Starting around the six-month mark, many babies take a major step forward in their sleep, spending more of the night asleep and in many cases, sleeping through the night. But at eight months, some infants experience a new round of sleep difficulties that can seem to counteract their recent progress.
This bump in the road toward steady sleep is frequently called a sleep regression and, though normally short-lived, can cause frustration for parents. Getting the facts about eight-month sleep regressions can help parents know what to expect and empower them to encourage healthy sleep habits for their baby.
During their first year, babies go through significant changes in their sleep patterns. After the first few months, infants start having longer periods of sleep with more of that sleep happening at night.
A panel of experts organized by the National Sleep Foundation recommends that eight-month-olds sleep for 12 to 15 total hours per day. That usually includes a couple of daytime naps, but many babies also start sleeping through the night at around six months.
That said, it is not uncommon for eight-month-olds to still wake up during the night. Sleep patterns vary considerably among babies, so at eight months, many infants are still in the process of consolidating sleep periods and sleeping for longer stretches at night.
Numerous different factors related to a child’s development can affect their sleep and contribute to an eight-month sleep regression. Some examples include:
The fact that there are a multitude of developmental changes happening at the same time makes it difficult to identify one single cause for an eight-month sleep regression. In addition, parents may be trying sleep training or modifying sleep routines, and a regression may be part of the baby’s process of getting accustomed to those adjustments.
Not all babies experience an eight-month sleep regression. The sleep patterns of infants are far from uniform, which means that they don’t unfold at the same pace for all babies. As a result, some infants will encounter sleeping problems around eight months while others of the same age may have few changes to their sleep or even start sleeping better.
When an eight-month-old is experiencing a sleep regression, some potential symptoms include:
Every infant is different, and the causes of these sleeping problems may affect how long they last. In general, an eight-month sleep regression doesn’t last longer than a few weeks, especially if parents are able to create and reinforce healthy sleep habits.
Even after a sleep regression is over, it doesn’t mean perfect sleep. Babies may still have occasional sleep problems or confront other sleep regressions as they get older.
The most important step that parents can take to cope with an eight-month sleep regression is to reflect on how they can create habits and an environment that are conducive to healthy sleep for their infant. Even when strategies for better infant sleep don’t immediately resolve a sleep regression, they can facilitate healthier sleep going forward.
Even implementing all these tips, your eight-month-old may still have sleeping problems. If they wake up in the middle of the night, don’t immediately attend to them. Instead, wait for a couple of minutes to see if they can self-soothe and return to sleep. If not, you can try to quietly comfort them (and feed them if necessary) while keeping the lights low and avoiding loud noises.
If your baby is waking up from teething pain, different approaches may help bring relief, including:
If your baby starts to cry or be irritable when you move away from their bed, it may be because of separation anxiety, which often starts or intensifies at around eight months.
Many children deal with this issue, and it’s helpful for parents to comfort their child without rewarding their crying out. For this reason, it’s best to avoid removing a baby from their crib when they are crying from separation anxiety.
Examples of ways to help ease separation anxiety include:
It may take time for your infant to get used to not having you by their side, but overcoming separation anxiety and learning to self-soothe can be a major step toward them sleeping soundly through the night.
Most sleep regressions are short-lived, but if your baby’s sleeping problems go on for an extended period or seem to keep getting worse, you can raise the issue with your child’s pediatrician. Their doctor can give specific recommendations for issues like teething and separation anxiety.
In addition, you should contact the pediatrician if you detect other changes in your baby including:
It’s important that parents have reasonable expectations for their baby’s sleep. As much as parents hope that their child is sleeping through the night by eight months, even a significant number of 12-month-olds still don’t sleep for six or more hours in a row at night. This doesn’t mean parents are doing anything wrong, and you shouldn’t feel down or blame yourself if your baby has an eight-month sleep regression.
Beyond setting appropriate expectations, it’s important for parents to think about and plan for how they can meet their own daily sleep needs. Quality sleep is vital to every person’s overall health, and parents can practice better self-care and child care when they are getting the right amount of rest.