A sleep regression is a period of time when a baby or toddler goes through a developmental leap. Your little one who has been sleeping great, on a consistent schedule, napping like a pro, and maybe even sleeping through the night, may suddenly start waking up at night, skipping naps or even waking early from naps for no apparent reason. And it typically happens just when you think you have this sleep thing all figured out.
What are the 6 and 9 month sleep regressions?
At 6 months and 9 months (and sometimes even 8 months and 10 months), your baby is going through a slew of developmental milestones and teething. You may see night wakings again, shorter naps (sometimes even as short as 30-45 minutes), nap refusals, resisting bedtime and early morning wake ups (wakeups before 6am).
Why does the 6 and 9 month regression happen?
At 6 months, your baby is going through a significant developmental leap - learning how to roll from front to back, back to front and sitting up on their own. Baby may also be starting to cut their first teeth. Around 9 months, baby goes through a whole other set of development milestones as they become mobile and start crawling, cruising and pulling up to stand. All of these new skills are cause for excitement and your little one may even be inclined to practice their new skills in their crib.
Your baby is also going through significant brain development during this stage and is absorbing language like crazy. In fact, their mental development is happening at a higher rate during the first two years than it will the rest of their life. They’re little sponges right now, as they’re observing everything around them, examining the contents of things, learning the relationship between words and actions, and oftentimes trying to form sounds with their mouths.
How does sleep change?
Like with the 4 month sleep regression, nap times and nighttime sleep can be disrupted; however, this regression shouldn’t last more than 2-6 weeks. If your baby is showing signs during the day of teething (gnawing, excessive drooling and chewing on everything), they may be working on cutting a tooth, but this typically doesn't disrupt nighttime sleep for very long. Talk to your pediatrician about possible pain relief options if necessary. The most painful part of teething is when you see obvious symptoms during the day and can see the little white tooth cutting through the gum. After that, teething should not disrupt sleep.
Is it time to drop a nap?
If your child is consistently refusing a nap, it may be time to drop a nap at this point. The transition from 3 naps per day to 2 naps per day typically happens between 6 and 9 months. Remember, you want them to consistently refuse a nap for at least 2 weeks before you drop the nap. During the transition, you’ll want to move bedtime up to make up for the lost nap.
How do we survive?
Consistency is key. Stay consistent in baby’s nap times and and normal sleep schedule. This consistency will help your baby feel secure and confident when their little body is going through so many changes. Give plenty of opportunities to practice new skills during wake times. Be intentional with your little one - put your phone aside and spend quality time with your baby when they’re awake, give extra snuggles and wear baby in a wrap or carrier if he’s extra clingy and fussy. Skin to skin time can be used here as well! It’s not just for newborns and has continued benefits throughout infancy. If you’ve sleep trained, be consistent with your sleep training method and use it during this time.
Nap refusals and regressions
It's common for naps to suffer during any sleep regression. Your baby may suddenly begin skipping their nap, playing and chatting in their crib instead, or taking short naps and waking up early from them.
Treat these nap refusals as a regression and not a sign that it's time for a schedule change or nap transition unless they're happening 80% of the time or more, for a solid 2 weeks. This post has more information on the 3 - 2 nap transition.
On no nap days, move bedtime up by at least 1 hour to help prevent your child from becoming overtired. This will also help to prevent overnight and early morning wake ups!
If you need help sorting through your baby's sleep, set up a free 15-minute consultation with me to discuss my sleep solutions!