There’s nothing new parents value more than a good night’s sleep. We’re guessing you’ve gone to great lengths to create a nap and bedtime routine that gets everyone in the house as much sleep as possible.
By the time your baby is 8 months old, they’ve likely (hopefully!) settled into the infant version of sleeping through the night (with one or two wakings at the most). At this stage, you may still be pretty exhausted (you do have an infant after all), but you’ve probably begun to think that the sleepless nights of the newborn period are behind you.
Alas, it’s common for babies to experience a sleep regression around 8 months of age. Sleep regressions can be daunting and can negatively impact the sleep of everyone in the home.
On the upside, this regression won’t last forever! Read on for more scoop on this blip in the road and tips to get everyone in your household some solid slumber.
A sleep regression is a period when a baby who has been sleeping well (or at least well enough) experiences poor sleep. Sleep regressions can include shorter naps, extreme fussiness at nap or bedtime, fighting sleep, and frequent waking at night.
Sleep regressions are common at several ages, including 4 months, 8 months, and 18 months. While other issues can cause disruptions in a baby’s sleep habits, you can distinguish a regression from other sleep disturbances based on when it happens, how long it lasts, and whether there are any other issues.
Of course, just because regressions happen to some babies doesn’t mean they’ll happen to yours. If your baby is around 8 months and you aren’t struggling with sleep issues, great! (The rest of us will be over here chugging coffee and wishing we knew your secrets.)
While it might feel like forever, most sleep regressions only last for 3 to 6 weeks. If sleep troubles are resolved more quickly it’s likely that baby was troubled by other temporary factors like a change in schedule, an illness, or teething, rather than experiencing a true regression.
Experts explain that sleep regressions usually happen for two reasons: a developmental leap or a shift in nap schedules and overall sleep needs.
When it comes to development, 8-month-olds are doing a lot. At this age, many babies are learning to scoot, crawl, and pull themselves up. Their language skills are also rapidly expanding as they understand more and more of what you’re saying every day.
These mental leaps can cause sleep disturbances as baby tries out new skills or simply has a busy mind.
A shift in nap schedule and changing sleep needs can also be a factor in the 8-month sleep regression. Eight-month-olds are starting to stay awake for longer stretches during the day. As they drop their third nap and settle into a two-a-day nap schedule it can throw their night sleep off-kilter.
While it may be helpful to learn what causes a sleep regression and how long it will last, the information you’re really looking for is probably how to get your baby to go back to sleep — and stay asleep! — so you can get some rest.
While 3 to 6 weeks can feel like forever, it’s important to remember that the 8-month sleep regression is temporary in nature. You don’t need to change your whole routine to accommodate a baby who is not sleeping as well as they were before. The best course of action during the 8-month sleep regression is to continue to follow whatever sleep training method and routine you’ve used before.
If you’ve found success rocking them to sleep, continue doing so, while recognizing that it may temporarily take baby longer to settle. Rocking and holding your baby as they fall asleep is only an issue if you don’t want to do it, so don’t stress if other families don’t rock their babies to sleep.
Many parents verbally soothe and pat their baby as they lie in their crib. Again, it may temporarily take longer for baby to settle than it previously has, but if this method has worked for you in the past it’s valuable to continue it now.
Controlled crying, or allowing brief periods of crying with soothing in between, is another common sleep training method that you might employ during the 8-month sleep regression. For this method, you can either remain in the room with your baby as they fuss or step in and out as they need you.
Some babies are soothed just by the presence of their parent or caregiver in the room. If you’ve previously found this to be true for your little one, give it a try again. Simply sit in the rocking chair or on the floor by their crib or stand by the door as they drift off to sleep.
If your family has employed the cry-it-out method to sleep train your baby, you can use this method again. Be aware that it may take your little one longer than it has over the past few months to calm. You may need to step in to provide support and comfort more frequently than you have in the past.
While it may have been months since you’ve had to use any of these methods to help baby fall asleep, and it may feel frustrating to spend so much time waiting for baby to settle, it’s important to remember that this situation is temporary and you won’t have to do this forever.
While 8-month olds have shifting sleep needs, they still need quite a bit of sleep. Each baby’s exact sleep needs are as individual as they are, but, in general, 8-month olds need 12 to 15 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period.
Again, for every baby this might look different, but your 8-month old (if not in the middle of a regression!) might sleep 10 to 11 hours at night, with or without 1 to 2 wakings to feed, and sleep 2 to 4 hours during the day.
Some babies sleep for longer stretches at night and take shorter naps during the day while others sleep a shorter stretch at night and then take two long naps throughout the day.
During the 8-month sleep regression, it can be difficult to avoid feeling frustrated about the lack of sleep you and your baby are getting. Revisiting some baby sleep basics can be helpful during this time.
Important baby sleep tips include:
- Maintain a consistent rest time routine for both nap times and bedtime.
- Be sure your baby’s basic needs are met prior to laying them down to rest. Change their diaper, ensure their tummy is full, and dress them in an outfit appropriate for the temperature.
- It’s okay to snuggle, rock, or nurse your baby to sleep. Comfort is as natural a need as hunger and you, as their parent or caregiver, have the power to ensure they feel safe and comfortable as they drift off to sleep.
- Take turns with your partner getting up to soothe baby throughout the night and putting them down for naps and bedtime.
- If you’re raising your little one on your own, call in favors from friends who’ve offered, “Let me know what I can do.” Ask them to bunk with you for a night or two to help with getting baby to sleep.
- It’s okay to use soothing tools like sleep sacks, music, 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.
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.
In the meantime, revisit your family’s sleep training method, keep a consistent nap and bedtime routine, and call on friends and family to help you get the rest you need.