The eight-month sleep regression. If you know me or have followed me for some time, you’ll know that I really don’t like the word regression. Why? Because it’s not really a regression, just because sleep becomes difficult or hindered, doesn’t mean they’re actually regressing.
Your child’s never regressing, they’re moving forward, so they’re actually progressing. Because of their progress and because of the progressions, I’m going to talk about in a minute, it can cause disruption to sleep. Especially if you’re not ahead of the game, and aware of what they need, and what they need you to help them with, then sleep can be hindered during this progressive leap that they’re taking.
So, I really don’t like the word regression, it’s so negative and not really true. Let’s have a look at what’s going on at this age and why we see an impact sometimes on sleep at this age, which gives everyone this phrase about the eight month sleep regression.
First of all, I really want to urge you to not preempt, expect, and look for it. Because actually, you can get so hung up on it that you start to think, oh yeah, that’s what it is, that’s what’s going on. And then you label it, and it’s almost like an excuse. Don’t expect it, don’t preempt it, don’t assume it will hit you. Just take what’s happening, work through it, and don’t read more into it than there really is.
So, what is happening?
Okay. First of all, the daytime sleep is going to be shifting around this time. So, if little one, from sort of six months, has been having three good naps a day and you’ve got into a good nap routine and things are looking good. And then you get this eight-month thing going on, and you’re like, napping is becoming a nightmare. Or maybe you never did get it off to a great start, maybe it’s always been a nightmare.
It’s important to know that eight-month things are starting to shift a bit, their sleep needs in the day are starting to shift a bit. Like I said, if we are not on top of that, and if we are not meeting those needs and accommodating that sleep when it’s needed, you can end up with a repercussion which is disturbed nights, so called regression.
So, being aware of that daytime sleep, how much does your child need? When do they need it? And are you meeting that need for them? They will not automatically just tell you when they need it and nod off to sleep brilliantly as you know by now, so have a look at that.
Now, what’s happening at eight months is that at night, sorry daytime sleep is going to gradually move towards a dropdown to two naps over the next couple of months. So, at eight months you start to see a shift, whatever you do, don’t do an immediate drop.
Don’t go, oh, okay, we were doing three naps, we’ll now do two, that’s it. It’s not that cut and dry, it’s a transition, it takes time. It will usually be over that eight-to-10-month period that this starts to happen, and you might take two steps forward and three steps back, it might be a bit stop and start for a while.
So, take each day as it comes, some days your child might need three naps, some days two, some days two and an early bed or there’s all sorts going on there, and that’s another episode. But have a look at that, also bear in mind that they’re wakeful windows. So that’s the period of time that they can manage to be awake in one stretch, that’s also growing. You may already be overestimating it, many parents do overestimate how long their little one can be awake in one stretch before they need to sleep.
Why do we overestimate it?
Because the little ones give us the impression that they’re fine, and they don’t start yawning and eye rubbing and fussing until they’re already over tired or on the brink of being overtired. So don’t wait for those signs, don’t wait for that before you put your child down. Just because a child appears to be fine or a baby appears to be fine and not in need of a sleep yet, doesn’t mean it’s true. And as I say, you need one eye on the baby and one eye on the time, and then you’ll probably hit it just right, and find that magic window where settling is a lot easier for them. So, their wakeful window will begin to stretch, the amount of sleep they need in the day it’s not so much that it’s going to come down rapidly, but it’s going to shift in how it’s spaced out. So instead of three naps, they’ll start to move towards two. But those two will be longer quite a bit more solid, stable naps, rather than perhaps having the sort of a cat nap or shorter ones.
Things are on the shift and that is what’s going to affect the night’s sleep, if you’re not meeting those daytime sleep needs. If your child is tired from lack of day sleep, or maybe they’re getting enough, but it’s in one chunk or there’s a period where they’re a wait too long, anything like that will impact the night’s sleep, which is why people think they get a regression. The next thing I want to share with you is that habits are sticking, where before six months if you were doing something, you could slightly shift that habit, steer that into a new direction. Things now are starting to stick and become more of a thing.
For instance, a dummy that you may have been able to get rid of before, they’re going to become a lot clingier to it now. They’re going to become a lot more reliant on these things that are habits, because they’re becoming more aware, why is that? Developing little personalities and starting to hang onto things that they get used to that give them comfort.
If those things are good, conducive comforters, brilliant, great, carry on there’s no problem there. A little lovey, cuddly, teddy, silly things, something like that, that they have control of that’s absolutely fine. But if it’s something that you know is not really a good, sustainable, useful thing, and they’re clinging onto it, then you really want to start thinking about getting rid of that, moving onto something else that actually you can use for the long term. Habits are starting to stick, make sure they are good ones. Other things that are in their sort of habits thing that you want to stick, the good ones are things like having a really nice bedtime routine. Having those steps you do in the lead up to bedtime, those same steps in the same order, every single night. Habits like having a settling process at bedtime, so the things you do, you’ve got your routine and then it’s night night, and then you put your baby down. The way you say goodnight, and put your baby down, that’s a habit and that it’s a good one, you want to have a good one there.
So they aren’t being put down already asleep, and they are practicing putting themselves to sleep maybe with your assistance, and that’s fine, that’s okay. But have something that you are doing that’s getting them on the right path, and it’s a good habit. Your night response, so when your baby wakes in the night, make sure that you know what the response looks like. That you don’t go in with something different every time, one minute it’s a feed, the next minute is a cuddle. And you refuse to feed, and the next minute you go in and do a full-on circle show, and this happens. Make sure you know what your night response looks like. It might be that, oh, okay. Well, at this point I go in and I feed, but the other wake ups I go in and I give a cuddle, a pattern of reassuring, sh sh sh, or whatever it looks like for you.
But makes sure you know what that is, and that you, the other caregivers in your child’s life, whoever goes to the baby gets the same thing every time, and that’s so important.
Not only so for their learning and for their development them and for their ability to go back to sleep, and also it’s kinder. It’s kinder, so they know what to expect, and they’re not confused and going, well, last time you did this, and oh, I want that. If you are consistent they know where they stand, which is actually kinder on them. But also for their security, it gives them a real sense of security knowing where they stand, and knowing what to expect. Knowing that they’re going to get that steady hand from you, they’re going to get a consistent, steady response. They might not always like it, wait till your children are older. They might not always like what you tell them, but if they can rely on you to always be consistent with your response, and not float and waiver in the wind with your response. There’s they might not like it, but they’ll certainly feel safe and secure, which is really important for their secure attachment and that general security.
And so the third thing I want to share with you is that at this age, around this eight month period, another thing that can impact things is their awareness for where they are and where they’re not, or where you are and where you are not is also really coming together. So they start to know when you are there, when you’re not there, when you are in the room, when you leave the room. They’re becoming a more aware of this, and this is why, again, at this age, you can see a bit of clinginess like, well, wait, don’t go stay with me. And that’s all very natural, it’s all fine, and sometimes the slightest sign of a baby uttering any kind of just happiness or unhappiness with you leaving the room, people think, oh my gosh, separation anxiety. Anxiety is a strong word, I think. Perhaps, no, just getting used to something more curious, more aware, doesn’t immediately mean separation anxiety, that sounds so strong. So let’s not label all these things so harshly, come on. Your baby is going to become more aware of when you’re there, when you’re not there.
You want to give them that room to explore, to crawl over in a baby group and interact with another child. When they look over their shoulder they can see you’re still there, they know you’re still close by, you don’t just disappear. It’s really healthy exploration that you want to encourage, and that reassurance that it’s okay, I’m still here. And okay, I go, I come back. I go, I come back. You can even play little games like this with them on the floor, but knowing that they have that heightened awareness, they’re a lot more aware of what’s going on around them at this stage as well. So lots is going on, they’re developing, they’re progressing. Because of all these developments, if we are not moving with them, and if we are not keeping up with that, and we’re trying to keep them on the schedule they were on, or the napping they were doing, or the whatever before then they end up tired. They end up out of source, they end up not really knowing what’s going on and where they stand.
And then you get disturbed night’s sleep, and we start to then thinking that there’s some kind of regression, it’s really not a regression at all. I hope this helps you, at this eight month stage, it can be really challenging. Just know that actually, even though right now, it feels like it’s your life, it’s not. In a matter of weeks, it’s all going to change again. So try and just keep up with what your baby needs from you right now, and it will all be fine. If you know other moms or the dads, or the parents, caregivers who are at this stage with their little ones, please share this with them. You never know, there may be just one little nugget in here that just changes everything for them, and we want to have up as many parents navigate this whole thing as smoothly as possible. Okay. Subscribe to the YouTube channel, you’ll get updates on when we release new episodes. Do have a look for the link that will take you to a nice freebie that you can download, you can print, that will help you on this topic.
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