Every parent of a small baby knows the moment of relief that comes as their little one begins to sleep for longer periods. It starts when they snooze for up to 5 hours at a time around 3 to 4 months. But as they grow during that first year, that period increases to about 10 to 12 hours.
However, many parents notice that throughout the first year especially, babies often experience sleep regressions. The 10-month mark is considered a typical time for this normal setback. So, what is a sleep regression, how common is it, and what can you do to get your baby’s sleep schedule back on track?
A sleep regression is defined as a phase when your baby who was previously sleeping well suddenly has trouble sleeping without an obvious cause, such as illness.
Signs can range from struggling to fall asleep at bedtime to waking more frequently through the night. Sleep regressions can also happen as early as four or eight months of age or even later when your child is a toddler.
However, not all experts agree with the concept of defined sleep regression months. This lack of a consensus is because these phases can happen sporadically rather than consistently at an exact age. While experts agree that regressions may happen, many are uncomfortable with labeling them by specific months.
If you’re currently struggling through a sleep regression phase, don’t despair. Typically, sleep regressions last for a few weeks — anywhere from two to six weeks. So, even though it might feel like you’re going back in time to those sleepless nights from infancy, just remember that this is temporary.
Experts agree that sleep regressions aren’t a sign of bad parenting. So, rather than beating yourself up, keep in mind that your child is growing and changing daily.
Between developmental gains or even a shifting schedule, there are plenty of reasons why your child might refuse to nap or struggle to go to bed at night. Also, keep in mind that a child who isn’t feeling well might also experience disturbed sleeping patterns.
Around 10 months old, many babies begin to make the transition from crawling or pulling themselves up to cruising and walking. Likewise, they might also be gaining language skills and learning new words. With all that activity, it’s not surprising that their afternoon nap is losing its appeal or that they’d rather stay up with you at night!
That said, not making it a point to stick to a more defined sleep schedule for naps or bedtime can be a contributing factor. A routine goes a long way if your little one is struggling to fall asleep and stay down throughout the night.
Along that same line, bedtime habits like feeding babies until they fall asleep or holding them until they’re snoozing can also contribute to interrupted sleep. Little ones might wake up during the night and wonder why they’re not still eating or where their parents have gone. In the latter scenario, you could be encouraging separation anxiety.
So, should you just resign yourself to 2 to 6 weeks of sleep-related nightmares if you suspect your child is struggling with sleep regression? We say an emphatic no to that.
Check for illness
First, make sure that there isn’t an underlying issue like an illness or reflux that’s knocking your child off of their regular sleep schedule. Other issues such as teething might also be the culprit, so keep this in mind as well.
Stick to a routine
Even though it’s tempting to try new techniques to get your little one to get back on track, don’t. It’s best to use methods that worked the first time you were creating a sleep routine. Common options include:
- minimizing stimulation or activity as bedtime nears
- sticking to a bedtime routine like giving a bath and reading a book
- putting your baby down for sleep when they’re drowsy rather than asleep
- encouraging self-soothing
It’s tempting to want to rush in and comfort your baby every time they wake up, but you should keep that interaction to a minimum. Instead, make sure you leave your baby in their crib, but give them a reassuring pat or rub on the back to help them calm down.
Try the Ferber method
The Ferber method is a sleep training technique commonly known as the “cry it out” method. It’s meant to encourage self-soothing by only briefly responding to your baby’s cries after progressively longer intervals.
While studies have suggested
If you opt to use this method, keep in mind that during the intervals of progressive waiting, you’re only checking in on your baby, not consoling them back to sleep. If you have an incredibly determined baby, you may be listening to them cry for a long time.
If you’re one of the parents who think that cry it out is not an option, other gentler sleep training methods exist that don’t require a hardline approach to encouraging healthy sleep patterns.
Find an expert
If it has been more than 6 weeks and your little one is still off of their sleep schedule, it’s not a bad idea to talk with an expert. Start with your pediatrician to ensure that there aren’t any underlying conditions that are making a restful night’s sleep impossible.
You may also consider working with a sleep consultant who can offer support for common sleep issues. This support can range from a phone consultation to in-home or overnight visits to monitor the issues you’re facing and provide specific solutions.
So, how much sleep should your 10-month-old baby be getting? Experts note that babies this age sleep for a total of about 12 to 16 hours per day.
This breaks down to roughly 9 to 12 hours of sleep at night, as well as a total of 2 to 4 hours of naps throughout the day — usually spaced out as a late morning and mid-afternoon nap. Of course, keep in mind that every child is different, and not every baby will sleep within that range.
If you’re wondering whether your behavioral habits might be encouraging poor sleep in your baby, keep these tips in mind.
- Keep your bedtime routine consistent.
- Keep late-night waking interactions quiet and short.
- Make sure your baby’s room or environment is dimly lit.
- Ensure the temperature is comfortable — not too hot or cold.
- Avoid feeding your baby to sleep. If feeding close to bedtime, it should be an early part of the routine.
Sleep regressions — no matter when they happen — aren’t fun for parents. Help your 10-month-old through this period and be flexible enough to make adjustments as needed.
But keep in mind that this phase is temporary. Establishing strong routines will help you handle this short-term hurdle and set you up for long-term sleep success.