8 month sleep regression: What causes it and what to do?
As a parent, it can seem like there’s a new potential regression around every corner. If out of nowhere, your normally easy-going 8 month old won’t sleep, this sleep regression is the likely culprit. Once you know what to expect during this phase, you’ll find that there’s nothing to fear about this possible bump in the road.
IN THIS ARTICLE:
What is the 8 month sleep regression?
The 8 month regression typically occurs between 7 to 10 months, and is also known as the 9 month sleep regression. It’s a temporary phase that’s often characterized by difficulty sleeping and increased night wakings (with time spent awake at night often lasting for long periods).
The change in sleep patterns means you may find that your 8 month old is not sleeping well, or your typical bedtime routines no longer produce the same results. For example, a baby who is usually rocked and held to sleep may no longer fall asleep after just 5 - 10 minutes of rocking. Or, a baby that typically falls asleep on their own without help will suddenly protest when they’re put down awake in their crib.
Why does the 8 month regression happen?
There are a few factors that cause these changes, including:
1. Growing out of the 3-nap wake windows
By 7 months old, your baby will start to need more awake time in between sleep periods in order to feel tired enough to sleep. This leads many babies to resist, and/or skip the third nap of the day (despite our best efforts!), causing them to go to bed in an overtired state. Even babies that have fully transitioned to 2 naps can find it difficult to stay awake for longer periods at first.
Overtiredness, in turn, can contribute to more difficulty falling asleep at bedtime, and disrupted sleep throughout the night. Not ideal for a good night’s sleep!
2. Separation anxiety
Separation anxiety is a healthy part of development. However, it can make it harder for your baby to go to sleep without a parent nearby. Whether a child stays at home full time with a parent or goes to a caregiver outside of the home, it’s typical and appropriate to go through periods of separation anxiety. It’s quite common for children in this particular age group to experience anxiety when parting from their parent - especially at bedtime.
3. Greater mobility
It’s incredibly exciting to see one’s baby start to become more mobile, whether they’re sitting up on their own, or pulling up to stand. However, the achievement of these developmental milestones can also mean that a baby is less content to fall asleep peacefully in their crib. It can be much more exciting to try out their new motor skills at bedtime and in the middle of the night, as you've probably already noticed!
Teething is also very common at this age, which can, unfortunately, lead to varying degrees of discomfort. If you have a fussy baby at night that’s 8 months old, teething may be a contributing factor. It may be harder for a baby to sleep when they’re in pain from an emerging tooth.
How long does the 8 month sleep regression last?
Keep in mind that no matter which factors are impacting your child’s sleep, they’re all temporary situations. Your 8 month old may refuse to sleep right now, but sleep regressions typically last for 2 - 6 weeks and your baby will eventually settle into a 2-nap schedule, get past this bout of separation anxiety, become used to their newfound mobility, and those troublesome teeth will emerge.
When does it start?
This regression can start causing sleep disruptions around 7 - 9 months old. 8 month sleep regression signs include fighting sleep and increased night wakings.
When does it end?
Since sleep regressions typically last for 2 - 6 weeks, babies older than 10 months should be past the regression. Sleep often improves once babies adjust to longer wake windows, and can make it to bedtime without becoming overtired while following a 2-nap schedule.
My 8 month old won’t nap: Does the 8 month regression affect naps?
Yes, some babies will have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep for naptime. This means you may see some short or skipped naps. It’s common to see babies have 3 naps one day, and 2 naps the next day. You may find that your baby will alternate between the 3-nap and 2-nap schedules for a few weeks until they fully adjust to staying awake for longer periods of time.
6 tips to handle 8 month old sleep regression like an expert
We recognize that 2 - 6 weeks of sleep disruption probably sounds like a lifetime to those of you Googling this at 3 AM. Consider these helpful tips to get through sleep regression, but know that this is a normal phase that your family will soon be past.
1. Offer additional comfort as needed.
You may need to offer additional comfort if your baby has trouble sleeping during this time. However, be aware that if you start a new routine with more parental help, this can develop into new, lasting habits that can often negatively impact sleep once the phase is over.
For example, if your baby typically falls asleep without your help, you might consider patting or rocking them a bit longer during their bedtime routine to help them settle down. However, if you start rocking or patting them all the way to sleep, this can develop into a new habit that can cause sleep disruptions apart from the sleep regression.
2. Follow age-appropriate wake windows.
Aim to get your baby to bed before they become overtired, as that will reduce nighttime awakenings. Depending on your baby’s age, and the time of day, they’ll likely need 2 - 3.5 hours of awake time in between sleep periods.
3. Consider sleep training.
Strengthening and/or maintaining independent sleeping skills as much as possible can limit the impact regressions can have on sleep. Helping your baby learn to fall asleep with less help often improves the quantity and quality of sleep, especially if they’re experiencing a sleep regression around 8 months of age. We typically recommend a gradual method to sleep train, rather than Ferber or “cry it out.” This involves slowly weaning away from helping your child fall asleep, making it a more subtle approach among sleep training methods.
4. Don’t rush to drop the third nap.
Rather than drop the third nap completely at the first sign of nap resistance, it can be helpful to offer a 3-nap schedule every few days to help your baby “reset.” This can make the adjustment to a 2-nap schedule more manageable. Once your baby is 8 - 9 months old and able to comfortably stay awake for longer periods, you can stop offering the third nap.
5. Offer practice time for new skills.
If your baby has started to become more mobile, chances are that they’ll want to practice their new skills when they’re supposed to be sleeping. Be sure to give your baby plenty of time to practice sitting and standing in a safe space during wake times, so it’s less exciting when they get to the crib.
6. Give your baby space to wind down.
Even when you offer extra practice time during the day, chances are that your baby will still want to occasionally play at naptime or bedtime. This is very common and developmentally appropriate. If your baby is playing instead of sleeping, we recommend giving them some time and space to wind down on their own. Waiting 10 minutes or so in between attempts to resettle your baby into a sleeping position can be more effective than continually laying them down, only to have them pop right up again.
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8 month sleep regression FAQ
Q: Is the 8 month sleep regression a myth?
The 8 month sleep regression is no myth. It’s common for babies around the age of 8 months to start suddenly experiencing new sleep challenges.
Q: Do all babies have sleep regressions at 8 months?
Every baby has different 8 month sleep regression experiences, with some baby’s skipping it entirely! A baby continuing to sleep well at this age depends on numerous factors, including their schedule, and whether they’ve formed strong independent sleeping skills. If your 8 month old isn't sleeping through the night, it isn’t necessarily due to a sleep regression.
Q: Can the 8 month sleep regression start early?
Yes, we often see 7 month old sleep regressions, as it’s very common for babies to start resisting and/or skipping naps at this age. These nap troubles can lead to increased difficulty at bedtime and disrupted night sleep.
Q: Do 7 month, 9 month or 10 month sleep regressions exist as well?
We consider new sleep issues in the 7 - 10 month age range to be part of the 8 month sleep regression.
Q: Why is my 8 month old baby not sleeping?
Is your 8 month old fighting sleep, waking up at night crying, or do you have a restless baby around 8 months? It may be due to a number of factors. The most common causes of sleep disruptions at this age include teething, the mastering of milestones, the need for a schedule change, hunger, or a parent-led sleep association. Keep in mind that many babies sleep better with 1 - 2 night feedings at this age.
Q: 8 month old baby won't sleep unless held. What should I do?
With time and consistency, your baby can learn a new way of falling asleep. In most cases, we recommend a step-by-step process to gradually move away from holding your baby to sleep. It can be easiest, and most effective, to make changes in sleep habits by starting with bedtime only.
Q: My 8 month old baby never had a sleep regression. Is this normal?
Yes! There’s a range of what constitutes “normal” when it comes to baby sleep. Some babies continue to have the same quality of sleep during the 7 - 10 month age range, and their sleep does not regress during this period. Not every 8 month old will fight sleep.
Q: Why is my 8 month old baby so fussy at sleep times?
There are a number of reasons why a baby may be cranky at naptime or bedtime. Overtiredness (when a baby stays awake too long) and teething are common causes of upset. Growth spurts can also lead to increased hunger and fussiness.