Chances are that things have felt pretty good the last few months! Whether or not you have decided to sleep train, sleep at least has started to feel predictable. You know around when your baby will nap, how many times they will wake up at night, and how often they will need to eat! It’s been nice!
Enter… The 8-Month Sleep Regression!
I want to be clear -- this regression has a bit of a range. I’ve seen it strike any time between 8 and 10 months.
To review, regressions fall into three categories:
1. Skill-Based Regressions: Your baby is learning a new skill like crawling, sitting, or talking!
2. Separation Anxiety-Based Regressions: Your child is learning more about how they exist in relation to you in space. They might also be learning effective ways to have you come back to them!
3.Cognitive-Based Regressions: We see this often in the toddler years! Toddlers are learning a variety of skills that include power, control, and reasoning.
The 8-Month Sleep Regression is a combination of a separation anxiety-based regression and a skill-based regression!
This regression has some key characteristics that make it obvious that it’s hitting!
Symptoms of the 8-Month Sleep Regression
· Escalated behavior at bedtime (ESPECIALLY if you have established independent sleep)
· Additional night wakes with escalated behavior (escalated behavior generally includes bouts of intense crying or screaming. The screaming may initially be so intense that your initial thoughts may be to think that your baby has been physically harmed!)
· Split nights (a long waking overnight in which it is hard to resettle your baby – these wakings typically last anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half)
Strategies to Manage the 8-Month Sleep Regression
1. Remain consistent with your bedtime routine and sleep training method
If you have read ANY sleep consultant’s blog, then I know you have been told over and over to remain consistent with your routine. Yes, this is important, but I thought I would spend a few minutes talking about what consistency realistically looks like during sleep regressions.
Consistency does not mean being perfect
Consistency does not mean doing the same thing EVERY single time
Consistency does not mean beating yourself up if you have to stray from the plan sometimes
In my experience, there is no easier way to get burnt out on a plan than to hold ourselves to impossibly high standards. When we don’t meet those out-of-reach standards, we will ultimately feel like a failure and quit. To top it off, being consistent during separation anxiety-based regressions can feel especially hard because you may be managing escalated emotions from your little one. There is nothing that can tug on your heartstrings more!
Here’s what I want consistency to look like for you:
1. Use your sleep training method as much as you can.
2. Don’t hesitate if your little one seems upset, this can cause more anxiety!
3. If you reach a point where you feel like you need a break from your sleep taking method – take a quick break. Pick up your child, hug them, feed them, snuggle them.
4. Commit to doing your best to still have your child fall asleep independently. A contact nap here and there won’t form a new habit, but if we move to exclusively co-sleeping during this time, then that will become your new normal.
2. Regulate Your Own Emotions
Your child can read you like a book. If you are approaching bedtime with tense shoulders and a clenched jaw, they are going to notice.
It’s understandable that you feel anxious, but it’s also important to remember that we are the ultimate role model. This is one of those times when we want to ensure we are the “calm in the storm.” Relax your shoulders, unclench your jaw, and take a few deep breaths before starting bedtime.
3. Practice Separation During the Day
If we are only practicing separation at bedtime, then bedtime may quickly become even more escalated than normal! Make sure you are practicing separation throughout the day. Your child should see you leave and come back regularly, even if it’s just for a few minutes.
Have a quick goodbye routine that you do every time (it can be simple like a kiss on the cheek and wave goodbye). Don’t linger at your goodbye, and don’t sneak out! Walk out the door confidently!
If you are the only parent at home, then a simple way you can build up this skillset is by putting your baby in a safe place and going around the corner to grab a glass of water or use the bathroom.
A more fun way to work on this separation is by playing LOTS of peek-a-boo!
Need more information about separation anxiety? Read my Separation Anxiety Blog below:
4. Lengthen out your Bedtime Routine
Whenever separation anxiety is peaking, your child can benefit from some additional one-on-one time with you! Be strategic about when you use this one-on-one time.
For example, if your child is crying when you’re walking out the door, I don’t necessarily want you to stop what you are doing to give them one-on-one time in that moment. Instead, be mindful about spending some one-on-one time with your child before it’s time to leave!
My favorite way to do this is to start your bedtime routine 10 minutes earlier and have special play time with your child in their room. Make sure to put away phones and other devices and focus on JUST being with your child. Set a timer so that you can get the benefit of a full 10 minutes with your child before you move on to your bedtime routine!
What Else Can Impact this Regression?
1. Needing to Drop a Nap, or Transitioning to Two Naps Too Early
Schedules can be kind of funky around this age! Some babies will be ready to transition to two naps and others won’t! Unfortunately, the symptoms of needing to drop a nap and the symptoms of dropping a nap too soon can look SIMILAR. Both can lead to split nights and more escalation at bedtime (which isn’t confusing at all)! Check out this graphic to determine if your child is under-tired or overtired:
Need more guidance? Check out this blog on dropping a nap!
Whether you are on two naps or three naps, finding a good schedule can make all the difference. Download my free schedule guide to find out what will work best for your baby at this age:
2. Growth Spurt
Are you ready for it? Sometime between 8-10 months, the biggest growth spurt you’ve seen so far strikes! I have noticed a VERY common trend with my clients where, even if we have been night weaned for several months, we will have to re-introduce a night feeding because we just can’t get in the calories that we need during the day!
The good news? This growth spurt is temporary, and it only lasts 7-10 days.
Here’s what I don’t want you to do during this time: I don’t want you to feel guilty if you need to re-introduce a night feeding. You should never feel guilty about feeding your baby. You are not creating a bad habit here. My goal is to NEVER make you second-guess yourself in motherhood.
Feeding is a tool we can use! If we DO become dependent on this feed, then we can always night wean from after the growth spurt is over.
Here’s a true story from yours truly:
When my own boys were around this age, my oldest started waking up in the middle of the night. He was VERY upset. Now, we had been night weaned for MONTHS. A feeding was the last thing on my mind, but try as hard as I could, I could not get him to resettle. After a while, I decided to try a bottle. This child chugged 12 ounces. The bottle didn’t even hold that much, I had to get a refill! That’s how hungry he was!
My boys never seem to hit the regressions at the exact same time, so a few weeks later my youngest twin went through the same thing.
Long story short, your action plan should be to:
1. Try using your sleep training method first – you don’t have to immediately assume it’s a feed.
2. If it’s not working, then there is NOTHING wrong with offering a feed to see if this helps.
3. The feeding may fade itself out as the growth spurt passes, or:
a. You can keep the feeding if it’s working for your family.
b. You can gradually wean off the feeding if you would like to remove it later on.
4. Bringing Baby to Bed
If you have decided that co-sleeping is the right path for your family, then skip this one – this information isn’t for you. If you have decided that independent sleep is the right plan for your family, then keep reading!
This is a NORMAL age for families to start co-sleeping, even if you have never co-slept before! Separation anxiety is intense, and your little one will likely be immediately comforted the moment you pick them up. With everyone becoming tired, emotional, and frustrated, it can be normal to rationalize just bringing baby to bed with you.
If you do this once, it’s not going to create new habits, but if you consistently start co-sleeping during this regression, then know that at no point is your baby going to tell you that they want to return to their bed. OF COURSE, they will want to stay with you; in fact, that’s their new routine now!
If you do not want to continue co-sleeping after the regression has passed, then I would encourage you to maintain independent sleep during this period. It’s hard, but it’s also temporary – I PROMISE it will get better.
This was the hardest regression I went through with my boys. If you do ANYTHING during this regression, I BEG of you, let it be this:
Remind yourself daily that you are a good parent. Trust yourself. It can be SO easy to start questioning everything about your parenting during this period. No one likes to see their little ones upset, and your inner voice can be so mean when it comes to regressions like this. Don’t let it be. You are a good parent. This is a really hard season, but that doesn’t mean that you are doing anything wrong.
Need help? I’ll be here.
Edited by the astounding Emily Schafer