Ah, baby sleep. One minute you're patting yourself on the back for finally getting your youngster into a successful sleeping routine and then the next, you're scratching your head and wondering what on earth has happened to your slumbering angel.
Stumped? We spoke to sleep expert Hannah Love to find out more about the 8 month sleep regression.
What is the 8-month sleep regression?
We're guessing you're here because your eight-month-old is kicking up a fuss when it comes to sleep. They may be experiencing sleep regression which, put simply, is when a baby’s sleep worsens.
Sleep regression can happen at any time, with both babies and toddlers going through a sleep regression. They can come along with teething, illness and changes in situations like going on holiday or moving rooms.
However, there are certain periods in a baby’s life where regressions are more common and between seven months and nine months is one of those often documented.
Why does the 8-month sleep regression happen?
Sleep regressions around this age are common due to a number of factors:
Transition through naps: often this is the age where awake windows increase and babies transition from three to two naps. This can cause issues with settling for naps, not being tired enough or being too tired at bedtime.
Teething and illness: teething is common at this age so, therefore, sleep regressions are also common too. Babies also often start nursery, coming home with illness after illness. Teething and illness are things that can cause sleep regressions at any age but they are more common between seven and nine months
Being more mobile: Babies start to sit, stand, cruise and crawl between these ages. All of these exciting baby milestones can cause sleep regressions with your baby practising their new skills at bedtime or in the middle of the night which prevents them from settling to sleep. It is also important to note that babies need less sleep when learning so if your baby is practising their new skills, you may need to increase their awake windows, often considerably.
Separation anxiety: Babies often become more aware as they get older and can become more anxious at being left, this is especially the case if your baby hasn’t learnt to self-settle to sleep yet. Trying to transfer baby into their cot, away from you can get harder and harder (parents often describe their child as knowing when they are being lowered!)
How long does it last?
This very much depends on the reason. If the regression is due to a nap transition then not very long at all. Once your tot is into their new routine then sleep should improve again. If it is due to pain from teething or illness then you can expect it to last as long as the period of illness or teething.
The most crucial factor in tackling sleep regression is your baby’s ability to self-settle to sleep. If your baby is relying on you to go to sleep or return to sleep in any way (milk, rocking, holding, co-sleeping, contact napping) then regressions will be much more common and are likely to last much longer. You should consider practising self-settling to sleep with your little one and as a result, regressions should be minimal and help you and your bub get back on track pretty quickly.
Similarly, if the sleep regression is due to separation anxiety then often the regression will last until the baby is taught to self-settle to sleep.
How to handle the 8-month sleep regression.
• To get through the 8-month sleep regression, you should aim to teach your baby to go to sleep independently for naps and bedtime, self-settling at naps is especially vital for good overnight sleep.
• Ensure no milk for one hour before naps and 30 mins before bed.
• If due to pain, offer regular painkillers/ teething gel, while they are uncomfortable, baby might need extra help, but try and keep this to a minimum.
• If due to a routine change, developmental leap or nap transition then increase the awake windows and ensure lots of active play leading up to bed and nap times.
• Know this is just a stage and you and your baby will get through it, eight months is also a perfect time to ‘sleep train’ if you are yet to do that, babies can confidently eliminate nighttime milk and be encouraged to sleep through.
Hannah Love is the resident Sleep Expert at Bloomsbury Mill. She is also the Parenting and Sleep Expert from Sleep Well With Hannah. Hannah offers a free sleep workshop that you can access through her Facebook community.