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The 4 month sleep regression, the 12 month sleep regression, the 18 month sleep regression – what is happening?
Of course, any time your baby’s sleep suddenly seems to go pear shaped , you wonder what am I doing wrong?
The term ‘sleep regression’ sounds more helpful than the patronising label ‘accidental parenting’ which implies you have done something to create your wakeful baby but you are such a half-wit you didn’t even realize you were doing something ‘wrong’.
Developmental milestones can be physical (rolling, crawling, cruising, walking), emotional (separation anxiety) and neurological.
As babies approach any new developmental phase, their perception of the world changes so, although this can be just a blip on the radar for some babies, more sensitive babies will need extra reassurance and can become quite clingy or generally unsettled at these times. Because babies process information during their sleep – circulation to the brain almost doubles during REM sleep – it’s perfectly normal for them to wake more often as they are approaching new milestones. Of course at any time if your baby suddenly becomes unsettled or wakeful, it’s important to check that there isn’t a medical reason for this or an impending illness such as sore ears or a urinary tract infection (babies generally wake when they wee if they have a UTI because it hurts), or if your baby has recently started family foods she isn’t upset by food sensitivities. Once you have ruled out illness as a reason for sudden changes in your baby’s sleep patterns, consider your baby’s development: what new skills is your baby learning? The good news is that, as your baby masters each new milestone, there will be spells of sound sleep again – until the next developmental leap! Pinky McKay is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and best selling author of Sleeping Like a Baby, 100 Ways to Calm the Crying, Parenting By Heart and Toddler Tactics.
God’s biological design for breastfeeding weaves a developing infant’s needs with a mother’s needs into a delicately synchronized dance, and even daddies get in on the dance! This lovely and perfect design also reveals itself in the balance of nutrients present in breastmilk.
A reduction in the risk of SIDS, asthma, childhood leukemia, diabetes, gastroenteritis, otitis media (ear infections), LRTIs (pneumonia, bronchitis, etc), necrotizing enterocolitis, and obesity are just some of the protective benefits for babies. Some stumbling blocks in the breastfeeding relationship that mamas may encounter include the modern societal view of breasts as solely sexual objects which often leads those in public places, including many churches, to shame mothers into hiding in restrooms or vehicles or at the very least using covers that make breastfeeding far more difficult and clumsy than it needs to be.
Even though mothers’ bodies are capable of miraculously growing a human being for nine months and bringing that precious new life into the world, those same life-giving bodies seem to be failing in ever-increasing numbers to provide life-giving nutrition to those precious babies because of issues with low milk supply. Often the low milk supply is caused by forcing babies to sleep alone and training them to sleep through the night. The bottom line is that breastfeeding is a biological norm created by God to meet a baby’s needs in the healthiest and most convenient way. Celebrating 29 years of marriage to my amazing, talented, generous, kind, hard-working, insanely intelligent, gentle-giant, burly-bear-of-a-hubby! For our anniversary this year he hacked an Ikea bookshelf and added industrial casters and custom-made a butcher block top to make a coffee bar for me. We’ve coslept with all of our little ones, but my cancer battle, surgery, and a recent flare of a birth injury has me in constant pain and my tossing and turning has been waking our toddler up multiple times a night. Of course, all of that is on top of working ten hour days, sometimes six days a week, to support our family.
Mona Lisa Smiles In our family, mama having a break means daddy is the one who listens, at least for a little while, to the endless stories about snails that our little mud-magnet is into sharing at the moment. A Boy, A Girl, and A Baby~Journey to Gentle Parenting Our journey to a breastfeeding, cosleeping, babywearing, gentle disciplining, homeschooling, happy family of eight!
My Amazing Hubby & the Incredible Bicycle Transformation! Yes, that is me with my two littlest on a european-style cargo bike, and yes, my hubster built it for me! And it is my prayer that we will end up here, Beautiful Old Souls,  many years from now…An aged beauty tips her face up, and her elderly companion leans down out of life-long habit to catch her soft voice. Toddlers are infinitely curious little dynamos that may seem like clones of the Energizer Bunny…they keep going and going and going and…well, you get the idea! With candor and warmth, Bialik describes the beauty, simplicity, and purposefulness of attachment parenting and shows us that its core principles are universal and can be appreciated no matter how you decide to raise your child.
Certain behaviors, such as a baby who bites while nursing or a child who thinks it is funny to pull hair, need a different kind of guidance, but for most things that are challenging but not truly problematic, I say let it go and you will be amazed that it passes. Gentle Discipline can work for every child and every parent, if only we invest the time and energy to make it happen with consistency, authenticity, and love.
Enter your email address and we'll send you our weekly magazine by email with fresh, exciting and thoughtful content that will enrich your inbox and your life, week after week. Having a neat little term like ‘sleep regression’ gets you off the hook – it’s not you, it’s your baby.
It sounds much smarter too and even a little bit intellectual, as though you have done your homework about infant sleep. Sleep isn’t a milestone – even though it certainly feels like an achievement when your baby starts snoozing for several hours at a stretch.

Neurological milestones are outlined in ‘The Wonder Weeks’ , a book by Dutch researchers, psychologists Franz Plooij and Hetty Van Der Rit , who observed many children in their homes over a number of years. For instance, at around four months (the four month sleep ‘regression’ that everyone is talking about), babies are becoming much more aware of the world – they are babbling (this is the beginning of language acquisition), exploring things with their mouth (soon that will include their feet too as they suck their toes), they are recognizing familiar people (and becoming anxious around strangers – separation anxiety is kicking in), many babies are starting to roll over so they wake because they have unintentionally rolled onto their belly and this has woken them. She simply parented Jesus in the naturally instinctive way that mothers have mothered their little ones since time began.
There is an inbuilt, biochemical response to the birth of a baby that affects both sexes in similar, though somewhat different ways.
Breastmilk has the perfect composition of calories, nutrients, fats, and other components to ensure the optimal development of a growing infant. For mothers, breastfeeding has been correlated with a significant decrease in the risk of diseases such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer, diabetes, and heart disease to name just a few.
The World Health Organization, American Academy of Pediatrics, Centers for Disease Control, and others recommend breastfeeding for the first two years of a child’s life.
Biblically speaking, breasts are referred to half as often in reference to sexual relationships as they are in reference to the God-designed breastfeeding relationship between mothers and their little ones. For some, it is certainly just pediatricians using formula-fed babies’ growth charts instead of breastfed babies’ charts or family and friends who believe that all babies should be chubby and content that lead new mothers to believe they have low supply, but there does appear to be an increasing number of babies legitimately labeled as failure-to-thrive with low milk supply determined to be the cause.
Not only is the deep sleep required to sleep through the night actually a recognized factor in SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), but babies who sleep through the night are also not nursing to stimulate breastmilk production, thus their mother’s milk may begin to dry up.
That said, there are certainly times when a mother can’t breastfeed due to a medical condition, life circumstances, adoption, or other factors. Who would have thought that small, scared, unmarried, teenage girl of yesteryear who married her young love under all the wrong circumstances would have ended up still deeply-in-love and always-in-like with her forever-best-friend after six children and all the ups and downs and joys and tragedies of nearly three decades of marriage?!?! Neither I nor my toddler is ready to stop cosleeping yet, so my hubby started sketching and measuring and pulling out stacks of wood he’d saved from other building projects, and the next thing I knew I had a custom cosleeper sidecar for our toddler! Maybe not the Superman kind of hero or the war veteran kind, but to the stranded motorist, to the struggling mother who can’t pay her grocery bill, he’s a hero of the best kind. It means daddy takes a turn at the helm in helping our SPD girl cope when she gets overwhelmed. Well, including our awesome son-in-law, daughter-in-law, granddaughter, and brand new grandson, I guess I should say family of 12! His old eyes see past the ever-deepening lines to the vision of youth he married decades earlier.
It means parenting without violence, relying instead on respectful communication and seeking to see your child not as someone lesser or weaker than you who you can and should control, but rather as a partner in your life and a source of potential joy and loving interaction. Throughout the world, physical punishment is associated with increased psychological maladjustment and mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, as well as drug and alcohol abuse. Imagine that the day comes when you cannot contain your disdain for the way your child is behaving.
By the way, ‘all night’ in infant sleep studies means five hours sleep in a row –not eight hours like an adult or twelve hours like some baby books will tell you. They describe the ‘wonder weeks’ as critical periods of development that change the baby’s perception of his world. They are confused and upset because they really wanted to be sleeping but that tiny brain processing information has resulted in some extra ‘practice’ of their new skill. The culture of the time tells us that she likely coslept with him in the small, one or two room house typical of that period and that she wore him close to her heart in the daylight hours in a wrap to keep him safe from the snakes and scorpions and other dangers that populated the region. Attachment parenting is merely a term coined much later to tie these natural parenting choices and others in with the modern research of psychologists like John Bowlby who found that the healthiest emotional and relational adults tended to have strong early attachments with a parent or primary caregiver. As the birth of a new baby nears, a mother’s oxytocin level, known as the ‘love hormone’ because of its ability to create warm feelings of safety and attachment, increases as part of the preparation for bringing a new life into the world and sustaining that life at her breast. The composition of breastmilk shifts to accommodate growth spurts, sicknesses, and other needs throughout a mother and child’s nursing relationship. Imagine the tally if the researchers had looked at the lives lost and billions of dollars spent unnecessarily in a two year breastfeeding scenario instead of a six month scenario. In those cases mamas can still achieve a healthy attachment and strong, loving relationship and even boost their oxytocin ‘love hormone’ levels by holding their little ones close to their hearts during feeding, making eye contact and exchanging smiles and coos and giggles, kissing and nuzzling their babies’ fuzzy little heads, keeping their little ones close during the day in a baby wrap or sling, taking time out for a few periods of ‘kangaroo care’ each day, and meeting nighttime needs quickly, gently, and consistently. He matched our bed’s design and even built it in a loft-style so we could put our ‘welcome mattress’ (for our 7-year-old if she needs to sleep a bit closer to us after a nightmare or if she’s not feeling well or for whatever reason ?? ) under it. He’s the kind of hero who is there in the moment of need with a calloused set of hands always ready to help, a quiet, friendly grin always ready to reassure, and a servant’s heart always ready to shrug off thanks or reward. It means daddy takes our currently teething, clingy, diaper-rashed, sad little milk monkey out in the evenings to sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star to the moon (she’s a bit confused, but it’s adorable) so mama can take a shower alone.
His hands reach out to steady her fragile, but oh-so-familiar frame, and she smiles the same smile he’s woken up to and kissed goodnight his entire adult life.

Some general goals of Gentle Discipline include making our children feel safe with us, feeling that they are partners in their relationship with us, and finding ways for children to find better choices for behavior as opposed to simply teaching them to stop a behavior that we deem inappropriate. The parent is usually close by, looking appropriately concerned and often murmuring reminders that this is because the child did so-and-so, and they can come back when the time is up, or when they stop crying. Just as children respond to threats because they fear the consequences, they also respond to rewards because it is the reward that is driving them, rather than being motivated by working well with others, earning respect, being valued, and being appreciated and loved. Twenty four countries in the world have banned physical punishment and have seen amazing shifts in behavior and societal expectations. It calls upon us to look at our relationship with our child to try and find the source of their unmet need.
We never baby-proofed our home except for power outlet covers, and a stern tone (which we saved for only such occasions) and strong body language did the trick in averting exploration of dangerous things. However, a very effective tool I have used possibly more than any other as a parent is this: Pick your battles, especially with a baby. The real, measurable, important milestones that signal your baby’s actual development can influence your baby’s sleep, or lack of it. So it is certain that she was a breastfeeding mama and almost certain that she was a cosleeping and babywearing mama. Daddies also experience a rise in oxytocin, as well as an increase in estrogen, which results in their brains being pre-wired to love and protect their mate and offspring. Interestingly, the ratios of each of the components change throughout the day to offer the most energy during the daylight hours and the highest concentrations of sleep-inducing nucleotides during nighttime feeding, so if a mama is pumping and storing breastmilk, it’s important to label the time of day the milk was pumped to avoid giving the more stimulating daytime milk at night! Theirs is an old love, subtle with wear, ripe with age, its rich beauty lost to those without the palate to plumb its boundless depths or the senses to delight in its warm bouquet. In addition, by nurturing respect and empathy, we teach self-discipline and encourage children to be the best that they can be. Gentle Discipline encourages us not to ignore the cries of a baby, and as children get older, they have more emotions and they acquire more words, but they do not acquire all of the words we’d like them to have.
If you have older children, you can simply say that you are having a hard time and you need a moment to gather yourself. Ask yourself, “Do I want to die on this mountain?” and answer it very clearly and honestly.
This means that as you walk away, your baby is now more aware of the distance that separates you and he will yell at you because the increasing distance between you and him is confusing and a bit scary. And, as well as often having difficulty getting to sleep in the first place or resettling after being woken by their busy brains and bodies, when he wakes, confused, your baby will call for help from the most important person in his world – you. Then, after birth and throughout the breastfeeding relationship, oxytocin levels in mamas and daddies remain elevated, rising and falling in rhythmic peaks and valleys in response to a baby’s ever-changing needs.
I can sit nearby after getting everyone to sleep and work on my next book into the depths of each night, so grateful for an understanding hubby who is supportive of cosleeping and so incredibly resourceful and talented.
She designed a neuroscience curriculum for homeschoolers in Southern California, where she also teaches middle and high school students.
Physically take a moment, or hone the skill of taking a timeout in the child’s presence using breathing techniques or some sort of mantra or short meditation. Know that sometimes you just have to let it go and that this does not doom your child to a lifetime of bad behavior.
Married to her college sweetheart with two young sons, Bialik is also a Certified Lactation Education Counselor.
You aren’t encouraging ‘bad habits’ you are helping your baby feel secure as she grows through these intense developmental stages.
Try to start each day knowing that somewhere inside even the unhappiest child there is the seed of a child that can grow into a happy one who meets your expectations and then exceeds them. And it will usually pass with you doing very little to fix it; maturity, experience, and observing good modeling of behavior is often enough to correct undesirable behavior. You don’t have to justify your baby’s behavior with fancy labels or reasons for her waking (except perhaps, to yourself if it makes you feel better). You can say you are hitting with love, or that you are using hitting to teach something, but it’s still hitting.

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