reach out to his nurse or healthcare provider for feedback and direction. Hang in there, Dan!
Hello, my baby daughter was never a great sleeper, specially at daytime. I’ve been tracking her progress since birth and she has managed to reach the 9 hour straight at around 3 months, but that only happened twice! She has also managed to fall asleep on hew own a few times, but that is also rare. I also track her wonder weeks, and that seemed to match with her worse/better periods. Now she is 6 months and her last leap was over about a week ago. She seemed to improve for 2 days but things got pretty nasty after that. She is cranky all day, refuses the solids I’m supposed to feed her, spends the whole afternoon sleeping and nursing nonstop, is waking every 2 – 2.5 hours at night and sometimes asks for the boob at night (I had already night weaned). Could it be a growth spurt? It has been going on for 6 days! Her 3 month growth spurt was similar but didn’t last that long! I’m desperate!
Hi @Manuella, thanks for writing to us. I’m so sorry you’ve been struggling with your daughters sleep, but I do hope I can provide encouragement that it’s not too late to help, for sure! 6 months is a great age and she will still be able to learn how to sleep better and you can help her go through these transitions (perhaps it’s a growth spurt, teething, could be lots of things so I won’t try to guess here). You may want to first download a free guide with have with tips to help your baby sleep through the night: https://www.babysleepsite.com/sleep-through-night-free-ebook/
Now, at 6 months she still may need to be fed 1-2 times at night so know that if that continues to happen while you implement tips from the guide that that is an okay and age appropriate amount of wake ups.
If you need more help beyond a free guide, I’d HIGHLY recommend working with one of our incredible sleep consultants. They will look at a full sleep history of your daughter, what your parenting philosophies are, and they will craft a specific plan for you and support you through it. Here is a link to read more about the different services we offer: https://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-toddler-sleep-consulting-services/
If you have any questions about that, we’d love to help so just let us know or email us directly anytime at [email protected]. I hope that helps!
My baby is almost 12 months and she takes two naps during the day sometimes 30 min naps and sometimes 1h/1h30m but at night she wakes up literally every hour. She has eczema but it’s pretty well controlled except on her hands which she always wakes up scratching and she is also teething. She wakes up very cranky and just wants to nurse. But Im not sure if its the itching or the teething that wakes her up so often. Im very exhausted all the time is worse than when she was a newborn !!
🙁 I really don’t know what to do. She seems tired most of the time but even her naps are short so she just doesn’t want to sleep enough or can’t for some reason.
Thank you for using The Baby Sleep Site as a resource! I’m sorry to hear your daughter is waking up so often! We always recommend checking in with a pediatrician first if you have any suspicion of a medical issue, like her eczema causing her trouble. If you’re sure it’s as well-controlled as possible, then the waking you describe sounds more like a sleep association, possibly with nursing, which can cause your daughter to wake at night. To learn more about sleep associations, read our article here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/sleep-training/sleep-association/
Then you can start coaching her to learn to put herself back to sleep when she wakes at night, either yourself, or with a sleep consultant’s help if you’d like more support.
I hope this helps – please let us know how it goes!
I have almost 19 month old twin boys, and one of them is a good sleeper and the other is not.
He rocks and bangs his head to go to sleep (which I know is fine), he puts himself to sleep pretty well doing this (at nap and bed), since about 6 months old. But when he wakes in the night, this often does not soothe him enough to get back to sleep. He sometimes rocks, bangs, cries (sometimes screams) for 2-3 hours in the middle of the night or early morning, before exhausting himself back to sleep. He wakes his brother up most of the time, as they share a room. This went on really bad during the beginning of the year, for a couple of months, and we solved it by shortening naps, and this did the trick. I have woken him up after two hours every day for their single nap.
This time around, nothing is working. Ive tried shortening nap more, lengthening nap, moving bedtime a bit; nothing works for more than a couple of days.
He doesn’t wake up every night but I’d say at least half the time, and when he does he is almost always up for 2-3 hours. We don’t go in there because we have found that this only prolongs the awake time, because he thinks we are there to hang out with him.
He doesn’t normally even stand up or play – he is only rocking and banging his head on the crib and it seems trying to get back to sleep. We have white moose and a fan, he does not seem hot or cold, and they eat quite a lot (plus dinner is right before bed) so I don’t think he could be hungry.
This time around it’s been going on for at least 6 weeks though I’m not sure exactly how long.
Is this just the 18 month sleep regression or is there something more I can do??
They usually wake up around 6-6:30, nap around 11-1ish, bedtime (with clear routine) about 6:30.
@Nicole, thank you for writing to us! I am so sorry you’ve been struggling with this! Since it has been going on for so long I am going to guess it is not the 18 month regression and seems like a habit for him, but hopefully I’m wrong! I do feel confident that one of our sleep consultants would be able to help if they were able to look at his sleep history and learn more about him, and they would be able to give tips on what to do in this situation. If you want to work with a consultant, please look at our options here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-toddler-sleep-consulting-services/ or feel free to contact us directly at [email protected] and we can explain the options further.
Additionally, if you want to do some extra reading before going to sleep consulting, here is a link to a free guide with tips to help manage toddler sleep issues: https://www.babysleepsite.com/toddler-sleep-tips
Hang in there! I hope this helps!
Hi. My 4.5 month old daughter has been a solid sleeper. She goes down around 18:30 and wakes around 5:30. Suddenly she wakes at 21:00 and every hour after that. We give her the dummy and Dudu blanket and she goes back to sleep. Are we experiencing a regression? Also am I creating a bad habit if I pick her up and cradle her back to sleep if she is particularly fussy? I’m a first time mom and don’t want to destroy her good sleeping pattern she had. Should I not go in and give her the dummy?
Hi @Kirsty, thanks for writing to us! I am sorry your daughter has taken a small step backward with her sleep. I don’t know for sure what this issue is without looking at everything, but it’s certainly possible it is a regression. Here is a free guide with tips for helping your child sleep through the night, which includes information and links to other resources with help for soothing your baby in ways that won’t create negative sleep associations: https://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-sleep-through-night-free-ebook/
Hopefully this passes soon and she is back to sleeping through! Let us know if you need anything else!
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