Sleep regression. Sorry a sleep what?

September 8, 2020

Sleep regression… Sorry, a sleep what?

I’ve worked in the area of baby sleep for nearly a decade and only the

last couple of years have I started hearing terms like ‘sleep

regression’ and LEAPS. And while these terms have been used before,

it’s only recently that they have appeared more commonly.

I started to worry that I was missing out on some vital information.

So, I took a deep dive into both these theories; and, well I have to

say my dive was not so deep.

Do you know what I found? Nothing. Not a single paper written about

sleep regressions. So I thought I mustn’t have looked hard enough. I

have parents mention them almost daily and I see many programs

claiming to be evidence based, referring to sleep regressions. So I

spoke to the formidable sleep researcher Harriet Hiscock and she

also confirmed to have never seen a study on sleep regression. Still, both

perplexed and curious, I talked to other medical professionals who

work with parents and babies. The all said the same thing; that they

constantly hear about sleep regression, but only from parents, not

fellow medicos.

So I think we should set the record straight. There is no age you need

to fear. There's not one single credible research paper done on ‘sleep

regression’. I’m not saying sleep regressions don’t exist; but there’s

no actual evidence.

There is evidence of parents and I’m not saying this isn’t valid, but

it seems to have gained a good deal of PR lately and suddenly, it’s

been presented ‘as a fact’.

Then I wondered; how did this happen? How had this vernacular

entered the parenting world so swift and strongly. Suddenly, anyone

experiencing some troubles or concerns with their babies sleep, is likely

experiencing a regression. But really,  it’s just normal baby behaviour to change now

and again. And yet for some reason, we feel the need to pop a label on


I understand, that like so many other things about our babies. We

want an explanation for their behaviour. But I think in doing this, we

take away from what is real. They are little people with different

needs and wants. Different temperaments and personalities.

And they change, and grow and develop and that’s completely normal!

So, why do I even care? I care because I see the anxiety it can cause

parents. It can see them waiting, not so eagerly, for the 4, or 6 or

12 month regression. I can see them losing hope about implementing

sensible sleep habits, because they expect a regression is coming and

it’s not worth it. I see them worrying, when there's absolutely

nothing wrong with the way their baby is behaving and instead of

enjoying the now, they are worrying about the next ‘regression’. I

also see the helplessness parents feel against the almighty regression.

Like it is something so big that they can’t control, so why bother.

I know many parents will say; ‘but my baby did change at 4 months’.

This can most definitely happen, but what I think is damaging is the

expectation that it will happen to ALL babies. In my experience, the

changes that occur in this age are usually when there have been less

than ideal sleep practices.  As the baby develops, these sleep

practices are harder for parents to maintain. The same thing happens

at 12 months, they start to learn to stand and realise this is a new

fun way to explore. There hasn’t been any ‘regression’ it’s just a


So let’s switch out regression, for PROGRESSION and focus on

celebrating these changes instead of wasting valuable time,

living in fear of your baby's development .