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Navigating the 8 month sleep regression

All parents have heard the sleep regression phrase and felt a little tremble of fear run through them. Will my baby ever sleep again? Do they all go through these regressions?

Lots of parents talk about the 8 month sleep regression (or 9 month regression, or 10 month regression - there is a big range here!) lately and I think it's because this is a sneaky regression.

It doesn't look the same as the 4 month sleep regression and is often marked by

  • More nighttime awakenings
  • More difficulty getting to sleep initially or after a nighttime awakening
  • Heightened fussiness, crying, or agitation around bedtime or during awakenings
  • Longer daytime naps and less nighttime sleep

Why is this so different? This regression is typically caused by physical growth and development rather than mental. And, sometimes, the sleep issues arise before your baby is really showing outward signs of that development.

So what exactly happens at this regression? First off, this is typically brought on by developmental milestones or leaps. Think about it, your baby is starting to sit up, pull up, crawl, maybe even walk and are building more of the foundation of their language skills. All of these can cause disruption in sleep and the hallmark of the 8 month sleep regression is finding your baby awake at 3 am practicing crawling around in their crib! Usually baby is happy and ready to party, but not sleepy!

What does all of this mean? Your baby’s brain is working so hard on their new skills that they have a hard time settling down to sleep at night, even though they are tired. This leads to those middle of the night crib parties and why, when we try to rock baby back to sleep, it often doesn’t work. Their sleep pressure is so depleted after several hours of sleep that they think we are in there to play!

What do you do when the 8 month regression hits?

Give your baby lots of time during the day to practice their skills. The more time the better! Once they have perfected these new skills, they will be able to get back to sleeping all night. Another good thing to do is to give baby lots of time to wind down with quiet activities in the evening and keep their bedtime routine calm and relaxing. This way they are ready to sleep!

Here's some more tips to help your baby sleep:

  • Keep working toward a sleep schedule. Even though it can get disrupted by a sleep regression, try to standardize your baby’s sleep schedule, including naps, as much as possible.
  • Have a consistent bedtime routine. Get your baby ready for bed in the same way every night so that they get used to the process of preparing for sleep. A consistent routine has been shown to help with falling asleep and reducing night time awakenings. In this lead-up to bedtime, make sure your baby is well-fed and has had time to wind down in a comforting and environment without excess stimulation.
  • Have your baby fall asleep in bed. Rather than putting them in the crib when they are already asleep, put them in bed when drowsy so that they can associate their bed with actually falling asleep.
  • Reduce potential disturbances and distractions. Use soothing tools like sleep sacks, music, a nursery nightlight with a red setting (a little belle elfin house nightlight has a lovely soft glow) a white noise machine, or blackout curtains to help baby get the rest they need. Experiment with different soothing tools to see what works for your baby.
  • Harness the power of natural light. Exposure to natural light during daytime activities can help establish a sleep-wake pattern for your baby that more closely corresponds to the day-night cycle, making it more likely for them to sleep through the night.

Even implementing all these tips, your eight-month-old may still have sleeping problems. While the 8-month sleep regression often brings frustration and exhaustion to even the most patient households, it’s important to remember that it is temporary. Your baby will likely go back to sleeping in regular stretches within 3 to 6 weeks.

 

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