The 8-month sleep regression tends to get a lot of attention because of the sudden challenges with sleep, after just sorting out sleep as a result of the 4-month sleep regression. A lot of parents feel like they are finally getting sleep on track and then they are challenged again with a huge disturbance in sleep. As your Colorado sleep regression coach, I’m here to guide you through this latest sleep challenge.
You’ll hear me refer to these regressions as “progressions” because they are in fact a baby progressing in development, not regressing back to a less developed state. Sleep regressions are notorious for causing sleep disturbances yet are an exciting time as your baby develops and masters new skills such as rolling, sitting up, crawling, and walking. Regressions often catch the most negative attention when it comes to disturbing sleep. Whether it’s the 4-month, 8-month, or 18-month regression, they all come with some pause in great sleeping.
The 8-month sleep regression is tied to developmental milestones
Sleep regressions are often reported by parents at differing times in development. This is because not every baby develops at the same pace, in the exact same way. One baby may be mastering 8-month skills at 6-months old. Others may be delayed and not excel in their skills until closer to 9 months old. Development is not one size fits all just as sleep is not one size fits all.
The 8-month sleep regression is heavily tied to the development and expansion of new gross and fine motor skills as well as the development of separation anxiety. These new skills tend to take a lot of brainpower and in turn, take precedent with how brainpower is used. This is where parents see major sleep disturbances and often report that their baby “forgot” how to sleep well. The key during these times of disturbed sleep is not to wander off course. Since there is no way to stop this development (and you would never want to anyway), it’s best to hold on and wait it out. As your sleep regression coach, I’m here to remind you – don’t throw away all your hard work with your child’s sleep. Keep the core independent sleeping skills the same and I promise you will come out alive.
Gross Motor Skills
Your 8-month-old baby is rapidly growing and developing. Between 8-12 months old, baby is very busy as they learn some major motor skills. Gross motor development during this phase includes skills such as sitting up, crawling, getting to hands and knees, standing and holding on to furniture, pulling up on furniture, and maybe even taking a few assisted steps.
During these large leaps in development, your baby’s brain is prioritizing development oversleep. Parents report seeing their babies once mastered sleeping skills go down the drain. Or baby practicing these skills in their crib, crawling and standing instead of sleeping.
The best way to encourage gross motor development is to allow baby lots of practice. Create a space where they can safely explore, crawl, and practice their new skills. The more practice they do during awake times, the less they’ll need to practice in the crib. If your baby tends to get into some uncomfortable positions in the crib while practicing, I recommend going to them and helping them lay down again.
As a sleep regression coach, I see these changes seriously disrupt sleep. But don’t worry, we can get through this!
Fine Motor Skills
Your 8-month baby is also developing their fine motor skills during the 8-12 month phase. Fine motor skills during this period include waving, clapping, putting objects into a container, and pulling them out again, letting go of objects voluntarily, poking with index finger, turning pages in a book, pushing toy cars, and stacking rings on a tower.
The development of these skills may also cause sleep disturbances. You may see your baby playing in their crib before falling asleep or kicking their legs and waving their hands. This is normal and not something to try to stop. Allow your baby to quietly play until they fall asleep. Remember to allow babies the space to practice these skills during awake times so they can master them quickly.
Your baby is rapidly learning about their surrounding world and part of this phase is the development of personal and social skills. You may start to notice your baby has a preference for some caregivers over others and displays fear and separation anxiety when separated from their parent(s). Other milestones during this phase include testing parental responses, being shy or anxious with strangers, showing a preference for certain toys, and feeding themselves with their fingers. This leap in development can manifest itself in sleep disturbances by longer periods of protest at bedtime or disturbed naps. You may also find it harder for baby to go back to sleep independently. Remember to not throw away all your hard. Maintain the core principles of independent sleep so when you come out the other side, your baby will still be sleeping well.
Separation anxiety can affect sleep especially if there is a preference for one caregiver or the other. To remedy this aversion, I suggest switching off bedtime so both parents have a turn at the bedtime routine and lay down. During awake times, allow baby some more space when playing. For example, leave the room for a moment and allow baby to see you disappear. Then come back into view and interact with baby again. This will build confidence that you will return after leaving.
Surviving the 8-month sleep regression
Developmental leaps and progressions in development are often the blame for sleep disturbances during the first year of life. Your baby is constantly growing and changing. It’s important to remember that your baby didn’t lose all of their sleeping skills, and they will come out on the other side of these sleep disturbances.
To minimize the training you’ll need to do when the regression has passed, make sure you maintain appropriate boundaries surrounding sleep and don’t throw away established routines. How you get your baby to sleep is what they will need when they wake so keeping sleep independent will foster their ability to handle disturbances well.
If you find yourself still struggling with the 8-month sleep regression, don’t hesitate to reach out and book a free sleep evaluation.
As your sleep regression coach, I’m here for you. I will help you and your baby get through this regression and all the others.