As the mom of a 7-month-old, I felt like I had it all figured out. My son was sleeping all night, eating less frequently during the day, and overall just felt more like a “real” person. But then a month later, our son started to wake again overnight, protested most of his naps, and was generally a grumpy hooligan the rest of the time. He was exhausted. We felt defeated, and our confidence in our parenting abilities plummeted. The culprit? The 8-month sleep regression.
This regression can sneak up on parents. Unlike the 4-month regression, which almost always occurs around 16 weeks, this one can wreak havoc anytime between seven and nine months. But like any sleep regression, it's not fun, and it's not pretty, and there are signs to look out for: increased overnight wake-ups for no apparent reason, fighting bedtime, and refusing naps. But not to worry, you can come out on the other side still smiling by following a few easy steps.
Here are 6 steps you can take to move past the 8-month regression.
1. Rule out other causes.
Your first instinct will be to assume the sleep craziness is due to illness, ear infection, or teething. This is a good place to start, but oftentimes leads to a dead-end. If sleep disruption lasts more than 3-4 days, it’s likely not a result of any of the above. Once you’ve ruled those out, you can more safely assume it’s a sleep regression.
2. Adjust bedtime.
Most babies take three naps until seven to eight months, after which they either start to refuse the third nap or don’t fall asleep until 5 pm. If that’s happening, it’s time to drop that third nap and move bedtime earlier. Most babies this age are best off going to bed between 6 and 7 pm, assuming they’re napping until 3 pm. As they get older, they’ll be able to stay up a bit later but, for now, their bodies need extra nighttime sleep as they adjust to the two-nap schedule.
3. If nighttime sleep is off, ensure that your baby is getting enough daytime sleep.
At this age, we’re looking for the morning and midday naps to be one to two hours each. Anything shorter than an hour indicates that the baby isn’t completing a full sleep cycle, which means the nap isn’t restorative. Even if your baby is protesting naps, continue to offer them at age-appropriate times (8:30 to am and 12:30 to 1 pm) and -- almost always -- she’ll begin to take them again.
4. Remove stimuli during sleep times.
If you haven’t done so already, use blackout shades and a high quality white noise machine to create a dark, quiet sleep environment for all naps and overnight. If your baby tends to sleep on-the-go for most naps, then it’s time to prioritize naps in the crib.
5. Work on self-soothing.
If your baby can’t yet fall asleep independently, it’s probably not going to improve with age. Rather, it will likely become more difficult to teach her this skill. Consider using this opportunity to sleep train. There are a variety of methods based on your comfort level and your baby’s temperament -- find one that suits you!
6. A sleep regression can last up to two weeks.
Some babies don’t seem to be as affected by the seven to nine month regression, while others are hit hard. As you make the above adjustments to your child’s sleep schedule or sleep environment, try your best not to introduce new sleep habits that you don’t want to be there for the long-term. If you’ve already sleep trained or established sleep rules, stick to those. If you don’t yet have sleep rules, this is a great time to put some in place.