Your Roadmap To All Things Sleep Regressions: 4-18 Months!

baby sleep gentle sleep tips holistic sleep coach sleep progression sleep regressions toddler sleep Jul 11, 2024
Your roadmap to all things sleep progressions/regressions

If you’re a parent, I can almost guarentee you’ve either heard or googled the term “sleep regression”.. maybe at 3AM?? 

Or “Is there a sleep regression at X age”. 

Sleep regressions are one of the most popular baby sleep topics out there. 

I get how hard they can be. And as parents, we like to know what's going on and for how long it will last. And while there are many aspects of baby sleep that we can't control, I hope this blog will give you some insights into what's happening with your baby during these tricky phases of sleep. 

From here on out, I’m going to be referring to them as sleep PROgressions. Why? Because the term regression has a negative connotation and it’s not an accurate description for what’s going on with your baby. 

Did you know: Besides the four month sleep progression, all of the other ups and downs that you see when it comes to sleep are simply development impacting sleep. 

There’s not anything happening with their sleep archetiture and they’re not “regressing”. They are PROgressing. 

Another caveat - Don’t anticipate that sleep will get tricky during these phases. Yes it might, but it MAY NOT. Don’t worry about something before it’s happened. 

Okay, now that that’s out of the way! 

In this blog, we’ll cover 5 common times you may see sleep disturbances, why it might be happening, and practical tips to help you and your baby through it. 

I have guides that can help you get better sleep at every step of the way. They're in depth and comprehensive. If you want to check them out, click HERE

In this blog, we’ll cover: 

👉4 months 

👉6 months

👉8-10 months 

👉12 months 

👉18 months 

Jump ahead to whichever progression you're little one is currently at! 

Let’s dive in! 

The 4 month sleep progression

This might be the most googled sleep progression period of them all. I see a lot of fear mongering around it online. But let me reassure you that you don’t need to be fearful of this age and stage. 

You've likely all heard about the 4 month sleep progression but what is *actually* happening?!

Newborns have two sleep stages – quiet sleep (NREM) and active sleep (REM) and your baby’s time spent in each sleep stage is basically 50/50 meaning they are spending HALF the time in quiet, or deep sleep.

Somewhere between 3-5 months of age, your baby’s sleep cycles will mature and their entire sleep architecture will change. Your baby will gain two more stages of sleep, meaning there are now 4 specific sleep stages, just like adults!

This looks like:


If there are more sleep stages, why is my baby waking more?

Great question!

The answer comes back to sleep architecture.

It’s important to note that NREM1 and NREM2 are light stages of sleep. Now that your baby has more sleep stages, this means they are spending LESS time in deep sleep and of course, this means they are spending more time in lighter sleep as well as transitioning between sleep stages more frequently.

Not only this, but your 4 month old needs genuinely less sleep over a 24 hour period than they did as a newborn (shifting from 14-17 hours to 12-15 hours on average)

All of this basically means they are now far likely to wake, and with a sleep cycle coming to an end every 45-60 minutes, this could be quite frequently.

When will it end? 

Firstly, deep breaths! I know it might feel like their sleep is going backwards, but this REALLY IS a PROgression!

Not only with sleep cycles, by also development! You have probably noticed that your baby is learning so many fun new things – more aware of their surroundings, interacting more and more and maybe even mastering rolling! While this is a permanent change to the structure of your baby’s sleep cycles, a lot of the time this regression will pass all on its own within a few weeks!

If you are in the thick of the PROgression, remember, it WILL pass. Don’t forget to look after yourself while you are looking after your little person – you have nothing to give if you are already empty.

How to support your baby? 

  •  Do a little check of their awake time to make sure sleep pressure is optimal, whilst there is no magic number awake times tend to increase by 15 minutes every 3ish weeks - remember to check for sleepy cues to find the sweet spot (if you're stuck my free awake times and sleep totals guide can help!)
  •  If you haven't already, introduce a bedtime routine
  •  Layer in as many sleep association are you can to give your baby lots of tools to drawn from during their sleep cycle transitions
  •  Lots of time on the floor for free play
  •  Optimise sleep hygiene and limit exposure to white or blue based light an hour or so bed.

Tips for managing this natural stage in development 

  •  Call on the village and ask for support
  •  Napping in the day may not be realistic but do something to fill your cup - a rest with Netflix, a book, a workout, a walk outside etc whatever works for you!
  •  Try to get an early bedtime if you can and see if a partner can manage the initial resettles
  •  Practice some self care, however this looks for you
  •  Listen to a podcast or an audiobook while settling your baby
  •  Try to get fresh air and sunlight every day
  •  Meal prep. I know it sounds weird, but nothing makes you feel worse than toast for dinner 7 nights a week.

If you’re on the struggle bus during this 4 month progression, I’ve created an entire (100 page +) guide on this topic alone! You can grab it HERE and start reading immediately. 

The 6 month sleep progression

There is much happening at the 6 month mark! Your little one may be experiencing some separation anxiety, starting solids and learning lots of cool new tricks - rolling, crawling, scooting around and perhaps even starting to sit!

*This sleep progression generally occurs between 5-7 months of age and will pass within a few weeks!

Sit, Scoot, and Crawl

Your baby has been continuing to master their rolling, they may also now be sitting unassisted and scooting around! Whenever your baby learns new skills, they will want to practice them day and night, which means their sleep can go a little sketchy!

Your little one is likely going to practice their rolling (and get stuck) and then their sitting (and get stuck) and then their crawling (and flop a leg out of the cot) - it can be a messy transition and they may need more support (this is okay!) BUT if your baby is happily playing in the cot, see if they need a little more awake time and its absolutely okay to sit and see what happens if they are happy!

You can also offer all practice in the daytime to ensure they have this out of their system before bed and feel confident if they move overnight!

Solids and milk 

It is recommended that baby starts solids on or around 6 months of age and this can cause BIG disruption when it comes to sleep!

Your baby has never digested food before and all those new tummy sensations may keep them up a little more at night. Of course, any food sensitivities or intolerance might make sleep a little tricky too, and this might show up as part of your solids journey.

You can start by offering solids at breakfast or lunch to minimise the impact on your baby's night sleep, increasing to dinner as solids establish, but don’t rush this - slow and steady!

Make sure you don't forget about milk! Solids are complimentary and we need to make sure milk stays the hero!

"They just won’t settle!" 

Your baby is much more alert and active now.

They also can stay awake for longer and on less sleep which can make settling them to sleep a little tricky!

Almost every client that I have in the midst of this sleep progression has one thing in common - not enough sleep pressure!

Remember, we need enough sleep pressure so that your baby actually *feels* tired enough to sleep. If your baby is just not interested in sleeping, consider if they need a little more awake time and lots of free play in their awake window!

On average, a 6 month old baby will need around 2-3 hours awake time but remember your baby's sleep needs are unique and they may need a little more or less.

If your baby has been on this awake time for more than 3-4 weeks and if they are taking longer than 20 minutes to settle just try adding 15 minutes and see what happens!

"They only want me!" 

Separation anxiety can be a theme for some little ones in this age, as well as strong parental preferences.

It’s important to remember that bedtime is also goodbye so it’s quite common to suddenly see some resistance here.

The best way to support your baby is to INCREASE support. Try offering longer wind downs with more intentional connection, try co-bathing and baby massage for some skin to skin.

When it comes to settling, your baby might need more from you, that's okay! This might mean you need to hold them longer, stay with them as they drift off or offer lots more support to settle them to sleep - remember, this is likely just a season and as separation anxiety passes, this will settle again too.

If you need extra help to get over this tricky phase, check out our 4-18 Month Sleep Guide HERE

The 8-10 month sleep progression 

I would say this 8-10 month mark is when we see the most amount of families reaching out for support. (If you’re at your wits end, you can check out our consults HERE). 

This can be a really tricky time. And by sleep training standards (which is not our vibe here at The Gentle Sleep Coach) sleep should be all sorted by 8 months, right?! 

Well, that’s not the case for many families. And this is normal! They’re still so young. 

What’s happening?! 

You guessed it, more development once again!

Not only is this a time of massive growth and development for your baby, but your baby is going to likely experience a big surge of separation anxiety. You may have noticed some signs of separation anxiety before this time, with object permanence establishing anywhere between 4-7 months of age but generally, between 8-10 months is when your baby really does understand that you are somewhere else when you leave!

As a result, they are going to seek you any time you walk away and will struggle when you leave, making bedtime really tough for your baby - it's the time they will separate from you the most!

They're learning LOTS of new skills, increasing solids and you might even notice they're starting to communicate with squeaks and squeals.

All of this coupled with a genuine decrease in sleep needs leading to nap transition can make sleeping hard work for your baby!

Remember, while sleep feels tricky, your baby is ALWAYS moving forwards - this is not a regression, just a tough sleep patch!

Support the separation

Separation anxiety is tough in this age and they key is to bridge the gap of separation, with more connection!

Bedtime routines: This is a great time to introduce a wind-down routine! This will give you time to connect with and calm your baby before bed and become a great cue to them that sleep time is coming, helping them to make this transition easier! Adding in extra skin to skin through co-bathing can really help increase connection

Peek-a-boo: Sounds silly but a game of peak a boo is a fantastic way to help your baby with separation anxiety! I love to do this at every nappy change!

Practice separation: Experiment with leaving your baby for tiny increments through the day, as they are playing pop around the corner and do a dramatic 'hello!' when you return.

Comforter: Now is a great time to introduce a comforter, this will give your baby something to attach to for times you aren't there, like at bedtime or daycare - Kippins are my fave!

Solids and busy babies 

Your baby has now been on solids since at least 6 months (whoo)! At 8 - 10 months, solids are really establishing to support all of the growing and exploring your baby is doing so we do want to ensure they are on 3 established meals a day, comprising of good protein, carbs and fats to support their growth as well as their sleep!

 Dropping the last nap of the day

Between 6-8 months the catnap more often than not will drop off. Of course, every baby is different and some babies will thrive on keeping this nap until they are a little older but if your 8-10 month shows any of the following signs in this age bracket and is having a sleep regression, consider if it needs to go, it's time for it to go!

 Fake it til you make it! 

Settling your baby and managing all the big changes in this age bracket can be really overwhelming so finding ways to remain calm while supporting your baby's emotions is key. Your baby relies on you to co-regulate, and we cannot regulate our baby's emotions if we are dysregulated.

If a consultation isn't your vibe or you're looking for a cheaper alternative to get better sleep without sleep training, check out our 4-18 Month Sleep Guide HERE.  

The 12 Month Sleep Progression 

Commonly referred to as the 12 month sleep regression/progression caused by............ You guessed it - MORE DEVELOPMENT!

If you haven't noticed from my last few progression posts, this is a very common theme, remember, development and sleep is interlinked and all 'regressions' (with the exception of the 4 month) is simply a huge period of development, which is exciting!

In this age bracket, your baby is going through a MOUNTAIN of physical, emotional (hellllo separation anxiety!) and neurological changes this coupled with a decrease in sleep needs, can mean sleep can feel a little tough!

Support the separation 

Separation anxiety is peaking again and this is often a very common age to be returning to work, your baby may be starting care for the first time which can naturally heighten separation anxiety as well.

Whenever we see this surge in separation anxiety, we always want to bridge the separation by increasing connection - focus on offering as much connection and closeness as you can, slow down your wind downs and offer as much touch as you can.

Remember not to sneak away when you do need to leave baby and be confident in your goodbyes to help them to feel secure in your coming and going - practicing a leaving and returning pattern in the day can really help too! You can do this through play, or even a simply game like peak-a-boo or hide and seek!

Nap refusal 

Nap refusal is a BIG THEME in this regression, all this cognitive development, separation anxiety, a genuine decrease in sleep needs and the need to be awake for longer will likely mean your baby has been fighting sleep, and as a result, you may think it's time for one nap right?

While it’s possible your baby is ready for a nap transition, what is SUPER COMMON is for your little one to take a nice morning nap, and be done for the rest of the day, as its relieved so much sleep pressure.

As confusing as this is, remember, its fairly uncommon this is actually a nap transition in this age bracket, but playing with how their day sleep is distributed will likely bring this back into line, and perhaps be to the first step towards dropping a nap anyway!

Play with nap times

If your little one is having a great first nap and then really fighting or even refusing the second nap, have a play with the timings!

Consider capping the morning nap (this could be as short as 15 minutes but start with 30-40) to fit both in!

If you have already have a short morning nap, you may need to increase your awake time here.

Sleep needs have also decreased, with the recommended average now sitting at 11-14 hours so make sure to check your sleep totals!

Outside and play 

Make sure you are spending a good amount of time outside in the day and allowing for LOTS of opportunity for free play. This is going to allow your toddler to practice all their new skills and fill up their sensory tank!

Consider incorporating some rough and tumble play with big body movements before sleep times.

Your child is really clever at knowing what they need, and if their body is seeking this sensory input they are going to find it (cue standing in the cot and bouncing around like a jack in the box!)! Meeting these needs before sleep can mean that baby doesn’t seek these out at bedtime!

It’s really hard! 

There seems to be this underlying pressure of everything getting better at 12 months, so when we hit this progression, it can be really hard! Remember, one is not a magic number!

Don't forget yourself in the hard patches and know that this WILL pass, typically within a few weeks.

While your are supporting your baby, remember to support yourself as well. Is there something you can do each day to fill your own cup? What can you introduce to help make nap refusal a little more manageable - is a coffee walk a good idea for example? Can you call on your village for an added set of hands?

If sleep has been hard, remember, we are in your village too!

If you're at the one year mark and need more guidance on all things sleep - check out our 4-18 Month Sleep Guide HERE

The 18 Month Sleep Progression 

If you’ve been reading above, you have likely noticed a theme emerging... DEVELOPMENT!

And this regression is no different, in fact, there is ALOT going on at 18 months of age!

Your toddler is learning to walk or may even have now mastered running! Their language is going through the rough and if you counted, you may find they can say around 10-20 new words! They're becoming much more aware of their own body and preferences, they may seem to not like certain kinds of touch and textures now which can make settling hard and you guessed it...

Separation anxiety is also at a high yet again! 

Turning 1 isn’t a magic fix 

t can feel a little frustrating to have a toddler that needs support when it comes to sleep, and there is sometimes this assumption that after one, everything gets easier, but research shows us that over 50% of 18 month olds need support to fall asleep and that the average 18 month old is still waking once overnight.

Separation anxiety might feel more intense this time around, that's because it probably is for your toddler too!

At 18 months, your little one is MUCH more aware when you leave, and they really do understand that bedtime will mean separation.

It’s also worth considering if genuine fears are starting to creep in, although this is more common towards age 2, you may find your toddler feels more at ease with a red based light on.

Support their new skills

Leaning in and supporting the cool new things your 18 month old is practicing can really help! You will likely find that your 18 month old wants to be JUST like you (they are attaching through sameness!) and they will LOVE copying you!

Practice talking with them to support their language burst!

In the day, getting outside and exposing them to broad spectrum sunlight can really help support their sleep but also is a great way to allow time for them to practice their walking and running!

You might also want to do a mini bootcamp before bedtime for some great sensory input, and to help burn up any last minute wriggles.


During the second year of life, your toddler attaches through ‘SAMENESS' they really want to be just like you! Leaning IN to this can actually really help support their sleep!

Model regulation: Role model how to 'calm' with your toddler, placing a hand on your chest, teach them how to take a deep breath in and out or have them copy you while you hum.

Role play: Play is your best friend for learning and you can role play having your toddler do the bedtime routine for you or their favourite toy to help them understand the process.

Make it the same: Bedtime = separation and that is hard for your toddler so support this by getting some matching PJ's or the same pillow cover or special toy to sleep with, make a big deal of this!

Is it the nap transition? 

This one can be a doozy and its not abnormal for sleep to go a little wild if this has been a recent change (check out my live on this from a few months back!) BUT if sleep has been tough and you haven't made the change yet, it may be time!


Great bedtime routines 

Creating a consistent bedtime routine can really help your toddler to pre-empt bedtime is coming, down regulate them for sleep, support the transition from play to sleep and get in some extra connection before bed!

Remember, your 18 month old is LOVING things that are the same right now, so let’s bleed this into the lead up to bedtime as well - the consistency around this can also really help to establish a bedtime boundary and give your toddler some security in knowing what comes next!

Can you read the same 3 books before bed, can you use the same fun transition to move to their room and follow the same steps getting into the sleep sack, before saying goodnight to the same toys and singing the same lullaby before bed and nap times?

Loving limits

Your toddler's wants and needs are really different now, and that means you may see some big feelings when their wants aren't met (cue big feelings!).

Now is a great time to start implementing some boundaries and loving limits to help your toddler to feel sure in what is to come and trust in you are their guide as well.

Loving limits can be really tricky for parents, its not at all fun to see your toddler upset especially if this is a relatively new thing for them, but remember, we don't need to be afraid of our children's tears and we can still offer comfort, support and co-regulation whilst holding what is likely a necessary boundary.

Boundaries = security as well.

You might find you need to create some boundaries around bedtime - how many books your toddler reads, when bedtime is, where they sleep and how they are settled, my go to's for loving boundaries are:

Toddlerhood brings new challenges when it comes to sleep - hello need for autonomy! If it's been extra tricky and want to know ALL of the toddler sleep info you need to get better sleep, you'll love the Toddler Sleep Guide. This guide provides sleep education and troubleshooting from 18-months to 5 years! So you'll have the resource to refer back to as your toddler gets older! Check it out HERE



Wow! That was a long one. But there you have it. Progression education and practical tips from 4-18 months. If you found this blog helpful, please send the link to your friends with babies and toddlers! 

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Hi! I'm Claire! Hi! I'm Claire! A mum of three from Sydney, circle of security facilitator and OCN level 6 Certified Holistic Sleep Coach. Together with my incredible team, we are on a mission to support families to get better sleep in a truly responsive way that feels good, and works! 

Here at The Gentle Sleep Coach, we are passionate about working with families to provide them with gentle, responsive and holistic approaches to sleep that are 100% comfortable and reinstall confidence in the parents as the experts!