So you have navigated the 4 month sleep development. Everything has hopefully settled down and your little one is sleeping well at night, with perhaps one or 2 feeds. Their daytime naps are more routine now too and they are having 3 naps with no problem. Your little bundle is starting to be mobile and may be crawling or bottom shuffling around. Then BOOM! Sleep is all of a sudden disturbed again and your little one is not settling well at night and is having frequent night waking again or refusing naps.
This is a good sign that your child’s development is right on track. It is hard to deal with in the moment, but it is to be expected. The issues come when we look at how we handle it. It is all about knowing what to expect and knowing your child is going to be looking for from you as they navigate this developmental leap. You should not be worried about this phase and it should not be used as an excuse for poor sleep habits forming.
So, what is happening at 8 months of age?
First thing to look at is their daytime sleep. It is going to be shifting around this time. It is completely normal for their lovely, reliable nap structure to take a hit and start being a battle. Or maybe you never did get it off to a great start, maybe it’s always been a nightmare.
Their sleep needs are shifting and they are now at an age where they can handle longer awake periods but this will not happen overnight. It is important for you to be meeting their sleep needs and really tuning into their moods to determine if they are overtired or undertired. If your child is not getting the right amount of day sleep then you will see the repercussions which is disturbed nights, so called regression.
So, being aware of that daytime sleep, how much does your child need? When do they need it? And are you meeting that need for them? They will not automatically just tell you when they need it and nod off to sleep brilliantly as you know by now. It is important to not do an immediate drop from 3 to 2 naps.
Don’t go, oh, okay, we were doing three naps, we’ll now do two, that’s it. It’s not that cut and dry, it’s a transition, it takes time. It will usually be over that eight-to-10-month period that this starts to happen, and you might take two steps forward and three steps back, it might be a bit stop and start for a while. This is normal!
So, take each day as it comes, some days your child might need three naps, some days two, some days two and an early bed or there’s all sorts going on there. DO not be afraid to put your little one to bed early! It will not have a negative impact on their morning wake up time and will actually ensure that they are getting enough sleep in 24 hours and will help with night waking's or early rising.
The other thing to be aware of at this stage is the wakeful window. Little ones are very good at masking when they are ready for sleep and may seem fine until it is too late. You have missed the window to get them to sleep without a battle and they are now overtired.
So don’t wait for those signs, don’t wait for that before you put your child down. Just because a child appears to be fine or a baby appears to be fine and not in need of a sleep yet, doesn’t mean it’s true.
So, their wakeful window will begin to stretch, the amount of sleep they need in the day it’s not so much that it’s going to come down rapidly, but it’s going to shift in how it’s spaced out. So instead of three naps, they’ll start to move towards two. But those two will be longer and more predictable and regular than before.
The next thing I want to share with you is your sleep habits. Whereas before these could have been flexible, they could now be becoming more of an issue.
For instance, a dummy that you may have been able to get rid of before, they’re going to become a lot clingier to it now. They’re going to become a lot more reliant on these things that are habits, because they’re becoming more aware,
A little lovey, cuddly, teddy or something that they have control of is absolutely fine. But if it’s something that you know is not really a good, sustainable, useful thing, and they’re clinging onto it, then you really want to start thinking about getting rid of that, moving onto something else that actually you can use for the long term.
Habits are starting to stick, make sure they are good ones.
This is also a good time to fine tune your bedtime routine into very clear and predictable steps forming good habits and preparing your child for sleep. This can include how you say goodnight and put them down to bed. Make it regular and consistent. Making sure they aren’t being put down already asleep, and they are practicing putting themselves to sleep maybe with your assistance.
The last thing to think about is your night response. You need to be clear on what this is going to look like and stick with it. You don’t go in with something different every time, one minute it’s a feed, the next minute is a cuddle. Your child needs a consistent message or they will learn that if they keep crying out they may get a different response so they will hold out longer and longer for it!
By being consistent you give them a real sense of security knowing where they stand, and knowing what to expect. They might not always like it, but you can not always give them what they want. You give them what they need absolutely but they need to start to understand that they can not always be in charge.
Another thing to be aware of at this stage of development is that they are now a lot more aware of their surroundings and will want to know where you are! This is when they can start to appear more clingy than they used to be. This is all very natural and should ntobe confused with separation anxiety.
You want to give them that room to explore, to crawl over in a baby group and interact with another child. When they look over their shoulder they can see you’re still there, they know you’re still close by, you don’t just disappear. It’s really healthy exploration that you want to encourage, and that reassurance that it’s okay, I’m still here. And okay, I go, I come back. I go, I come back.
So lots is going on, they’re developing, they’re progressing. Because of all these developments, if we are not moving with them, and if we are not keeping up with that then we will run into problems. They end up out of source, they end up not really knowing what’s going on and where they stand.
I hope this helps you, at this eight month stage, it can be really challenging. Just know that actually, even though right now, it feels like it’s your life, it’s not. In a matter of weeks, it’s all going to change again. So try and just keep up with what your baby needs from you right now, and it will all be fine.
If you would like to talk in person about your family's sleep concerns or want more information then please book a free call with me and I will happily speak to you or discuss the option of a tailored sleep package with ongoing support.