Sleep Regression – How to overcome so-called ‘ sleep regression ’ at eight months old
At the age of eight months, many parents may feel like their baby is starting to experience so-called ‘sleep regression’ where a baby that was sleeping relatively well through the night suddenly seems to be constantly waking up.
Lucy Shrimpton is the founder of The Sleep Nanny® (www.sleepnannyco.uk) and one of the UK’s leading baby sleep experts. She has helped countless numbers of parents as they battle to get their babies to sleep through the night or get into a healthy daily routine.
She shares her top tips for parents struggling to cope with so-called ‘sleep regression’ at eight months:
1. Don’t panic
I hate the term ‘regression’ because your baby is always making progress so you should never feel like you’re going backwards in any way, just because sleep has become difficult or hindered. So, don’t panic and focus on the regression side of things. Instead, try to see it as sleep being hindered during this progressive leap that they’re taking. And, don’t just expect it to happen to you as it might not!
2. Re-think your schedule
At eight months, the baby is progressing and developing so much and you need to make sure that you’re keeping up with that. If you’re trying to keep them on the schedule they were on when they were younger, then they end up tired, out of sorts and not really knowing what’s going on – creating a disturbed night’s sleep.
3. Change your baby’s daytime naps
Daytime sleep is going to be shifting around this time. So, you might have a little one who is used to three good naps a day and they’re sleeping well at night, but at eight months they start to struggle. It’s important to know that at this age, their sleep needs during the day are starting to shift and if we’re not meeting those needs or accommodating that sleep you could end up with disturbed night sleep.
So, it’s being aware of that day-time sleep; how much does your child need now? When do they need it and are you meeting that need? They won’t automatically tell you when they need it and nod off to sleep.
4. Make it a slow transition
At eight months, that daytime sleep is gradually going to drop down to two naps over the next couple of months so you’re going to see a shift. Whatever you do, don’t do an immediate swap down as it’s not that cut and dry. It’s a transition process where you might take two steps forward and one step back so don’t put too much pressure on yourself to hurry the process.
Take each day as it comes; some days your child might need two naps – some days three, some days early bed.
5. Be aware of changes in the wakeful window
Bear in mind that their wakeful window – that’s the period of time that they can be awake in one stretch, is also growing and you might over-estimate it. Why do we over estimate it? Because our little ones give us the impression that they’re fine as they don’t start yawning and eye rubbing until they’re already over-tired, so don’t wait for those signs before you put your child down. Make sure you have one eye on the baby and one eye on the time and you’ll probably hit it just right and find that magic window where settling is much easier for them.
6. Change the type of nap they have each day
The type of nap that your baby will have will change at this point. The wakeful window will stretch and the amount of sleep they need will shift so consider when it’s spaced out. So, instead of having three shorter naps, you will need to give them two bigger, more solid, stable naps. If you’re not meeting these needs then your child’s night time sleep will become disrupted from lack of day sleep which is why people think they’re getting a regression
7. Look at their habits
Your baby’s habits are starting to stick. Before six months if you were doing something you could shift that habit into a new direction but at this point, things are starting to stick. For instance, a baby might become a lot more clingy to a dummy or comforter. They are developing little personalities and starting to hang onto things that bring them comfort. If those things that are conducive comforters, like a cuddly teddy, that’s fine. But if it’s something that’s not a good, sustainable thing then you need to think about replacing it with something else they can use for the long term.
8. Have a consistent bedtime routine
Have a really nice bedtime routine including the same steps every night. Make sure you put them down to bed before they’re already asleep and are practising putting themselves to sleep. Get into a healthy routine that sets them on the right path.
9. Think about your night response
When your baby wakes up in the night, make sure you know what you’re going to do. Don’t alternate it with one day being a feed, the next a cuddle, the next a full on circus show! Be consistent each evening and make sure that you and all the caregivers in your child’s life does the same thing each night. This is so important, not only for their learning and their ability to go to sleep but it’s kinder on them as they know what to expect each night, giving them a sense of security knowing they’re going to get a consistent steady response.
10. Be a reassurance
A big thing that can impact a baby’s life at eight months is their awareness for where they – and you – are. They start to know if you’re in the room or not so you might start seeing some more clinginess which is totally natural. If your baby cries when you leave the room, don’t immediately think ‘separation anxiety’ – anxiety is a very strong word. Instead, they’re getting used to something and becoming more aware. So, give them room to explore and interact with things but be close by. Give them reassurance.
Lucy Shrimpton is the founder of The Sleep Nanny® and author of The Sleep Nanny System. She has been giving families advice, face-to-face and online, over the past seven years. And, with the influx of people seeking help online, Lucy recently launched Dream Maker, a program that parents can log into and use as and when they need, on their mobile device or computer.