Signs of the 8 Month Sleep Regression

Apr 17, 2024

Just when things were finally starting to become a little less chaotic with your new little one, suddenly your 8 month old started waking up crying in the middle of the night. 

Are they hungry? Do they need a diaper? Is this the 8 month separation anxiety I hear about or are we heading into the 8 month sleep regression after just seemingly getting out of the last one?

This week on the blog, I am tackling everything you need to know about the 8 month sleep regression so you hear not a peep from that sweet little nursery. For those new around here, I’m Courtney Zentz, and I have been a Certified Baby & Toddler Sleep Coach & the Founder of Tiny Transitions for almost a decade & I love helping parents just like you get better sleep, so let’s dive in. 

What are the signs of the 8 month sleep regression? 

Common signs your baby is experiencing a sleep regression or sudden disruption in consolidated, restorative, independent sleep include:

  • A sudden change to naps, including refusing to nap, short naps and trouble settling. 
  • New and increased wakings overnight and struggling to settle back to sleep independently. 
  • An increase in fussiness, seemingly agitated or irritated. 
  • A new or heightened separation anxiety.
  • Way more tears around naps and bedtime vs. prior weeks.
  • Help or support needed to fall back to sleep, including rocking to sleep, eating from the breast or bottle to sleep, etc. 

Why does the 8 month sleep regression happen?

Typically, the 8 month sleep regression can happen but doesn’t always happen for every baby as they experience leaps in their development, both cognitively and physically. New things like scooting, sitting up or crawling for the first time are common reasons why we see the 8 month sleep regression can appear. Also, their language is developing and they are becoming more awake, alert and aware of their surroundings. 

Do babies eat more during the 8 month sleep regression?

A baby needs 24 – 32 oz of milk in a given year of life. When a baby gets that intake in the daytime, whether breastfeeding or from a bottle, they will no longer need it overnight. So, if a baby is eating more, that makes sense as they are growing, but as a parent, you have to pay attention to eating for nutrition and intake, vs. eating to sleep as a mechanism for a baby to settle, which is the most common sleep association we see. Always feed a hungry baby, and when finished, offer a burb and allow them to resettle themselves to sleep to avoid a longer sleep regression or new habit being formed. 

How do you know when the 8 month sleep regression starts? 

Leaps with babies are exciting, they are learning new things and can interact with us more – but it can also mean small things we don’t even realize, can derail sleep. There isn’t always a sleep regression at 8 months but when there might be a small disruption in sleep from a leap, how we as parents handle it could dictate how long it lasts. The 8 month sleep regression might start because the baby sits up, which is exciting. As parents, we respond by laying them back down, because we are worried that they will fall back or bump their head since they have not quite figured out how to get back down. 

This is fine in the daytime, when you are playing, but at 2am or 3 am, this is not ideal. So, we help lay them down, then they pop back up. Down, up, down, up… now, you have a game. 

So, a parents, what do many do, especially in the middle of the night, pick them up and help them resettle because everyone is tired and wants to go back to sleep, so we help them. Then, tomorrow it’s the same thing, up, down, up, down, and we rock them to sleep again. 

The challenge here, you just created a new negative sleep association that quite nice, when I wake, I get rocked to sleep, and suddenly, you are now in the 8 month sleep regression – sleep has indeed regressed because they want you to rock them to sleep. 

So, what I see was a seemingly innocent issue like a fun leap turned into this. How I advise parents to handle these leaps is to practice, practice, practice! In the daytime, when the baby sits, help them learn how to get back down on their own. Often, they have a dominant side you can identify and use to help here. For 3 times a day, 5 minutes each time, practice and help them master the skill to avoid the struggle at 3am. In the middle of the night, use balance to try to get them laying down safely without you needing to intervene and remove them. 

This isn’t the only thing that causes the 8 month sleep regression, there are many leaps, but usually the response to the action causes the regression, not the leap itself. 

Other causes for the 8 or 9 month sleep regression can also be schedule and timing related. A baby nap schedule at 7 months, 8 months and 9 months is the same. They need 3 hours of total daytime sleep, and a 3 hour wake window for optimal sleep across the daytime and overnight. The wrong schedule causes a misalignment in hormones, leading to sleep disturbances and trouble setting without help. 

The Ideal Nap Schedule for a 7 month, 8 month or 9 month old looks like this: 

  • Wake for the day at 7:00am & eat
  • Eat at 9:45am
  • Nap #1 at 10:00 am
    • Duration will be 60-120 minutes based on cycles & settling independently. 
  • Eat at 1:00 pm
  • Nap #2 at +3 hours from nap #1 wakings, either at 2:00, 2:30 or 3:00pm. 
  • Wake at 4:00pm & eat
  • Play and kickoff bedtime at 6:15pm
  • Final feeding for the night at 6:45pm, ideally in a diaper to keep them awake, then burp, PJ’s and sleep sack / wearable blanket. 
  • Lay down awake, in crib to settle to sleep at 7:00pm for the night. 

How long does the 8 month sleep regression last?

Sleep regressions should typically last between 5 & 7 days, before you might need to assess whether it’s now turned into a habit and understand how you are responding, something we dive into deeply with coaching in our Sleep Steps community. Each baby is different in their leaps and growth, so try to remove other variables, like intake and overtiring as you determine what else could be causing the sleep disruption. 

Should I sleep train a baby during a sleep regression? 

In my experience as a baby sleep coach, most regressions morph into habit, and changes are needed to reset the rest and help that sweet little baby to again sleep through the night. Where it is a true leap or small regression with a cold, give them a few days, managing intake and their schedule and avoiding them picking up new sleep associations as best you can. 

These are signs to help you determine if this too shall pass or where you might need to hire a baby sleep coach:

  • Waking at the exact time every night. 
  • Unable to settle without help from you. 
  • Short naps with a failed nap transfer. 
  • Baby will only sleep on you. 
  • Trouble settling to sleep in their crib. 
  • Waking for so many overnight feedings now to sleep, that daytime intake is suffering. 

The 8 month sleep regression is hard. The last thing you want is for it to morph into  9 months and 10 months…so let’s get you some help, coaching and support, that’s what we are here for, to give you both the gift of sleep. 

As one of the most experienced & award winning baby, toddler and adult sleep coaching agencies, Tiny Transitions has been transforming sleep in families of all shapes and sizes for almost a decade. With an experienced and diverse team of sleep consultants, we work with families through their sleep struggles with tiered offerings to meet every age, stage and budget – all while supporting your little one on their unique path to a tear-free bedtime, sleeping through the night, waking rested and refreshed. 

Courtney Zentz, our Founder is on a mission to change the way the world views sleep, one family at a time. At Tiny Transitions, you come for the sleep, but you stay for the community.  

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