The Regression Roller Coaster


You may not want to hear this but your little one will go through many phases and regressions with their sleep in their first 2 years. It can be a bit like riding a very loopy roller coaster, the regression roller-coaster!  The main reason behind all the changes to your little one’s sleep is that they are constantly growing, developing and processing in their first 2 years. This constantly requires their routine, needs and you to keep up and go with them.  We can never get to the end of the day; relax and think “Phew, haven’t we have got this sleep lark nailed!” for the next day it all can change again as they like to keep us on our toes!

Whilst these loops with their sleep are understandably frustrating, disheartening and completely exhausting, they ARE perfectly normal. It also means developmental wise your little on is bang on track and they are learning as they process their world around them.

Understandably it can be easy to panic when you are riding the roller coaster,you may think their sleep will be like this forever or  they and indeed you will never sleep again! HOWEVER they usually do pass on their own and if they don’t I can help you gently get your little one’s sleep back on track. My role as a sleep consultant is not to promise you that your baby is never going to wake again (that is very unrealistic!) but I can give you the confidence and tools to get them back on track when it does.

Here is all you need to know to help you and your little ride out the roller-coaster of regression:

What is a sleep regression?

A sleep regression is a change (which let’s be honest is usually for the worse!) to your little ones sleeping patterns and habits when they previously were sleeping reasonably well. It may be that your nap champion has started to refuse their nap or your baby who was sleeping well at night starts to wake more frequently throughout the night. Typically they occur when they are going through huge physical and emotional changes or developments. They usually last around 1 to 4 weeks but of course every baby is different and some may take a little longer to get back on track.  

The most common sleep regressions are at:

4 months

8-10 months

12 months

18 months

2 years

The 4 month regression

The 4 month regression is such a huge loop the loop that it has an article all of its own. You can find my useful article all about the 4 month regression here:

The 8-10 month regression

Why does their sleep regress now?

This regression is all about development and there sure is a lot of it going on for your baby right now:

They are beginning to eat more food both in volume and variety.

Teething is usually in full swing by now.

They are learning, practising and fine honing their exciting new gross motor skills such as:

  • Rolling
  • Crawling
  • Cruising

The last cat nap of the day may get dropped.

They may move out of your room in a room of their own.

How you can help your baby:

Give them lots and lots of time during the day to practice and fine tune their new found physical skills.

Try to limit buggy, sling or “strapped in” time where you can. At this age they just love to be free to roll around on the floor!

Sticking to your usual bedtime and bedtime routine will help them to feel settled with the changes that are going on around them.

Having skin on skin contact still plus lots of hugs, cuddles and kisses will help calm and reassure your baby whilst boosting your bond.

Introducing a comforter if you haven’t already can help comfort and reassure them. Place this in your bed for a couple of nights or down your top before giving it to them so that picks up your scent.

Have some daily quality time with your baby without any distractions so you can totally focus and hang out with them. Just 5 minutes can make a big difference!


If they start to drop that last nap of the day bedtime you may need to bring bedtime forward so that they don’t get overtired. An over tired baby can be hard to settle and wake more frequently during the night.

The 12 month regression

Why does their sleep regress now?

The good news is that not all babies will go through this regression. Hooray! If your little one does go through this regression is all down to their naps.  Around this age they may start pushing their morning nap to later, refuse a nap or skip them all together. This can knock their naps a little off kilter for a while causing what I like to call the tricky transition phase!

How you can help your baby:

The key to riding out this phase is having a flexible nap schedule and go with your baby on a day to day basis, some days they will need 2 naps whilst on other days they may only need one nap! This phase can be frustrating but once they have transitioned to one nap a day it usually settles down.

I would also recommend:

Not pushing your baby to transition to one nap a day. Once again all babies are unique and they all do this in their own time. There is absolutely no rule that by one year old they SHOULD be having just one nap a day. Do what works for you and your little one.

Bedtime may need to move slightly earlier or later depending on the nap situation that day.

The 18 month regression:

Why does their sleep regress now?

Their molars are now coming through with a vengeance

They are getting more and more independent which they love but it can also unsettle them slightly and they need more reassurance than normal.

Separation anxiety can kick in big time!

How you can help your toddler:

  • Keep to your usual nap routine, bedtime and bedtime routine as much as you can.
  • Make sure your toddler’s room is a calm and quiet place for sleep.
  • Have lots of extra hugs, touches and kisses during the day and try to initiate the contact so they aren’t the one always seeking out the reassurance that they need.
  • Have some special one on one time each day with them where you are completely present and not distracted. Allow them to choose exactly what they want to do and go with them. I would recommend you start off with a small chunk of time and it build from there, 5 minutes of this a day can have such a positive effect on them.

To help them with the separation anxiety during the day:

  • Always tell them you are about to leave and that you will be back. Sneaking away can make them even more anxious.
  • If they are really suffering start off with very small amounts of time and build up from there.
  • Introduce a 3 sentence cue and use it consistently:

Just going to get the door/get my lunch/heading out
Shout “Be right back!” as you are heading out
From outside the room: Shout “Still here!”
When back in the room: “I came right back!”

This will help them feel settled and they will learn that when they hear you shout “still here!” that the next step is you come back.

Games like peek a boo or hide and seek with yourself or toys can help them process that an object can still be there even though you can’t always see it!

The 2 year regression

Why does their sleep regress now?

Around 2 years of age there are usually huge changes for your little one:

They may get a brand new sibling.

Potty learning may commence.

They may transition to a toddler bed.

They start going to nursery or pre-school.

They may drop their nap (gasp!)

There is a lot of pressure for them to “grow up” but they are very little still and going through big changes.

How you can help your little one:

Keep to your usual daily schedule and bedtime routine as much as you can.

If they do drop their nap then you may need to bring their bedtime earlier so that they don’t become overtired.

Once again nap transitions are tricky! Go with your little one on a day to day basis, for example they may need a nap every other day or even every few days to catch up.

Giving them gentle bedtime boundaries by sticking to the way you usually settle them at bedtime can make them feel safe and secure in their new bed. However some children need more reassurance at bedtime for a bit and this totally normal!

Have some special one on one time each day with them where you are completely present and not distracted. Allow them to choose exactly what they want to do and go with them. I would recommend you start off with a small chunk of time and it build from there, 5 minutes of this a day can have such a positive effect on them.

If you would like to a chat with me or  would like to find out more about how I can help your family do get in touch: hello@kerrycaresparenting