Perhaps one of the most memorable moments in new parenthood is when baby begins to sleep through the night. The worst thing is when this ends. That said, if you're a new parent, you need to know that this will happen at least three or more times during the first year of your child's life. These short lapses in sleeping through the night are called regressions and they're very normal as a part of child development.
What Is an 8 Month Sleep Regression?
Sleep regression at 8 month is a normal part of infancy. As young children advance through their sleep patterns, these patterns naturally adjust at specific milestones. One of these milestones occurs at around 8 months of age although, it's perfectly normal for this to occur a month or so prior or after 8 months. Typically, the child that was sleeping through the night begins to awaken at odd hours. Parents must learn how to deal with this without going back to the rocking-baby-to-sleep phase. If the parents don't handle this phase correctly, they may well wind up with a child that sleeps only on his schedule.
What's Behind 8 Month Sleep Regression?
As the child reaches new milestones, he/she requires less sleep and will adjust his schedule accordingly. Children who are learning new skills often fail to recognize that there is a time and a place to practice such skills. Thus, when they should be sleeping, they are up playing or fine tuning their new found skills. It's tempting to take them back to the "rocking baby to sleep" phase but it's important that parents teach children to self soothe instead of allowing them to regress further.
Your baby may also be adjusting mentally and learning how to adapt his or her own schedule. To further complicate matters, your baby may be at a point in his/her life where the/she is reducing naps from 3 naps per day to 2 naps per day. All these factors work together causing a sleep regression and your child is no exception.
What to Do about Baby Sleep Regression
1. Identify the Cause
It's important to understand the real cause of a regression if your child is going through 8 month sleep regression. Make sure your baby isn't sick. Many parents blame a sleep regression on teething, however, that won't usually disrupt sleep as much as parents give it credit for. Likely it's something in the nap schedule and if you figure it out carefully, you can adjust the nap scheduling to remove one nap per day and resolve the issue all on its own. To do this, you may wish to allow baby to stay up 15 minutes past their usual nap time and see if this doesn't self-resolve in short order.
2. Remove Distractions
Ensure that your baby's room is conducive to sleep. Does baby have things to do in his or her crib that would keep him or her preoccupied? If so, it's time to remove the distractions.
- Try plain colored sheets, solid wallpaper and no toys to see if that helps.
- Don't forget to turn out the light; it is amazing how just a small shaft of light can become a distraction at this age.
- Even a toy on the dresser that is across the room can be inviting enough for baby to begin to babble at it.
In short, anything that could stimulate baby should be eliminated from his room or put out of their line of vision. The trick is to bore baby into sleep. Another sneaky trick, consider a sleep sack so that baby can't get around as easily. While they can still move around, they'll find it more of a challenge to crawl, sit and stand. They may be more likely to give up and go to sleep.
3. Revamp the Schedule
It's important to make sure that baby's sleep schedule meets his needs. Is baby being put to bed before he's ready to sleep? Is baby tired enough to go to bed? Here's a guide to find out a good schedule for your baby:
- If baby takes more than 15 minutes to fall asleep, or baby is playing during this time, consider putting baby down for his or her nap 15 minutes later.
- If baby falls asleep quickly, however the nap is less than an hour, perhaps the nap should also fall 15 minutes later.
- If baby takes a shorter nap but wakes up howling, consider putting baby down 15 minutes earlier and see if that helps to reduce the crying.
- If baby falls right to sleep and sleeps for over an hour, you've got this, don't change anything and enjoy nap time.
4. Make the Nap Transition Nice and Slow
Begin the transition from three naps to two slowly. If you move too quickly to two naps, you may have a cranky baby who isn't getting enough rest. If you don't move it quickly enough, you may have a difficult time getting baby to bed at night. Each phase is slightly different; most parents find that if they move things around by five minute increments, it transitions very well. Start with the afternoon nap (middle nap) about five minutes later each day or so until it blends into the next nap time. By slowly moving things, baby won't notice and you'll gradually eliminate one nap per day. Over the course of time, you'll be able to adjust the 3rd nap into bedtime if you take care to do this slowly.
5. Comfort Your Baby
Ideally, you've already established a routine for baby and baby is thriving when the 8 month sleep regression comes along. Baby's sleep routine should be the same before each and every sleep time. Perhaps a diaper change, some soft music, a bottle of warm milk and then lay baby down for sleep. Once baby associates a routine with sleep, it becomes second nature.
When regression comes around, it's going to work in your favor to have this routine already well established. Your baby is going to need some extra love and attention as he works through this time and you're going to have to help by reinforcing your love and affection to baby. Keep baby's room at an ideal sleeping temperature (approximately 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit) and focus on keeping to the routine to help baby adjust accordingly.
6. Outlet for Release
Be sure to incorporate plenty of play time into baby's day. The more baby has an outlet for some release of energy the better. Don't allow baby to become overtired (an overtired baby can't fall asleep easily either) and focus on remembering that some babies need time to cry for a few minutes before they fall asleep. This can help to reduce the transitional time of the 8 month sleep regression.