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Baby sleep

The 5-Month Sleep Regression: What It Is and How to Deal

Is your baby having a five-month sleep regression? Here's what you need to know.

The 5-Month Sleep Regression: What It Is and How to Deal

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When your baby is five months old, you might think you have it all figured out. Your baby has a routine. They eat, they play, and their little personalities are starting to shine.

Babies are meeting their physical and developmental milestones. It is an all-around wonderful time of parenthood that's undoubtedly treasured.

At this point, many parents have their baby's sleep routines figured out. You know how to put your child to sleep; hopefully, the baby sleeps through the night. There's a consistent bedtime routine, and you know your baby's sleep cycles and patterns. Then, out of nowhere, things change and get better (phew!).

Baby gets up once at night, then sometimes, even two or three times. A few days later, their sleep cycle is completely off. They are having sleep problems, both falling asleep and staying asleep. You might be wondering what happened, but unfortunately, this is a normal part of child development.

You are officially in a baby sleep regression, so buckle up.

So what are you supposed to do from here, and can you ever get your baby on a sleep schedule? Will you ever get a good night's sleep again, and should you consider sleep training?

Here's what you need to know about the five-month sleep regression and some fantastic expert advice on tackling this problem that most parents face.

What is the 5-month sleep regression?

Rachel Mitchell, founder of My Sweet Sleeper, offers guidance, courses, and coaching to parents dealing with sleep challenges and encourages them to reframe sleep regressions. Instead of thinking about the situation negatively (even if it is tough because you're exhausted), a sleep regression is actually a sign of progression.

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It's a positive sign your baby is developing both physically and mentally. They are meeting their milestones and playing. In other words, significant changes are happening, and sometimes, they can majorly impact their sleep.

However, it's essential to remember that most babies meet different milestones at their own pace. "All babies experience regressions/progressions at different times, so a five-month-old baby may be experiencing the four-month progression a little late or the six-month progression a little early," she explains.

No matter when a sleep regression occurs, Dr. Whitney Casares, board-certified pediatrician, maternal child health expert, and author of Doing It All, likes to assure parents this is a normal part of your child's development and there is nothing to worry about or be concerned about in most cases.

"Babies typically have a more challenging time with sustained sleep and initiating sleep starting at about 4 to 6 months. However, not all babies have sleep regressions; some have more challenging regressions than others."

So, this could be your baby's first sleep regression—or they had a 4-month sleep regression around three months and are now having their second sleep regression at five months.

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How long does the 5-month sleep regression last?

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Ask any parent how long the 5-month sleep regression lasts, and they are most likely to answer that it lasts too long. Unfortunately, babies do things in their own time, and there isn't technically a definitive way to determine how long it will last.

According to Mitchell, the answer can vary. "This depends on what changes the child is experiencing and the developmental milestones they are reaching. For example, if they have just started rolling over, this is often a longer process until the child can effectively roll both ways without getting stuck. This progression may be short-lived if it is simpler or more subtle."

However, if you are looking for a ballpark figure (or maybe you're just counting down the days until the 5-month sleep regression is over), Dr. Casares tells me sleep regressions generally last between two to six weeks. "Remember, though, all babies are different. Sleep regressions may be shorter or longer, depending on the individual baby."

So, you just need to wait out the 5-month sleep regression. But don't worry—it will pass eventually.

Why is my 5-month-old not sleeping at night anymore?

Was your baby a super sound sleeper with zero night wakings for the first five months? If things have suddenly taken a significant turn and your baby is not sleeping through the night anymore, there could be several reasons why this is happening. Mitchell says, "There are so many factors and possibilities why babies at this stage are rejecting sleep from their routine to sleep environment, nutrition, or nap times."

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She notes that one significant reason a baby could have a 5-month sleep regression is that baby nap times have become a struggle, or your child ends up taking short naps instead of the longer ones they look at during the first few months of their lives. Ultimately, this can affect wake windows and change things up.

"Babies enter an overtired cycle from day to night, which needs to be broken for the child to start getting adequate sleep again," she explains.

On the other hand, Dr. Casares tells me that babies' understanding of object permanence can also factor in a child's sleep regression. "Babies can have a more challenging time sleeping at four to five months because they may develop a skill called object permanence. Object permanence is when they understand an object exists even when they cannot see it. That means when 5-month-olds wake and don't see their caregivers, they still know they exist somewhere else and miss them."

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Is there a growth spurt at 5-months?

Growth spurts can be an additional cause of the 5-month sleep regression. "This is extremely dependent on the child, but it is common to see a growth spurt between five to six months. If so, parents may notice they need to bring back the previous night's feeds that they dropped recently."

So, if you suddenly notice your baby's pants are just a bit shorter than they used to be or their footed pajamas feel like a squeeze—it's a clear sign they are having a growth spurt. If that is the case, the growth spurt could be the reason or one of the reasons why your child is having a 5-month sleep regression or a sleep regression at any other time.

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Dr. Casares also tells me that babies are constantly growing physically and have developmental milestones, which can often be another reason your child is having a sleep regression at five months of age. This can impact five-month-old sleep schedules without any behaviors shifting (so don't be too hard on yourself).

"Some babies have physical growth spurts at five months old," says Casares. "The most important spurt they have now, though, is developmental. Because babies may begin to understand object permanence at this age, it can make sleep more difficult to navigate for them."

FAQs

Can feeding your baby help with the five-month sleep regression?

Getting a hungry baby to sleep is always a more significant challenge for caregivers. So, feeding your baby a robust meal an hour or so before bedtime can help with the five-month sleep regression.

Ensure your baby gets plenty of formula, breastmilk or solids during awake time. You should also feed your baby as close to bedtime as possible to help them go to bed full. If you're formula feeding or using a combination of breast milk and formula, you may want to explore feeding with the best formula for breastfed babies before bedtime.

Can associating some things with sleep and having a particular routine help your baby get past a five-month sleep regression?

Yes, sleep associations can help your baby get through a 5-month sleep regression or any other sleep regression. "To help your little one sleep more consistently and easily, first identify their sleep associations," explains Dr. Casares of building healthy sleep habits.

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"For example, if a baby falls asleep with a bottle and wakes up at night (which all babies do naturally), they may need that bottle to fall back asleep. Once you identify your baby's sleep associations, you can decide how to lessen them (or navigate sleep while maintaining them)."

Another sleep association that parents can try is using white noise. Most baby sound machines have a white noise setting, but you can purchase a white noise machine relatively inexpensively if yours does not.

What are some best practices for dealing with sleep regressions?

Mitchell primarily suggests remaining calm above all else. Trying to instill healthy sleep patterns and habits can get you through this challenging time.

"Remember, this season will pass, and while it might seem like it lasts forever, your child will get through it. Try to ensure you are switching off with your partner and taking breaks for your health, and seek additional support from a sleep expert if needed."

What gear do I need?

The good news is that sleep regression issues typically resolve on their own in a matter or days or weeks, and you don't need much beyond a little patience to get you through the hardest nights. Setting up a comforting, cozy and safe sleep environment for baby is helpful, though.

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Experts

  • Rachel Mitchell, founder of My Sweet Sleeper.
  • Dr. Whitney Casares, board-certified pediatrician, maternal child health expert, and author of Doing It All

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