How to handle the 9-month sleep regression

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By Jolandi Becker – MD of Good Night

A lot of things change with your baby around 7 to 10 months, these changes unfortunately can also include disruptions to their sleep habits!

What is a sleep regression?

A sleep regression is a period where your baby/toddler sleeps worse than normal. The worse sleep might entail struggling to fall asleep or waking up more than usual at night. It might also mean being awake for extended periods of time at bedtime or throughout the night. How long it lasts depends on the age of your child.

Why do sleep regressions happen?
Sleep regressions are caused by development. Mental, physical or emotional development are factors that depend on the age of baby/toddler. Thus when your baby/toddler is growing (which is most of the time) this consequent development can disrupt their sleep for various reasons.

Around 9 months there is much mental development (separation anxiety) and physical development (starting to crawl or even stand up) that takes place. Those active babies especially manage to get into quite uncomfortable positions. Once again, when they start standing up early, they could struggle to go sit back down.

To add to the state of affairs, they could also be getting their first teeth or some more teeth.  

When does it happen?

Like any development milestone the regression does NOT happen exactly on the day your baby turns 9 months but could happen anywhere between 8 and 10 months.

How long does it last?

This can last anywhere from a couple of days to couple of weeks.
How to survive the 9 month old sleep regression

  1. If sleep regression is associated with separation anxiety it is very important to remain consistent. During this time it will give your baby security and confidence if you remain as normal and loving as you have been. Take some extra time during the bedtime routine for one-on-one time.
  2. With the physical development (such as standing up), it is helpful to practice their skills during awake time and help them to sit down.
  3. The cot is for sleeping and not for playing. Remove all toys and cot mobiles from the cot, which could be distracting them when they are waking at night or trying to fall asleep.
  4. Create positive sleep associations: These are associations they can use independently without your assistance such as taglets or dummies. 

    Remember that this should always be attempted in combination with the other building blocks.

  5. Make it as dark as possible where your little one sleeps. Your baby moves through light active sleep phases 13 to 16 times a night and you don’t want a light to distract them and wake them up completely. NO nightlight or hall light is needed.
  6. Establish a routine and schedule during the day. Your baby should be having 2 solid naps a day with awake time of around 3 hours. You can also implement a SLEEP, FEED, PLAY schedule during the day. This entails that you feed your baby when they wake up and not before they need to sleep. 
  7. Healthy growing babies don’t need to feed at night. Make sure to check this with your peadeatrician or clinic sister but full-term, healthy, growing babies can stretch through the night from 19h00 to 6h00 without a feed. That means that while they are going through this regression it is important to NOT start feeding them, as this can become a habit which last beyond the regression.
  8. Implement a set bedtime that is not too long or too late. A bedtime routine is so simple to implement and sets the tone for the night. It helps signal to your baby that sleep is coming. Up until the age of 5 years, your child requires 11 – 12 hours of nighttime sleep. So aim for bedtime between 18h00 and 19h00.
  9. Phone your nearest consultant. Our consultants help custom make a plan for your family, responsibly by incorporating all the building blocks. We also support you for 2 weeks to help you implement the plan.

Even though sleep regressions can cause sleep disruptions, the important thing to remember is that if you remain consistent it should only be a phase. If your little one slept well before regression, they should get back into it after the phase, and the regression should not be a reason to start negative associations.