Sleep Regression + Milestones

Sleep Regression + Milestones

by | Mar 6, 2023 | Regressions

In the first five years of your child’s life, their brain and bodies develop so quickly. Which can cause a sleep regression during these milestones. That’s in forms of cognitive abilities, fine motor skills, sleep skills, movement/physical development, social/emotional milestones, and language/communication milestones. These milestones are likely met with a sleep regression and here’s why they happen.

Baby standing in crib fighting sleep regression

But first, what is a sleep regression?

Your child continues to develop, learn, and evolve as they adapt to learning these new skills. Your little one will start to struggle with sleep when learning these new fun skills.


They want to master those skills and FAST. Some of these skills are rolling over, sitting up independently, crawling/scooting, pulling to standing, walking, and talking. Many baby apps out there will categorize this as a leap or developmental leap.

During the day your little one is continuously trying to master these new skills. Unfortunately the same can be said for night sleep. Your little one wants to become an expert at these new skills even if that means practicing at 2am in the morning! I know its not preferred but that’s the reality of it. The want/need to master this new skill and what suffers is sleep…but don’t worry its only for a couple days.

Why does a sleep regression happen?

Like I said your child is learning new skills at each stage of life if that be smiling, talking, rolling, walking really any new skill there is likely a sleep regression happening. Now there are some sleep regressions that are worse than others but all can be smoothed out if you have healthy sleep habits established for your little one.

If you don’t, no need to panic hop on a FREE Sleep Evaluation Call and we can talk more about your unique situation.

When does a sleep regression start and end?

There is no exact start time and end time for a sleep regression. We are all humans (including your little one) and everyone is different so therefor regressions start and end when your child is ready and mastered said skill. There are some very familiar regressions like the 4-month sleep regression, 12-month sleep regression and 18-month sleep regression. I will go in detail below about each age and why the regression is happening.

Which sleep regression is the worst?

I get asked this question the most and I would say the 4-month sleep regression because it’s where newborns sleep changes and adds in two more sleep phases and their body starts to develop a circadian rhythm! That’s right your newborn (less than 12 weeks) is born they only have 2 sleep stages – REM (dreaming) and deep sleep. 50% of time is spent in both sleep stages.

When the 4-month sleep regression hits their brain needs to add in 2 more light stages of sleep. Additionally, this is usually the time that first signs of teething occur and likely a first tooth. Then lets add on learning to roll front to back and back to front.

When does sleep regression start?

  • 4-months: like stated above, is usually the longest regression.
    • 6-months: The 6-month sleep regressions happen around developmental milestones like reaching for a toy, taking turns making sounds with you, sticking out her tongue, teething, crawling, or scooting, and first introduction of food. Food intolerances and cause a major disruption in sleep.
      • 8-months: The 8-month sleep regression is likely happening because of crawling, pulling herself to standing, looks at you when you call her name, starting to babble words like “mamama” or “dadadad”. The major development here is becoming fearful of strangers or acting shy and dropping a ball into a cup and them looking for it. This establish object permanence, so this is likely why when you put your little one down to play and walk away, they start to get upset.
        • 12-month: The 12-month sleep regression is a big one for many reasons. Starting to stand alone and possibly be taking those first steps if not already be walking. Talking is starting to happen like saying “bye, bye” and waving.
        • 18-month: The 18-month sleep regression, this is a doozy and I’m in the middle of it right now with my daughter. Talking and saying “yes” but especially the word “NO”. They are climbing on everything, imitating you cleaning or vacuuming the floor – which is super cute! But the “NO” that goes with protesting nap time or even trying to get out of the crib!
          • For safety reasons just make sure your mattress is on the lowest setting if not already and if they are still getting out I suggest a sleep sack to keep them safe. If your still having troubles with keeping your little one in their crib safely book a free call and we discuss ways to keep your little one safe in the crib.
          • 36-month: Finally but wont be the last, sleep struggles because of language milestone and mainly exercise their independence. Any big changes like going to childcare, preschool or adding another sibling to your family can also cause regressions around this age.

          Will a new sibling affect your older kids sleep?

          Congratulations on your newest addition! Have you noticed after about a week or two your older child starts to delay bedtime, wakes during the night, protest more during the day, fight naps (if they are still napping)? Well, that is normal. Toddlers don’t like change, and this is a BIG change…your little is sharing your attention instead of having it all.

          My biggest tip is making sure you are giving your little one positive attention not negative attention because to them they don’t understand the difference, they are still getting your attention. If you’re struggling with this regression, reach out and lets talk how we can get you family back on track with your toddlers behavior and sleep.

          Will this end?

          Yes, they do end. It depends on the child but usually lasts until they have mastered that certain skill. So, the more practice we can give them during the day the quicker they can master that skill. As a result less disruptive for naps and night sleep.

          Can a sleep regression affect naps and/or night sleep?

          Unfortunately, yes regressions can affect both naps and nighttime sleep. Likely to see more affects with naps then overnight.

          Can you avoid a sleep regression?

          No you can not avoid a sleep regression, but you can help shorten the length of the sleep regression by giving your little one lots of practice during the day for that developmental milestone and making sure they are going to sleep independently. I help families work through many sleep regression. During the time we work together or setting them up for short periods of sleep regression.

          If you are struggling by:

          • getting your little one to stay in bed.
          • sleep through the night.
          • fall asleep without you in the room or bed.
          • or if you’re tired of all the crying before bed.

          Let’s jump on a call so we can make a plan how to achieve your goals for your little ones sleep. This way they can get the sleep they need to get through these milestones. Most importantly get you your evening back to do things you enjoy and re-connect with your partner.

          The Result:

          After about 3 weeks, your child has the confidence and comfort to say goodnight and fall asleep independently, sleep through the night (if age appropriate), and wake up rested.


          You get a couple of quiet evening hours to yourself and a full night's sleep (every night)

          To learn more and find out if working together feels right for your family, book a Free Sleep Evaluation with me today.