I’m often asked if babies go through an 8 month sleep regression. There’s no doubt that babies can experience difficulty sleeping as their sleep consolidates at around 4 months (click here to read that blog post!). But more often than not after that point, sleep disturbances are related to development.
If your baby’s started crawling or rolling over, you might have realised that developmental milestones can disrupt sleep.
In a 2015 study, researchers looked at sleep patterns before babies crawled, while they were learning to crawl, and a few months after.
The results found that whilst sleep starts to become more consolidated at this age, babies also appear to have more nighttime wake-ups around the time that they learn to crawl.
How Developmental Milestones Affect Sleep
Basically, things often tend to get worse before they get better! When your little one starts learning to talk, you can also expect random chatting in the middle of the night!
Teething is another one of the usual suspects when it comes to disruptions in baby’s sleep. Teething should only cause a short period of disturbed sleep though, if any. Studies have shown that during the 4 days before a tooth emerged, the day it popped out, and for the three days following, there can be an increase in wakefulness and irritability.
The discomfort that comes along with teething explains why it would be disruptive to your child’s sleep. But leaving that one aside for a minute, let’s look at language and movement skills and why they might be responsible for some more frequent nighttime wake ups.
8 month sleep regression, or development?
Much like the rest of us, babies get excited when they start to learn a new skill. Watching my little ones learn to crawl reminded me of myself when I first used Shazam to identify a song playing over the speakers in Starbucks. I was ridiculously, I mean ridiculously excited. I couldn’t wait for another song to come on so I could try it again!
To your baby, learning to roll over, learning to crawl, or learning to talk, elicits pretty much the same response. They get a real thrill out of this newfound ability and they are going to practice it over and over. In the morning, in the afternoon, and when they wake up in the middle of the night! That excitement is going to make it more difficult for them to get back to sleep.
But how do we get through it?
I see lots of parents looking for a “solution” in this scenario. Often, in trying to get their baby’s sleep back on track, they tend to lose consistency. They’ll move bedtimes around, start rocking or feeding baby back to sleep, anything they think might help. But the best advice I can give you is to hold steady.
Although you can’t fix the situation, you can make things substantially harder for both you and your baby. Adopting quick-fixes in order to get your baby sleeping quickly when they wake up at night may create dependencies that stick. Try not to give into the temptation to rock, bounce or feed them back to sleep.
Offer them some comfort, tell them it’s still night time, help them get back into a comfortable position, or roll them onto their backs if they’ve flipped. But make sure to let them get back to sleep on their own. That way, once they’ve got this new skill mastered, they’ll still have the ability to get themselves back to sleep independently when they wake up at night.
It’s likely to be a bit of a challenge, and it may feel at times like one skill gets mastered just in time for another one to start developing. But hang in there. The whole time this is going on, your baby is also developing the ability to better consolidate nighttime sleep. So stay consistent and you can expect even more of those glorious sleep-filled nights once the storm has passed.
I hope that helps explain what is really happening around this age. As frustrating as it can be, try not to think of it as the “8 month sleep regression”. Instead, remember that this is temporary and things will improve! If your baby is struggling to fall asleep independently, click here to join my waiting list to work together.