She’s becoming more mobile, experimenting with the world of food and doing her best to communicate. All this development is a parent’s pride, but if your 8 month old won’t sleep you may feel too exhausted to keep up with it.
That’s because development in one area (like mobility) often leads to a temporary regression in another area (like sleep.) Your baby’s body and brain are working in overdrive and it’s hard for her to relax long enough to have restful sleep.
My friends, you’ve entered the world of the 8 month sleep regression. Pour yourself a cup of coffee (or glass of wine) and let me explain what it is, what causes it and how you can survive it.
Even if your baby isn’t showing all the signs of the 8 month old sleep regression, the tips in this article will show you how to get your 8 month old sleeping great.
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What is the 8 month sleep regression?
Sleep regressions are sudden disruptions in your baby’s sleep that coincide with development. As your baby learns new skills (like crawling, pulling to stand or speaking) it’s normal for another part of his development to regress temporarily. We often see sleep regress when baby is mastering a new skill.
This regression is often called the 8-10 month sleep regression because it can happen anytime during this age range.
8 month sleep regression signs
- Baby won’t nap
- Waking at night
- Fighting bedtime
- Baby is more fussy, restless or clingy
Sleep regressions are sudden and temporary. You can expect your baby’s sleep to be disrupted for 1-2 weeks. Any sleep problems lasting longer than 2 weeks are probably due to habit.
Here’s an example. The 8 month old sleep regression makes your baby wake up 4 times at night (rather than his usual 1 waking.) Tactics that used to help him fall back asleep (like rubbing his back for a few minutes) don’t work anymore. He now can only settle by being fed. But 4 weeks later, you’re still up feeding your baby 4 times during the night.
It’s safe to say the regression has passed and your baby’s new habit is waking to be fed 4 times a night. That’s ok, we’ve all been there. My tips on surviving the 8-10 month old sleep regression below will show you how to get baby sleeping well again.
8 month sleep regression causes
8, 9 and 10 months is an age of rapid development for your baby. Your baby’s gross motor skills are improving by the minute! She can now sit up with no support, crawl and pull up to stand. (And if not, she will SOON so watch out!)
Her fine motor skills are advancing too. She’s practicing the pincer grasp by picking up small objects with her thumb and index or middle finger. This is also a sign of improved hand-eye coordination.
Your baby’s mental development is also advancing as he starts communicating with you more each day. He may love looking at himself in the mirror. And he now recognizes familiar faces versus strangers.
He responds to his name and might even answer back with some babbling. His eyesight is getting clearer, so he can spot an object across the room and point at it.
Object permanence develops around this age which can lead to separation anxiety. Your baby has just realized that objects (or people) still exist even when she can’t see them.
This can cause her to get distressed and cry when you leave the room or drop her at daycare. It’s heartbreaking for most parents, but it’s a normal and temporary phase of development.
With all of this development happening, it’s no wonder your 8 month old won’t sleep. It’s hard for her to relax and sleep well when she’d rather practice standing, crawling, or babbling. Plus, separation anxiety may make it harder for you to leave the room when she’s falling asleep.
I don’t believe in “formal” sleep training during a sleep regression. Making big changes to your baby’s sleep routine during a period of increased fussiness and restlessness is a recipe for disaster! That being said, there are steps you can take to improve your baby’s sleep during this regression. (You’ll find these steps below.)
What you can expect from your 8 month old’s sleep
- 2 – 3 naps daily
- Awake times between naps should be 2-3 hours
- Baby will drop the 3rd nap between 6-9 months
- 2-3 hours total daytime sleep each day
- 6:30 – 8 pm is ideal for this age
- Try to keep bedtime within a 15 minute range every night. (Ex: baby is always asleep between 7-7:15 pm everyday.)
- Most 8 month olds can sleep 10-12 hours without needing to feed. Others need 1 night feed.
- Ask your doctor if your baby is ready for night weaning.
- 11 – 12 hours
Total sleep in 24 hours
- 13 – 15 hours
*If you think the 3rd nap is interfering with night sleep, consider transitioning your baby to 2 naps.
RELATED: My 9 Month Old Won’t Sleep!
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How To Survive the 8 Month Sleep Regression
Tip 1: Let your baby practice new skills during the day
There’s a lot of change and activity happening in your baby’s brain right now! Understandably, this makes it harder for him to settle down and sleep long stretches.
The first tip I always give parents is to give their baby the space and opportunity to practice new skills during the day. If your baby is learning to pull to stand or crawl, don’t trap him in a baby activity center for long periods.
Instead, place him on the (baby-proofed) living room floor and let him GO! This helps him burn off energy and master new skills sooner.
Most babies will go through a phase of wanting to sit, stand or crawl around the crib rather than sleep. If your baby is happily awake and practicing new skills during the night, do your best to give him space. Sure, he’ll lose some sleep over the next few days. But he’s learning to move around and get himself comfortable in the crib on his own- a vital self-soothing skill!
If your baby is “stuck” standing or sitting in the crib, and he’s upset about it, then help him lie down. If he pops right back up, try backing off for several minutes to let him practice repositioning himself. Otherwise you may get caught in a game of “jack-in-the-box” for weeks!
Tip 2: Keep a consistent daily schedule for your 8 month old
Consistency and routine are essential for helping babies sleep well. A consistent sleep schedule sets your baby’s block clock to sleep at certain times, making it easier for her to settle for naps and at bedtime.
If you already have a daily schedule for your baby, stick to it as closely as possible. Even if your 8 month old is fighting sleep, it’s best to keep her sleep routines familiar.
If you haven’t yet started a sleep schedule for your baby, these sample daily schedules will help you create one.
Sample daily schedules for 8 month olds
If baby takes 3 naps a day
7:00 Wake, milk
9:00 Morning nap
10:00 Wake, milk
12:15 Afternoon nap
1:30 Wake, milk
3:00 Snack, milk
4:00 Cat nap
6:00 Dinner, bath
6:45 Peaceful Nightly Ritual, top-up feed
If baby takes 2 naps a day
7:00 Wake, milk
9:30 Morning nap
11:00 Wake, milk
2:00 Afternoon nap
3:30 Wake, milk, solids
5:30 Dinner, bath
6:00 Peaceful Nightly Ritual, top-up feed
6:30 – 7:00 Bedtime
- Milk & solids can be combined or staggered depending on baby’s preference.
- On-demand breastfeeders do not need to follow a strict feeding schedule.
Tip 3: Feed your baby often during the day
Growth spurts and development make babies hungrier. The best way to prevent your 8 month old from waking up hungry in the night is to feed him often during the day.
If your baby suddenly wants to eat more one night, let him. But make sure to feed him more the following day too. You may offer feeds more frequently or a larger volume at each feed. This helps him get the extra calories needed to fuel this growth spurt, but aims to keep the majority of these feeds happening during the day. So he can sleep longer at night!
Most babies are ready to sleep through the night (without feeding) by 8-9 months. Ask your baby’s doctor is your little one is ready.
Tip 4: Have extra “quality time” with your little one
When your baby has separation anxiety, she’ll be missing you more than normal. And she may let you know how much she misses you when it’s time to sleep!
Babies that normally fall asleep on their own may suddenly cry when you leave the room at bedtime. They may also need more comfort during the night when they wake. It’s the greatest compliment knowing how much your baby loves and needs you. It’s just really exhausting at 3 am.
To help minimize your 8 month old’s nighttime separation anxiety, try having lots of quality time together during the day.
Put your phone away and spend 15 uninterrupted minutes together playing, reading books, and cuddling. If possible, do this a few times each day.
Evening is the perfect opportunity to give your baby the love and reassurance she needs so she can relax and fall asleep easily at bedtime. Try to minimize distractions and multitasking in the hour before baby’s bedtime. Chat while you have dinner and bathe baby. And make sure to give lots of hugs and kisses during baby’s bedtime routine.
Although it’s a bit early, explaining things to your baby can help you feel better. Tell her that you’re going to work, you love her very much and you’ll be back soon. Over time, she (and you) will get used to you being away.
Tip 5: Start a peaceful bedtime routine
Bedtime is THE place to start when you want to help your baby sleep better. The majority of baby sleep experts agree that the best way to set your baby up for sleeping long stretches at night is to begin a bedtime routine.
The purpose of a bedtime routine is to calm your baby in the evening, so that his body can relax and welcome sleep. Certain activities have been proven to relax babies, and when done in the right order, it sets your baby up for sleeping longer at night.
If your little one is struggling with separation anxiety, restlessness or wanting to practice new skills- a relaxing bedtime routine is the best way to set him up to sleep well. It’s an “instant cure” for babies that fight bedtime.
If you haven’t yet started a consistent bedtime routine, today’s the day to begin! Get all my best tips in my Exhausted Mom’s Starter Kit.
Tip 6: Try gentle sleep training first
Sleep regressions can totally derail good sleeping habits. And sometimes it seems that pulling baby into your bed and nursing her all night is the only option to help you both sleep. I get it, I’ve been there!
But here’s the thing… a few days or weeks of this can easily become habit that your baby will expect long-term. So if you’re not keen to share a bed with your little one for the long haul, consider trying “less hands on” to help settle your baby.
For example, when your baby wakes at night avoid scooping her up right away.
Instead, try to sing or speak calmly to her while she stays in the crib. Rub her back or head, pat her bottom or put your hand on her chest to let her know you’re there. Sometimes a few minutes of this settles her right back to sleep… and you can tiptoe back to your bed.
If your 8 month old still won’t sleep after several minutes of trying, go ahead and pick her up. Sway, walk or bounce her to help calm her. Sometimes this can do the trick!
Only as a last resort do you want to do “heavy hands on” soothing like feeding to sleep or pulling baby into your bed. Although it can help your baby fall back asleep quickly, it can also lead to more night wakings.
Please know that if you’ve tried everything else, and this is the only option that works, don’t feel any guilt about it! Do whatever you need to do to survive this regression. After 2 weeks you can be sure that the regression has passed and you can focus on getting your baby sleeping independently. This is what I help parents do everyday in my sleep training program.
The 8 month sleep regression can wreck your baby’s sleep routine. That’s a given. But remember, it’s not permanent.
The above tips will help you survive this regression and get your baby sleeping as well as possible. After 2 weeks of sleep troubles, it’s safe to assume the regression has passed and you’re free to get your baby sleeping amazingly!