You know it, I know it, even the garden gnome knows it: before you had that baby, you were warned that you would never sleep again. (At least, that's what it would feel like.) Newborns are needy, no matter the hour, and around the 4 month mark — just when you've finally gotten adjusted — babies often switch up their sleep patterns. If you've made it through that without falling over, get ready to level up, and meet the next "regression." If you're already there, you may be wondering, white-knuckled, exactly how long does the 8-month sleep regression last?
As reported by The Baby Sleep Site, three to six weeks is normal for most regressions. I don't know about you, but that's a long time to suffer without sleep. Romper spoke with Christine Stevens, certified sleep consultant and founder of Sleepy Tots Consulting, in search of clarity, and just maybe, a chance at a better-rested future for all.
According to Stevens, sleep regressions occur alongside major developmental milestones, like rolling over, sitting up, and learning to crawl. Many infants start to crawl around the 8 month mark — though development is always variable — and Stevens notes that your baby likes to practice her new skills at night.
So how do you handle your baby's new nocturnal habits?
Stevens wants parents to know that regressions happen all the time, and could be caused by just about anything, from teething to a disruption in baby's schedule. "My biggest advice to parents is, don't start something you're not already doing. If you're not used to walking around the house all night long, don't start doing it now," she says.
Every child is different and will learn to fall asleep in her own way. Your job as a parent is to be flexible, and help your baby according to the needs of her age, temperament, and personality. Children must learn to fall asleep, preferably without the use of props (that stroller or bouncy chair, for instance), and habits you create during difficult times might wind up lasting a lot longer than you planned.
If you're suffering through an 8-month sleep regression, try to think of it as a sign of progress instead. After all, a sleep change connected to a developmental milestone is a sign that your child is learning and growing, and what more could a parent ask for? (Besides eight consecutive hours of sleep, of course.) So don't panic.
"Parents should recognize that there are going to be things that will affect sleep, and say, 'OK, we’ll get through this, whatever it is,'" Stevens advises. "Whether it’s an illness, teething, or pulling themselves up in the crib. We’ll work on this, and we’ll get through it."
Sleep is crucial to your functioning, however — not only as a parent, but also as a person. In fact, a study in Pediatrics found a strong association between infant sleep problems and reported maternal postnatal depression.
If you're struggling, Stevens suggests charting your baby's sleep, and learning your baby's sleepiness cues, such as yawning, fussiness, and eye rubbing. Naps are an important aspect of your baby's sleep cycle too, so just like with bedtime, consider instituting a 10 to 15 minute routine to cue your baby that it's time to wind down.
If your bedtime routine is still in research and development, Stevens strongly recommends a bath before bed. Follow that with a full tummy, a little love, and a good book. It takes time and effort, but hopefully, your baby will soon learn that this routine signals sleep.
If your infant continues to have sleep issues, talk to your pediatrician to rule out any underlying problems. You can also try a sleep consultant — Stevens works remotely with families across the country, as well as in person in the D.C. area.
To all new parents, and especially those with 8 to 10-month-olds just starting to crawl, remember, you can get through this. No stage lasts forever, even if it sometimes feels that way.