Sleep Solutions 101: Your Complete Guide to Managing Newborns’ 6-Week Sleep Regression
3. 8. 2023
17. 7. 2023
Newborns experience sleep regression in their early childhood, even as early as 6 weeks. But while it’s a disruption to pre-existing sleep patterns, it’s usually a sign of overall development in them.
Although a common phase, most parents are ill-equipped to handle sleep regressions, leaving them confused and, sometimes, exhausted.
This article delves into all you need to know about the 6-week sleep regression period, helping you manage it properly.
If you’re ready, let’s get into it.
What Causes the 6-Week Sleep Regression?
We all know:
Newborns sleep much longer and more randomly than adults do. But they settle into a more organized sleep schedule after a little while.
After specific milestones critical to their growth, they start to show signs of fatigue, which is a major reason why your baby won’t sleep.
But what exactly causes this?
Let’s discuss some below:
1. Growth Spurts
Growth spurts in infants describe phases of physical growth, changes in appetite, and developmental milestones that occur rapidly. It is usually characterized by behavioral changes like frequent wake-ups, clinginess, and fussiness.
This rapid physical growth can cause your baby to experience sleep regression. During a growth spurt, your baby’s body needs more nutrition, which leads to an increased appetite. As such, it disrupts its normal sleep pattern as it wakes up more often to feed.
A growth spurt can lead to heightened irritability in babies. Your baby could be restless or uncomfortable when awake and struggle to sleep.
2. Increased Awareness
From 6 weeks of age, your baby’s sensory awareness expands, and becomes more conscious of its environment. Some stimuli that went unnoticed may now capture its attention and can disturb its sleep.
Gina L. Posner, MD, a Pediatrician at the MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center, Fountain Valley, California, says, “As they get closer to the 2-month mark, they start becoming a little more interactive.”
Your baby can now respond to familiar voices and social contact, and recognize faces. Your newborn is also likely to have an increased sensitivity to light, making it difficult for it to fall or stay asleep in a bright place.
As a result:
Sleep regression kicks in, lasting from a few days up to a week.
3. Maturing Circadian Rhythm
The Circadian Rhythm is a natural cycle that influences our periods of sleep and wakefulness. The National Institute of General Medical Science describes it as the set of holistic changes that follow a day-long cycle.
When your baby’s circadian rhythm matures, inconsistencies in its normal sleep pattern occur, resulting in a sleep regression.
In this process, hormones, such as Melatonin and Cortisol, are released, and they largely influence sleep and wakefulness. During sleep regression, these hormones can fluctuate, causing an imbalance due to response to various stimuli. Thus, it can impact your baby’s sleep pattern.
Babies experience significant neurological growth during sleep regression and form new neural connections. These rapid brain developments boost sensory processing and cognitive stimulation, making them more active with you and their surroundings.
Parents will often notice that their babies are more responsive to their voices and more interested in playtime. And with increased activity levels comes a disruption in your newborn’s sleep patterns.
What Are the Symptoms of the 6-Week Sleep Regression Period?
Identifying when your baby is experiencing the 6-week sleep regression is important. Also, it is easy for parents to attribute the symptoms to an illness or dismiss it.
Doing this leaves you first unprepared and, next, wishing you weren’t. Take note of the following symptoms to know when your infant’s 6-week sleep regression period is around the corner.
1. Frequent Nighttime Awakenings
If your baby wakes up often at night, it’s worth paying closer attention to. But if it’s approaching its second month and you’re certain it’s not ill, it’s most likely a sign of sleep regression.
Frequent night awakenings are a clear sign of sleep regression. They usually occur irregularly, changing sleep patterns and causing sleep deprivation for you and your baby.
2. Appetite Changes
During the sleep regression period, your 6-week-old might experience changes in its appetite. It may show increased hunger and more frequent feedings, even at night. This change in appetite and feeding schedule is usually due to the need for soothing and comfort through feeding.
3. Shortened Naps
When your baby begins to experience shorter, fragmented day-time naps, sleep regression is likely the cause. It leaves your baby overtired due to frequent daytime wake-ups, and unable to stay asleep for its usual nap duration.
4. Increased Fussiness and Irritability
The inadequate, fragmented sleep newborns experience makes them irritable and unsettled. They usually exhibit increased fussiness and crankiness, especially with sleep-related activities.
Expect them to cry more and easily get irritated by any inconvenience.
5. Heightened Clinginess
It is very nice when you appear to be your baby’s favorite person, and it won’t let you go.
In most cases, that “infatuation” might be influenced by sleep regression.
During sleep regression, babies are more clingy and need more parental comfort. This behavior is often a response to their changing sleep patterns and growing awareness of their surroundings.
6. Difficulty Falling Asleep
Your baby may struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep during sleep regressions. In fact, when it wakes up at night, which will occur often, it will not easily go back to sleep.
This leads to extended periods of you coaxing them into slumber with additional soothing techniques like rocking and cuddling.
Your baby can experience infantile colic, which according to the American Family Physician, is regular hours-long inconsolable crying.
How Can Parents Manage the 6-Week Regression Period?
Navigating this period is something even seasoned parents and child-care professionals dread. And you may face a meaner sleep regression with your new baby even if you have gone through the process before.
Managing the 6-week sleep regression period could be difficult. Still, I have some tips to make it easier:
1. Use a Consistent Sleep Routine
A sleep routine is useful for getting your baby to start and stay sleeping.
It helps your baby create sleep associations such that once the activities begin, your baby begins to settle for sleep. This includes massages, playing lullabies, a warm bath, and rocking.
These sleep routines can enable you to manage the regression and gradually gain control, so you can put your baby to sleep.
2. Don’t Let Your Baby Get Overtired
In addition to following a regular routine, ensure your baby doesn’t get overtired. It’s quite an interesting state to be in because your baby will be very tired but not sleepy.
To achieve this:
Watch out for your baby’s sleep cues and respond to them. They may include actions such as your baby rubbing its eyes or yawning.
3. Create A Comfortable Sleep Environment
Where newborns sleep plays a crucial role in how well they sleep. As such, you should pay attention to the elements that foster the perfect ambiance for their sleep environment. A comfortable sleep environment is defined by the following:
Eliminating bright light and noise is important because your baby is sensitive to both during this period. Essentially, you want to avoid various forms of overstimulation.
Prioritize using wraps and sheets that give comfort while removing objects that could harm your baby while it sleeps.
4. Adjust Your Baby’s Sleep Schedule
Disrupted sleep schedules are quite discouraging, especially if it took you some time to discover and follow one.
But you must understand that these routines are dynamic and will change from time to time. As such, ensure to be flexible while responding to factors that can alter your infant’s sleep schedule.
You should adjust that sleep schedule to accommodate the effects sleep regression has had on your baby’s sleep pattern.
Doing this helps your baby get the sleep it needs, allowing you to manage the effects of sleep regression.
You should be more tactful than usual with your baby to navigate this period. Providing more comfort and reassurance through skin-to-skin contact helps.
When Will the 6-Week Sleep Regression Period End?
The 6-week sleep period does not last forever!
But exactly how long does it last? That depends on two things.
Your baby, as no two babies are the same. And the transition out of the regression it may face may be gradual compared to others.
How successful you are at managing it. Your tact in nullifying the effects of sleep regression determines the answer to this question.
A 6-week sleep regression typically lasts from a few days to about four weeks. Still, it can vary.
Sleep regression is challenging, and for new parents especially, it could get scary. Thankfully, it is a temporary phase and ends within a few weeks.
You need to be patient, persistent, and adaptable during this period. You must also be willing to adjust your strategies to help your baby navigate sleep regression.
The 6-week sleep regression in newborns is unavoidable and can be identified by different factors. Growth spurts, increased awareness of their surroundings, and a maturing circadian rhythm are a few.
Symptoms of this regression include frequent night awakenings, shortened naps, appetite changes, and difficulty falling asleep.
But you can manage it effectively by:
- Following a consistent sleep routine
- Not allowing your baby to get overtired
- Creating a comfortable sleep environment
- Being flexible and adjusting your baby’s sleep schedule
If this article was helpful, do let me know in the comment section. Also, I look forward to entertaining any questions you might have with any of the tips above.
FAQ: Navigating Your Baby’s 6-Week Sleep Regression
Some of the signs of a 6-week sleep regression are shortened naps, difficulty falling asleep, frequent night wakings, and appetite changes. However, some babies may show more signs than others, as all babies are different.
First, be patient and maintain a consistent sleep routine. In addition, ensure your baby is not fatigued and create a comfortable sleep environment with safe sleep associations. Finally, as you notice changes, adjust its sleep schedule to accommodate the effects of sleep regression.
About a few days to four weeks. Although, every baby is unique and may have a different duration. It’s equally dependent on how well you manage the regression symptoms.
Sleep regression is a natural phenomenon, and it may not be possible to prevent it completely. Regardless, you can reduce its impact on your baby by following a consistent sleep routine and fostering a cozy sleep space.