As a certified child sleep coach, I spend a lot of time talking about the 8-10 month sleep regression and helping parents through it. I hear this a lot from parents, “my child has never a been a good sleeper and I didn’t think sleep could get much worse, but when the 8 month sleep regression hit, it did! Please help!” Or some parents who have had great sleepers, around the 8, 9, 10 month range say “where did my amazing sleeper go and how can I get her back?” Sound familiar? Read on to learn more about surviving and helping your baby to thrive during the 8-10 month sleep regression!
First, let’s explore what is a sleep regression and why they happen.
What is a sleep regression?
When a baby is sleeping well and then begins to wake frequently at night or begin to fight naps or refuse them, chances are your baby may have hit a sleep regression. They can last a short while (a few days to a couple weeks) or your baby may never fully go back to their previous habits.
Sleep regressions typically occur around 4 months, 8 months and 18 months and coincide with standard timing for nap transitions. Around 4 months, babies transition from 4 naps to 3; around 8 months, babies transition from 3 naps to 2; and around 18 months, babies transition from 2 naps to 1.
Oftentimes, our babies are also working on major skills in each of these timeframes which can also play into the regression. Sleep regressions are actually our babies are progressing! They are maturing and developing, which is AMAZING, yet it can wreak major havoc on your baby’s slumber.
If your baby’s sleep needs have changed and you aren’t prepared to adjust their schedule to get those needs met, it can result in an overtired baby, which results in a downward spiral for both day and night sleep.
What causes the 8-10 month sleep regression?
There are three primary causes:
- Physical milestones
- Mental development
- 3-2 nap transition
Around 8-10 months, babies become increasingly mobile – many begin sitting up, scooting, crawling, pulling up, cruising your furniture and some may even start walking. That’s a lot of movement – think about all of the time and energy they are expending practicing their new skills! Also, instead of sleeping at bed and naptime, they are busy practicing all their cool, new moves! Standing, jumping and crawling around the crib sound familiar?
All this activity can wear babies out quicker, which can lead them to be overtired more quickly, which results in cranky pants at bedtime, night waking and shortened naps.
Around 9 months of age, babies go through Wonder Weeks leap #6, which is a big one! Quoting from the Wonder Weeks website, “Babies begin attempting to do new things and can recognize that certain objects, sensations, animals, and people belong together in groups or categories….the leap into the world of categories will affect every sense – sight, smell, taste, and touch.”
During this leap babies also begin to really grasp the concept of object permanence – they understand that if an object is out of their sight, the object is still there, even if they can’t see it. Understanding object permanence means that babies begin to experience separation anxiety.
In addition, they also realize that their actions can elicit a reaction from their parents. They may begin waking multiple time per night shrieking like a spider monkey – if they don’t have a need, it is likely that they are testing their limits and how you will respond. “If I do this, how will my parents react?” Our reactions can determine if this will become a new habit for them. Hello newborn phase all over again!
Waking up multiples at night causes unconsolidated nighttime sleep, which means that this sleep isn’t as restorative and can quickly cause your child to become chronically overtired.
3-2 nap transition
Around 8 months is when the third nap – the cat nap that happens in the late afternoon – should be dropped. You’ll know when your child is ready to drop this nap when they begin fighting it on a regular basis (10-14 days on average) or when they begin fighting all naps for the same period of time.
Also, your baby’s sleep needs are changing – they still need around 14 hours of sleep daily, but the distribution of sleep changes. They begin to need more sleep at night – around 11-12 hours and their day time sleep needs begin to decrease from 3-4 hours to 2-3 hours daily.
If you aren’t prepared to make these changes and your child begins the nap strike, good chance you are going to have an overtired little one on your hands. What happens when babies get overtired? The sleep regression downward spiral – night waking, early morning wake ups, trouble settling into sleep and difficulty with naps.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?
There is a lot going on that plays into the 8, 9, 10 month sleep regression, but the common theme throughout all of the causes of the regression include babies becoming overtired. So what can you do to help your baby (and your sanity) to make it through this regression?
Top 8 tips to survive the 8-10 month sleep regression:
- If your child wasn’t sleeping well before the sleep regression, don’t assume that everything is attribute to the regression. There are likely some other challenges, like sleep associations, that need to be addressed.
- Maintain your normal routines – ensure that your bedtime / naptime soothing routine stays the same. When our children are experiencing a lot of internal change, the best thing we can do is to maintain consistency with their routines.
- Provide extra snuggles and reassurance at bedtime and naptime if your child is experiencing separation anxiety, but set limits and stick to them. Maybe add an additional 10-15 minutes to your routine, but stick with that timeframe. Your goal is to support them through the change, but we can’t take away the challenges they are experiencing+.
- Ensure that their sleep environment is free from distractions – remove all nightlights, mobiles, etc. and ensure that their room is optimized for sleep. Cool (68-72 degrees), dark with white noise.
- Give A LOT of extra time during awake times for babies to practice their new skills so they don’t spend their snoozing time practicing.
- Keep bedtime early, especially as your child is moving through the 3-2 nap transition. Awake periods become longer once the third nap is dropped and to ensure your child doesn’t get overtired, move bedtime earlier – as early as 5:30-6:00 pm – to help them stay rested. You can also offer the 3rd cat nap every 2-3 days if your child will take it. This helps them to avoid accumulating a sleep debt.
- Avoid forming new habits or bring back any old habits that you’ve broken in attempts to “help” your child through the regression. This is a short-term phase. You don’t want to form any new long-terms habits, like bringing back middle of the night feedings, rocking to sleep or bringing your baby into bed with you. In other words, don’t make drastic changes to your sleep routines or schedule.
- Take some deep breaths and realize that this isn’t forever. If you become stressed, anxious and frustrated, your baby will sense this and it will make it much harder for him or her to settle.
This 8-10 month sleep regression can be a real doozy, but you can and will make it through! If you’ve tried the suggestions above without success and you’d like to explore working together, schedule a no-cost 20-minute intro chat. Also, check out my reviews on Facebook! (please note: during the intro chats I do not provide advice on the sleep regression – my advice is listed above in the What Should You Do section. These calls are designed to discuss working together and determining if we are a good fit.)