Ah sleep regressions! Because nature loves to keep us on our toes…
The Eight Month Sleep Regression is somewhat misnamed: this can happen at any time between the ages of 8 and 10 months and, unlike the Four Month Regression, is a temporary blip in their sleep habits which is why you have to be super careful in how you respond to it.
WHAT IS THIS!?
A sleep regression is where sleeping habits change - a child who slept well will suddenly experience night wakings. You might see nap battles and early rises. Your baby still needs 11-12hrs at night and 2-3hours during the day but it will be far more of a challenge during this phase to meet that need.
WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?!
I know, right? Things were going so well.
The Eight Month Sleep Regression (8MR) is, as with all sleep regressions, almost entirely related to brain development. This is a HUGE time for your baby: they're starting to crawl, scoot, sit up, pull themselves up and even cruise about the furniture. They're also learning language and categorisation. Honestly. Big Things are happening in their minds. That's why 8MR doesn't start bang on 8 months - you'll notice it starting when your baby's awareness of the world (and how they can get about it in it) increases.
8MR is caused by your little one finding it difficult to switch off from all the bonkers stuff they're learning during the day so their brain will be either encouraging them to re-enact their momentous achievements in their beds or they'll simply be too wired to fall asleep in the first place.
There are other factors too, though. Just to make it that bit more exciting. Babies are shifting to a solid two-nap schedule which means that those nap battles may simply be down to trying to get them to sleep when they're not ready/overtired. And then there's teething. There's always teething.
WHAT CAN I DO?!
Firstly. Don't panic! This is normal and it will be over soon. 8MR usually lasts between 3-6 weeks after which time sleep as usual will resume. This is why - and I cannot stress this more - you have to be SO careful with how you handle their disrupted sleep: this is not the time to introduce new habits such as rocking to sleep or co-sleeping unless you want them to continue once 8MR is over.
Follow my tips while you ride it out:
Be Patient: Know that this will pass.
Be Present: Be there for your child. Offer gentle support that is mindful of anything habit-forming - do what you can, but allow your child to do some of the work in getting off to sleep too - self-settling is at the heart of confident sleeping so let them practise their skill so they don't lose it. If you think it's teething, manage this as you would normally.
Be Consistent: Respond as you usually respond. Now is not the time to start Cry It Out. If you had a sleep training method you were using before, continue with this, but if you'd like to start during EMR, go for a gentle sleep training method, such as the ones I use, that maintains secure attachment and trust between you and your little one.
Use Wakeful Windows to Reschedule Naps: With a new nap schedule looming, you may find your little one resisting a nap or ending up overtired before you've even got there. This is where Wakeful Windows are your best friend. Between 8-10 months, your child's Wakeful Window - the absolute maximum amount of time they can be awake - sits between 2-4hrs. Use this Window to direct when they should sleep - don't wait for them to show the signs (this can often be too late), pop them down well within their Window and things will be settled before you know it. If your starting with a shattered child, start at the smallest amount and bring bedtime forward.
Be Patient: I know I've said it before but from one Mother to another Mother: this will pass.
SHOULD I BE SLEEP TRAINING NOW?!
Sleep training can be done during 8MR. In fact, it's probably a good time to start thinking about it if your child had problems before it struck. By laying good foundations for your child's sleep during a time where your child is likely to be suffering with overtiredness, you're only going to be helping them during one of their most significant developmental periods. And once the disruption of the 8MR settles, you'll have a stonking little sleeper on your hands.
Got any questions? Want some support with the Eight Month Regression or any other sleep issues?
Lucy Barker is a certified sleep consultant and mum of two under three based in the beautiful Test Valley. She work with babies from the age of 18 weeks right up to children who are starting school, resolving a whole range of sleep challenges including regular night waking, negative sleep associations such as rocking or feeding to sleep, and bed-hopping. Lucy decided to retrain after a successful career as a PA after using a sleep consultant to solve her 2 year old son’s sleep problems which were dominating the family's lives. The change she brought to the family once her son was sleeping well was incredible and Lucy knew that she had found the vocation for her.
"Working with families to bring harmony back into their homes is one of the most rewarding things anyone can do – I feel very lucky that this is my job!"