You Say Regression, I Say Progression
Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard of a sleep regression. Likely, it was the 4 month sleep regression. But what about other regressions? In particular the 8 month sleep regression? (Sometimes called the 8-10 month regression. But don’t worry, it doesn’t last that long, rather it can happen sometimes during those months. Whew!) It’s not talked about as much, but can still impact your child’s sleep.
What is a Sleep Regression?
Sometimes the term ‘sleep regression’ is overused and we say it to explain any challenge with sleep that occurs. (I myself have been guilty of that in the past. I distinctly remember posting on a sleep forum to try and find out if there was such a thing as a 13 month sleep regression. Note: there isn’t!)
But in the truest sense, a sleep regression describes a previously completely independent sleeper in the weeks before that suddenly has gone off the tracks. However, if there were sleep associations, medical issues, poor sleep hygiene, and/or the challenges that were present in the few weeks leading up to the sleep disruption, it’s likely not a sleep regression.
The good news is; regression or not, changes can be made and solutions can be found to help you overcome this challenging period of development.
What is the 8 month sleep regression?
If you had previously heard of the four month sleep regression, then it’s important to know that what happens at eight months is quite different. At four months, your child underwent a biological and cognitive sleep shift. This was a development in the way that your child fell and returned to sleep. Sleep cycles developed and your child began to enter and exit these cycles all night long.
The development they undergo at eight months is slightly different.
This time, your child’s biological sleep patterns are not changing. However all the physical milestones that your baby may be experiencing at this time can start to impact their sleep.
Additionally, this is a common period for children to experience nap transitions as well and a sleep debt can build up. There’s a lot going on for children development wise at this time in their lives. It’s like the perfect storm of sleep disruptions.
What Causes the 8 Month Sleep Regression?
As mentioned, there are a few reasons why this blip in your child’s sleep may happen. Let’s look a bit more closely at the reasons;
- Cognitive developments: Your baby is developing a sense of object permanence. She is starting to understand that even though you are gone from sight, you have not actually disappeared. This means they may cry for you once you’ve put her down in the crib.
- Language development: The brain is working overtime to practice moving the jaw, tongue and lips to form new sounds to communicate.
- Physical developments: Developing more strength and motor skills. Children are starting to learn to crawl, sit up and pull up. They may decide to practice these skills during nap time or at night.
- Nap transitions: Baby is ready for slightly more awake time, a more regular schedule and might be ready to drop from three to two naps.
- Overtiredness: If a child has the wrong routine, too late bedtimes or all the new developmental changes are tiring them out, this can cause a regression in sleep as a sleep debt builds.
Can You Sleep Train During the 8 Month Sleep Regression?
The short answer is ‘yes’. But understanding that sleep training is the last component to put into place, is important.
The long answer is, if you’ve read my articles or follow me on Facebook, you know that sleep training plays a very minor role in creating an overall healthy sleep routine for your child. The priority should always be a well-timed daytime routine and an age appropriate bedtime.
Want tips for a great routine and a solid night’s sleep? Download your FREE copy of Baby Sleep Basics here.
Many sleep issues can be completely solved with just doing the foundation work of having a wind down routine, well-timed naps and an age appropriate bedtime. In fact I would go so far as to say that many sleep regressions can be avoided altogether with this, somewhat, simple advice.
Sleep is essential for everyone, including your child. Helping baby to get more sleep that they need to be healthy, so don’t let a developmental spurt stop you.
How Do You Handle a Regression While Baby is at Daycare?
Handling a sleep regression when baby is at day care can be tricky, but there are things you can do. First and foremost, make sure the day care has a good understanding of healthy sleep habits, and the sleep needs of your child. Communicate with them what you’re experiencing and make sure they are understanding of the situation.
Tweak your baby’s routine as needed and ensure that the day care is supportive of this. And always remember to be patient. Many day cares have policies they have to follow. If it seems like they’re being difficult, they’re probably just following a procedure.
Tips to Handle the 8 Month Sleep Regression
Know how much sleep they should be getting in a 24 hour period. See this chart. This is an important place to start. If your child is clocking significantly less than recommended, they may not be experiencing the 8 month sleep regression at all, but rather just be overtired.
Log their sleep for 5-7 days to see what they’re actually getting. Divide the total amount of hours by the number of days and it will give you an average to compare to the recommended amount.
Identify Problem Areas
Is your child having disrupted night sleep? Or are naps the biggest challenge to your child’s sleep needs? Once you see where the main issues lie, you can tweak your baby’s daytime routine.
If your child’s naps are too short,compensate with an earlier bedtime. But if night time is the bigger area of concern, you may need to tweak the routine to reflect their biological circadian rhythms and natural sleep windows.
And finally, if a nap transition is needed; follow this article for tips and move to two naps.
Give Practice Time
If your baby is enjoying practicing her new skills instead of sleeping, offer her some practice time during the day. While you don’t have to sit, prop, or pull her up, offering her the ability to naturally practice these skills during the day can help.
Sleep Train, If Needed
Once an age appropriate routine is in place, if you want to wean any habits your child has become dependent on, you can. Pick a method that you feel the most comfortable with and be consistent with it. There are a variety of methods outlined in this series.
Sometimes, with new skills, comes blips in sleep. If your child’s routine is on track, bedtime is age appropriate and she’s an independent sleeper, all we can do is just wait for the cognitive or physical milestone to develop allow the novelty to wear off. In these cases, as long as we don’t start any habits we don’t want to maintain long term, this phase lasts one or two weeks.
Have more questions?
There are many ways to get answers. Make sure to like and follow the Baby Sleep 101 Facebook page to get notifications when there is a free Q & A session.
Download your copy of Baby Sleep Basics or book a one-on-one private consult to get detailed and specific help for your unique situation.