By the 8-month mark of your baby's first year, you're really starting to get a handle on who they are and how to take care of them best. You've created an untouchable bond and the milestones you've watched them check off the list has made all of the sleepless nights completely worth it. But with growth comes more changes, and this is around the time you might see another sleep regression from your little one. Though they've likely been a good sleeper up until now, somewhere between 8 - 10 months your baby will probably have a noticeable setback in their sleeping patterns.
In this article, you'll get a better understanding of what sleep regressions are, why the 8-10 month sleep regression happens, and solutions to get your baby back to sleeping well.
Just remember that when this sleep regression pops up, you've already weathered a lot of what your baby will throw at you when it comes to sleep. You've come through with better parenting strategies to show for it. This will be no different and we'll give you the tips and tricks to make it through your baby's 8 - 10 month sleep regression.
What is a sleep regression?
We recently wrote about the 4-month sleep regression (so save that in your back pocket for the next baby!) and received a lot of insight through sleep consultant Dr. Sarah Mitchell about sleep regressions. Here's what she had to say when we asked her to explain more about what sleep regressions are:
"A sleep regression is when your child's sleep is slightly irritated. The signs of a sleep regression are taking longer to settle into sleep for naps or bedtime. Your child may wake up more frequently in the night and take shorter naps during the day. Sleep regressions are related to PROGRESS... your child is either physically growing, such as getting molars, or growing neurologically, such as learning to roll over, hover on all fours or walk. There are also sleep regressions related to separation anxiety, and in the toddler years testing boundaries."
By now you know that the 8 - 10 month sleep regression isn't the first one your baby will go through, and unfortunately it won't be their last either. Though this period can be unnerving with a feeling like you're back to square one, we actually think it's easier to go through than the 4-month regression. By now you know a lot about what works for your little one and what doesn't so your experience with your months together will help a lot.
So which is it? 8, 9 or 10 months?!
You might have seen this article and thought, "Oh no, is my baby going to have terrible sleep for 3 months straight?!" No, no, that's not it thank goodness. Unlike the 4-month sleep regression that can be nailed down within a month timeframe, this regression has a wider range of when it may occur. Some babies will go through it closer to 8 months, while others will be a little older at that 10-month mark.
Since we know all babies develop at different rates, a regression that happens anywhere around this age is normal. It also means that your baby is right on track for their brain development. We know it's hard to be excited about your baby's sleep getting worse, but it's actually a very good sign that your baby is progressing as they should. That's because it relates to separation anxiety - or when your baby starts to show more agitation about the thought of having to be away from you.
(Do know that it's also normal if your baby doesn't go through a sleep regression - some just don't!)
These signs of separation anxiety will start to rear their head between 8 - 10 months. This is the cause for the 8 - 10 month sleep regression.
Signs of the 8 - 10 Month Sleep Regression
If your baby falls between the age of 8 and 10 months and has suddenly begun sleeping poorly, it's safe to say that separation anxiety is the culprit. According to Parents Magazine, this is the age when a baby is able to really distinguish between people and has formed emotional attachments to his caregivers.
This will carry over to your baby's sleeping habits. Here are the signs to watch for of the 8-10 month sleep regression:
- more frequent night wakings (just a reminder that waking once to feed in the middle of the night is still normal for 8 - 10-month olds which we discuss here)
- waking from the 45-minute intruder and then not being able to go back to sleep (you might remember this from your baby's 4-month sleep regression)
- crying when you leave the room for nap time or bedtime
- refusing to nap
- crankiness upon waking due to not sleeping well
- inability to put themselves back to sleep upon waking
Something else to consider at this time is if your baby is also going through a nap transition. Most babies at this age will drop their 3rd cat nap down to 2 long naps (if they haven't already) and if that's happening while a regression is happening, too, it can be a bit of a double whammy. We have advice on how to make a nap transition smoother in this article.
Now that you've established your child is experiencing their second sleep regression in their first year of life, it's time to find out what to do about it.
Solutions for Tackling the 8 - 10 Month Sleep Regression
Though the attachment you've created with your baby is truly something special, it can pull at your heart strings when your baby bursts into tears every time you're away. Not to mention how stressful it can be on your parenting game. We've prepared our best solutions to help you kick this regression to the curb and get your baby back to their peacefully sleeping self.
Here's how to get your baby's sleep back on track:
- Keep your bedtime routine consistent. If you've noticed that you've let it slack a bit, it's time tighten it back up. We have a full crib routine we wrote about here, including things like baby massage, white noise, blackout curtains, and the weighted sack from Dreamland Baby. In case you haven't heard of this amazing wearable blanket, it's lightly weighted to mimic the hug you'd give your baby. Perfect for curing separation anxiety! Mom Kayla C. write about the Dreamland Baby Weighted Sack:
"Heavenly! I had purchased a sleep sack and was excited to use it! A friend of mine happen to have one she got as a gift and ended up not using so we’re using that one and my son (9 months) has been sleeping like an angel. He was waking up 4 times a night when before he was sleeping through the night. We’re back to sleeping again and I love it!"
- Keep new sleep props at bay. As tempting as it is to rock or nurse your baby to sleep because you know it will work, quick fixes are not helpful long-term. Your baby will come to depend on this and that's something you won't want.
- Keep your good-bye short. A simple hug, "I love you," with reassurance that you'll see them later is all you need once you lay them down in their crib. However, don't ever try to walk away without them noticing - this will take away your baby's trust that you'll return.
- Have periods of separation when your baby is awake. This can be as simple as putting your baby in a safe place to play while you go to the bathroom. This way your baby will begin to realize that when you leave, you always come back. Leaving your baby with your spouse or another caregiver while you run an errand will also help.
- Try not to show sad emotion in front of your baby. This can be hard, but the more calm you are in front of them the easier it will be for them to calm down, too.
- Offer reassurance if your baby wakes. If your baby wakes up mid-nap or in the middle of the night (and you know hunger isn't the reason) we suggest giving your baby a few minutes to settle themselves back to sleep. Chances are they will even with a few tears. However, if consoling is needed, that's completely fine. Just make it brief - a hand on their chest to calm them to let them know you're close by can work wonders.
Even with these solutions in place, you might find that your baby continues to get upset when they're supposed to be sleeping. Often times, your baby may only cry for a few minutes before settling themselves into sleep on their own. If you don't want to use any form of cry it out (we get it!) we suggest utilizing our other sleep training techniques to get through this regression. You may have not needed these for months, but with a setback in sleep like this one, you might need to pull out all the stops!
Final Thoughts on the 8-10 Month Sleep Regression
No doubt sleep regressions are tough on parents. Feeling like there is backwards progress in something you've worked hard to help your baby with can be frustrating. But it's important to realize that sleep regressions are temporary. Staying calm, patient, and focused on the outcome is the best thing you can do to help your baby get through this as quickly as possible. And let's be honest, it does feel pretty amazing to have a little reminder that you're their favorite human (even if it does mean a little less sleep for a bit).