What is the 8-month sleep regression in babies?

When your baby is 8 to 10 months old, you may notice that a baby who was previously a great sleeper suddenly starts to wake up, once…twice…even three times a night! They cry for attention, need a cuddle, and may hate to be put back to bed. This is known as the 8-month sleep regression (or sometimes called the 9-month sleep regression), and it usually tags along with some big developmental changes or physical changes.

Why is my 8-month-old waking at night?

Sleep regressions can be triggered by something external that’s bugging them (a cold, turning the clock forward and backward for daylight saving time, teething, hunger), as well as developmental milestones.

What causes the 8-month sleep regression:

Greater mobility. The 8-month sleep regression is often caused by your child’s budding abilities. At this age, babies are learning the joy of constant challenges! They’re beginning to crawl, walk, and explore…and they are full of the giddy excitement of spurting from place to place, pulling on this, grabbing and touching that, finding new things to put in their mouths. Most exciting of all…they’re pulling to stand, which for your tot, is a fun and wild ride. Imagine trying to master riding a 5-foot unicycle! It’s so exciting when you are up there, but so hard to keep your balance. Similarly, your baby has a heavy head and easily falls off balance, especially when they’re standing…and the very heavy head is soooo far off the ground. But, this skill is thrilling for him to master because it lets him see the world from this amazing new point of view.

Teething. The 8-month sleep regression is often caused by teething. So, if your baby is chewing and drooling a ton, his gums are red or you begin to see new choppers poking through, that could be a sign that nighttime wake-ups will be visiting you soon!

Your child’s temperament. The 8-month sleep regression can also be linked to your lovebug’s personality. Little ones who are very social or have a passionate temperament might may wake more at night than tots with a laidback or cautious temperament. Especially social babies may delight in their conversations with you so much that they wake up thinking, “Hey, Mum let’s play again!”…even if it’s 3 a.m. (Find out your baby’s temperament here!) 

What are signs that the 8-month sleep regression is near?

Regressions often go hand-in-hand with picking up new motor skills. So, when tots hit milestones like crawling and pulling up to stand, don’t be surprised if they’re waking more frequently. Because teething is another cause of the 8-month sleep regression, seeing new pearly whites starting to poke through their gum can also tip you off that nighttime wake-ups are coming soon.

How long does the 8-month sleep regression last?

The 8-month sleep regression may last a few days…or it could stretch on for few weeks—even months—if it’s not handled correctly.

What is the best way to handle the 8-month sleep regression?

There are a few ways to handle the 8-month sleep regression…

  • Use high-quality rumbly white noise for all nights and naps. White noise is like a soothing teddy bear…in audio form. White noise can help distract babies from internal discomforts (like throbbing gums) and mask outside disturbances, like passing planes and trucks. Just keep in mind that not all white noise is created equal! High-pitched white noise can be harsh, hissy, whiney, and annoying in the same way that sirens and alarms are—attention-grabbing, but horrible for sleep. Low-pitched sounds are droning and hypnotic…perfect for lulling us to sleep. (My white noise machine SNOObear combines doctor-designed white noise in cuddly teddy bear form.)

  • Top off feedings with extra fats. If you think a hungry tummy is the root of your tot’s wake-ups, add some extra fat during your evening feeds (try avocado or a smidge of olive oil or butter mixed into the food), and make sure your child is getting enough milk or formula during the day.

  • Tackle teething pain. If you suspect that teething’s stealing your zzz’s, you could try teething toys or ibuprofen. Swollen gums aren’t terribly painful, but they can throb more when your child lays down, which is annoying enough to wake a baby from light sleep. For a DIY teether, try this: Dip a corner of a rough washcloth in apple juice and freeze it…babies love gnawing on on the cold, sweet corner.

  • Stash extra pacifiers in bed. For babies who use pacifiers, extra pacifiers in bed make it easy for little ones to get extra comfort when needed.

  • Darken the room. Make sure your room is dark. Light streaming in from outside can disrupt sleep.

  • Try a nightlight. Conversely, some children sleep better with a night light (when they wake up, they see their familiar room…not an endless abyss!).

  • Consider sleep training. If all else fails, you may have to try sleep training.

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