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Expert Advice on Reversing Sleep Regression

Sleep expert Heather Turgeon, co-author of "The Happy Sleeper: The Science-Backed Guide to Helping Your Baby Get a Good Night's Sleep—Newborn to School Age," will fix your family's sleep problems in this space as she does in her home consultations. Turgeon's solutions are nonjudgmental, kind and—best of all—based on science.

No situation is too challenging. Leave your sleep problem in the comments or on the mom.me Facebook page. Let's all get a good night's sleep, finally.

Dear Heather,

My baby's sleep has regressed terribly. Her sleep was getting better in the first few months, but then, all of a sudden, she's awake every two hours at night. What do I do?

Whiplashed

Dear Whiplashed,

There's nothing more crazy-making than when an older baby thinks she's a newborn again. The first thing to know is that it's normal—no one told babies they were supposed to start sleeping and never go back to waking again at night.

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There are lots of causes, but the most common is a developmental milestone. That means a new motor skill, like rolling, pushing to hands and knees, standing or sitting. Even more common is when a new cognitive skill comes online and makes sleep regress. A more aware, conscious little being has an active mind at night, is excited to think and practice and is more likely to get hooked on a soothing habit, like having a paci reinserted, rocking or bouncing to sleep.

The key to weathering a sleep regression is to help your baby. But try to avoid the common pitfalls, like adding in feedings at night (in a baby beyond 5 to 6 months old, where they didn't exist before) or resorting to rocking baby back into a deep sleep again. Try to soothe your baby by the least intrusive means possible (readers of "The Happy Sleeper" know this technique as "The Soothing Ladder") and put her back in awake.

Just try it. If it doesn't work, you can do more and work your way to the "big guns," which is usually feeding.

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Do a quick check of these elements too: baby's bedtime could be too late (past 8 p.m. might lead to a restless night); temperature too hot (65 to 68 degrees is the recommendation); or baby is over-dressed. Any of these factors might lead to more wake-ups.

Good luck getting back to restful nights!

Sleep happy,

Heather

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