Let’s talk about the 8 month sleep regression. After the 4 month sleep regression, this one gets a lot of attention because after finally getting your baby sleeping well it can feel like things are falling apart again.
Sleep regressions are really just progressions in a baby’s development that cause disruptions in sleep. They are not a loss of the sleep skills or habits that your baby has already learned. The 8 month sleep regression is all about milestones. Gross motor and fine motor milestones as well as the beginning of separation anxiety due to gaining a grasp on object permanence.
8 month sleep regression is related to developmental milestones and leaps
Big gross motor milestones can happen at a wide range of times which is why sometimes you hear about a 6 month regression, 9 month regression or 10 month regression too. The truth is these regressions in sleep happen at different times for different babies because of the differences in their development and when they are working on certain milestones.
These so called sleep regressions are less about sleep and more about development. Learning these new skills is a competing priority in their brains with sleep. So you see a loss of the sleep progress you’ve seen because sleep isn’t the priority in baby’s brain at the moment.
Disruptions in sleep are very linked to developmental leaps and therefore there isn’t a ton you can do to avoid any impacts on sleep, but there are things you can do to minimize those disruptions.
Gross motor milestones
Crawling, pulling up, getting into a sitting position on their own and other big milestones all tend to happen around this time. Because these are skills a baby needs to learn and master, baby’s brain prioritizes things such as practicing crawling over sleep.
Giving baby tons of floor time during the day to practice these skills is very important so they can learn and master them as quickly as possible. This can help minimize their brain telling them nighttime is the time to practice. Additionally, the increased activity level helps babies sleep better at night too.
Your baby may be crawling to one end of the crib and getting stuck or pulling up on the side (make sure you have your crib set to the lowest setting!) and not knowing how to get back down again. If this is happening during sleep times, go in and help your baby get out of the corner or get down from standing. When you go in you want to be calm, boring and businesslike, just there to help your baby get back to a place where they can fall asleep. You may need to do this multiple times before your baby finally goes to sleep.
You will likely see some interruption of sleep no matter how much your baby is practicing their new skills but lots of practice can help minimize it to a few days rather than a few weeks. But keep in mind, it is possible that you may have a few days of disruptions for each big milestone.
Fine Motor Milestones
Fine motor milestones can also cause disruptions in sleep, or the 8 month sleep regression, because they are skills your baby wants to practice, just like the big gross motor milestones. Things such as clapping, learning to wave, and accurately putting things in their mouths are all very exciting for your baby to learn and practice.
You may see your baby playing in their crib so you can let them play until they are ready to fall asleep. Their brain is prioritizing practicing those skills before they are able to sleep.
Separation anxiety tends to rear its ugly head around this time, contributing to the 8 month sleep regression. Typically this sleep disruption looks like your baby having a harder time going down to sleep, a harder time going back to sleep after any wake ups, and potentially more wake ups.
You can play some peekaboo during the day, so your baby gets used to having you come back after you leave. You can also set your baby down for some independent play time and then come back to assist your baby as soon as they call to help them feel confident that you are always there when they need you. I’ve also got more tips for dealing with separation anxiety and sleep here.
Handling the 8 month sleep regression
Once you are doing all the things mentioned above to help minimize the impact these developmental milestones have on sleep, you will likely still experience some level of sleep disruptions. During these sleep disruptions, whether it is harder time falling asleep at bedtime, increased night wake ups or waking up earlier in the morning, there are two things you want to keep in mind.
First, remember that your baby didn’t lose their sleep skills. Second, keep in mind that you have to be consistent with how you respond to these extra wake ups or challenges falling asleep in order to avoid creating new habits that you don’t want to keep.
If you are struggling through the 8 month sleep regression or it seems like the regression that never ended, you don’t have to struggle through it alone. Feel free to reach out and schedule a free evaluation call to chat through what is going on, your sleep goals and how I can help you reach those sleep goals. I’m here to help you and your baby get better and more sleep!
To healthy and happy sleep,