Special Thanks to our #RookieMomSquad’s Sleep Mama, Ashlee Denny, a certified pediatric sleep consultant from Sleep Wise Consulting. Doesn’t it seem like every time you’ve figured out your baby’s sleep needs and what works for them, something changes? What’s worse is that whether or not things have finally settled back down from the 4 month sleep regression, the 9 month sleep regression is right around the corner. So, let’s talk about why your baby goes through this 9 month sleep regression and some tips and tricks for surviving it!
The 9 month Sleep Regression: What to expect, tips and tricks
But first things first, we give a lot of power to the word “regression” and I would like to take that away now. Like right now! You need to know and believe that you, as the parent, have the ability to shorten these periods of interrupted sleep and even help your baby cruise through them. We can still refer to these times as regressions for sake of a commonly accepted label but we should not fear them!
No, you don’t need to buy all the coffee! Instead, read on and arm yourself with knowledge of what is going on with your child developmentally and how to prevent those milestones from wreaking havoc on both you and your baby’s sleep.
The 9 Month Sleep Regression
The 9 month sleep regression could really be called the 8-10 month sleep regression as it usually occurs with the onset of many milestones that coincide with this age group. Not only does separation anxiety begin to ramp up at this time but your baby is also starting to learn and master sitting up independently, crawling, pulling up and cruising furniture, babbling and saying things like mama and dada. While getting to watch your baby learn and change is very exciting, the downside is these developments tend to impact sleep.
What does a sleep regression look like? For most families, they will notice a sudden downhill trend in their baby’s sleeping ability without any known cause such as teething or illness. A baby that was sleeping through the night may experience multiple night wake ups or start taking short naps that only last one sleep cycle (30-45 minutes).
Unlike the 4 month sleep regression, in which the architecture of a baby’s sleep actually changes to reflect that of an adult, the 9 month sleep regression doesn’t permanently impact your child’s sleep. You can expect to see some sleep difficulties that can last between 2-6 weeks. The key is to recognize the milestones are occurring, help your baby work through them and remain consistent in your response to any sleep issues they experience.
Practice Makes Perfect and Change Can Be Good
How can you prevent these milestones from impacting sleep? Practice! Help your little one practice each new skill multiple times during the day. This will allow them to be able to sit up or pull themselves up to standing in their crib at night and be able to get back down without any parental intervention.
Practice standing to sitting with your baby by using common household items, like your couch and your remote control (which for some reason seems to be a baby magnet). Let them pull themselves up to standing using the couch and then place the remote control on the ground as a lure and help guide their legs down to sitting. Practice this at least 3 times a day for about 5-10 minutes.
Also, for those with babies that do go to sleep independently and are having sleep issues at this age, in addition to practicing milestones consider that your baby may need a change to their routine. At this age, babies need about 3.5 hours of awake time before naps and, 10-12 hours of overnight sleep and 2-3 hours of daytime sleep. Lastly, it never hurts to go back to the basics and make sure their nursery is conducive to good sleep; dark, cool, quiet and boring.
Hello Separation Anxiety
From a very early age your baby learns to distinguish between different faces and recognizes their primary care givers. Then around 6-7 months your baby gains an understanding of object permanence and realizes that people and objects exist even if they leave their sight. These awesome developments are so important but together they create the pathway for another milestone that seems to ramp up right around 8-10 months; separation anxiety.
Babies realize that their moms and dads can get up and walk away from them but they don’t know how long it will be until they come back which triggers their separation anxiety. You’ll know it has arrived because your little one has become a stage 5 clinger, cries when you leave the room briefly, shows more stranger anxiety and has increased crying at nap times, bedtime, as well as increased night wake ups.
To alleviate the impact of separation anxiety on sleep, try confidently narrating what you are doing for your baby during nap time and bedtime routine. When you place them in their crib, keep your goodbye short and calm and then leave the room. Be prepared for the potential of a “hey, where are your going?” cry and ensure you keep your response to this type of crying consistent with how you would respond in any other crying situation. Lastly, alternate which parent does nap time and bedtime routine so your baby doesn’t get upset when one parent is there vice the other.
What Not to Do
Do not introduce a new sleep association or as I like to call them, “sleep props” in order to help your baby sleep during this regression. By that I mean, if before this regression you put your baby to sleep or responded to their night wake ups without feeding, without using a pacifier or without rocking or holding, do not start doing it now. It only takes a handful of times responding to your child’s increased wake ups with a new sleep prop for that to change the way in which they believe they need to fall asleep or stay asleep.
Which brings me to my next point, and this is a slippery slope mamas! Parent intervention during regressions tends to create longer lasting sleep issues than before the regression started. If you begin to respond to your child in a certain way while they are struggling with sleep, then they will learn to expect that even after the regression is over.
Lastly, don’t stray away from your routine! A steady routine will make your baby feel confident as to what to expect during the day and for bedtime. So keeping your nap time and bedtime routines the same will only steer you away from the temptation of adding in new sleep props. It will also give your baby confidence in what is to come and aid in lessening any separation anxiety they may be experiencing.
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