Written by: Nicky Barker, Founder of Little Ones & Paediatric Sleep Specialist
Updated June 2019
What is a sleep regression?
A sleep regression is a period when a baby or toddler who has been sleeping well suddenly starts waking at night, being difficult to settle and/or skipping naps. To learn more about when and why this can happen in general, read our full article on sleep regression.
So, what exactly is the 8-10 month sleep regression?
We know what you’re thinking, ‘A REGRESSION THAT LASTS 2 MONTHS !’ Don't worry, the 8 month sleep regression doesn’t actually last for 2 months, it just means that it can happen anytime between 8-10 months. This sleep regression is due to your baby's brain development and physical developments like crawling, pulling to stand etc.
At around 8 months of age your baby is going through a massive neurological and physiological development change. They’ll be learning to crawl, pulling to stand and finding their voice, amongst other things. Your little one is a busy bee, this means they want to wake in the night to practise their new skills. Basically, at this age babies are distracted by their own amazingness (and rightly so). Don’t worry, unlike the 4 month sleep regression this one should only last for a couple of weeks on and off.
What happens during the 8 month sleep regression?
Babies become more aware of their surroundings at this age. You may have noticed that your little one has become clingier and they cry when they are left with someone other than you and that’s because babies at this age start being able to tell one adult from another and they start to develop the concept of object permanence.
Object Permanence is the understanding that objects continue to exist even when they cannot be perceived (seen, heard, touched, smelled or sensed in any way.) In the earlier months of your baby’s life, you may have noticed that your wee one liked to play peek-a-boo, because in their minds once you had disappeared from their line of sight, you vanished and then you re-appeared again (best trick in the book), but for older babies this is no longer the case.
Somewhere between 6-8 months old your baby will go from 3 naps to 2. This transition to 2 naps depends on your baby having consolidated their napping so that they are doing at least one good long nap (over 45 minutes) as well as one shorter nap during the day. If you think your baby is ready to drop a nap then check out our article for more information here.
Signs of the 8 month sleep regression
The main sign that your little one is going through a regression is that their sleeping pattern takes a turn for the worse, but some other signs to look out for are:
- The sleep regression hits close to major milestones like crawling, pulling up, walking and talking
- Waking more in the night and staying awake for ages
- They can’t resettle if they were previously able to
- Refusing to nap
- Crying when settling for a nap or at bedtime
What causes the 8 month sleep regression?
As we mentioned in our sleep regression article, nothing as such causes a regression as they are developmental phases that all babies go through. Unlike the pesky 4 month sleep regression, the 8 month sleep regression is about physical and mental growth in your little one.
But there are certain things that happen alongside the regression that could affect their sleep like:
Your little one will be learning gross motor skills like walking, crawling, talking etc and this can be a lot to take in. Their brain may be too wired to sleep at night or they’ll wake to practise their new skills.
Picture this - you’ve just come out of a long meeting and have had to take in a lot of new information and you try falling sleep straight after, most likely it isn’t going to happen because your brain is far too stimulated.
As we mentioned your little one is now more alert and aware of their surroundings and may start experiencing separation anxiety.
Somewhere between 6-8 months your baby will go from 3 naps to 2.
Teething usually gets the blame for a lot of issues surrounding your wee one, but the truth is teething is actually a short lived nightmare and unless you can see the teeth breaking through the gums, this won’t be the cause of any sleep disruption
How long does the 8 month regression last?
You’ve gone through the trials and tribulations of the 4 month sleep regression and you’ve made it to the other side, but now you’ve been faced with yet another regression. Don’t worry, unlike the 4 month sleep regression, thankfully the 8 month sleep regression will only last for a month on and off.
However, if new sleep associations creep in during this sleep regression, it’ll last a lot longer!
A sleep association is something that your baby comes to rely on to fall asleep, such as rocking, feeding etc
Sleep associations often develop around periods of big developmental change and become stronger as babies become more alert. As we mentioned, during this regression your little one may be more difficult to settle, this can be when you might start rocking or feeding them to assist them in falling asleep, but if your bubs has come to rely on that method to fall asleep, they will now need to replicate that every time they wake between cycles.
Do sleep regressions ‘ruin’ the sleep training you have done/doing/plan to do?
No, in fact having a routine to follow and being more prepared will help you through the regression - by implementing good sleep habits early on.
Our Sleep Programs help to regulate your little one’s sleeping patterns and helps your baby adjust to big changes like regressions and nap transitions.
How to deal with the 8 month regression
We know it probably feels like it’s one regression after another, but just remember they are natural developmental periods in your baby’s life that are helping them to grow, mature and develop. And yes, it’s tough, but you pulled through the 4 month regression (which is no easy feat) and remember there are plenty of things that you can do to help you and your little one along the way.
- Remember this is just a short phase and it will be over in a matter of weeks, so stick with it and stick to your routine and be careful not to start creating more dependent sleep habits/ associations that will be harder to shake off later.
- Make sure your routine (naps and awake times) are age appropriate. We can give you a helping hand with that with our Sleep Programs.
- Be sure to foster good sleep habits like:
- Sleeping your little one in a totally dark room to allow the release of the sleep hormone melatonin
- Have a good bedtime routine in place.
- Use white noise to help get your baby to sleep. We have our Baby Sleep Shhh track available on Spotify here.
- Offer support to your bubs, but remember to give them the chance to self-settle.
- Allow for lots of physical and mental stimulation during their awake time in the day.