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The Nine Month Sleep Regression

Let’s explain what it is and why it is such a Biggy

Yes, just as you think you have it all figured out, everything changes again! As sleep matures and gradually improves, there are noticeable hurdles that can cause sleep difficulties. One of these is the 9 Month Sleep Regression.

It can occur anywhere between 8-12 months and isn’t an unusual occurrence that most babies go through this regression exactly at the 9 months mark. Sleep regression is usually associated with developmental milestones. That is why we actually prefer calling it a “Sleep – Progression”

An explosion of development happens at 9 months, YEAH!! Babies become more physical and verbal and it may be paired with separation anxiety. Sleep disruption may be caused by each of these cognitive and physical milestones. Sometimes they occur all at once. Oh No!!

When babies go through the 9-month regression, it may be a difficult week or two. It all depends on how you handle and interact with your baby in this time. You might find yourself in a tricky situation if you start forming new sleep habits. If your baby loved to take short cat naps of 30-45 min this regression can hit quite hard.

Baby can refuse napping and if a routine has not been established for your unique baby these naps can even become harder to achieve.

To get baby back to sleep, parents often try everything.

Day 1 parent does not know what to do.

Day 2 parents start to rock baby.

Day 3 they try driving in the car or using the pram to get baby to sleep, nothing is really working and the nighttime sleep starts to fall apart. Parents might try different routines, searching for answers on the internet and just driving themselves crazy.

Don’t Panic……

What makes this regression hard is that at 9 months a baby experiences separation anxiety, they realize that they are separate from their parents. Therefore, they don’t realize yet that mom will return once mom has left them for a few minutes to play. Not every baby will go through this regression. The stronger the separation anxiety, the more they will react with crying when you try to leave their room at bedtime or naptime. It will also feel like they need to cling a little bit more than usual.

Assess your child’s response when you walk out of the room while she is playing during the day. If she was happy playing on her own while you were in the room, but cries immediately when you leave the room, then she is probably going through this separation anxiety phase. Try to remain as loving, confident and natural as usual.

How does this affect sleep during this time?

You may find that he/she starts crying as soon as you leave the room, if this was your typical bed/naptime routine. This crying may sound different, it is more like “HEY! Where are you going!?” They have a fear of missing out too.

If you did not anticipate this happening, you would probably find yourself back in her room to investigate. You might think your baby is getting sick or that something is really wrong. To help calm your baby, you might rock or nurse your baby to sleep even if that isn’t your normal process.

He/She may regress from nice long 1.5 hour naps to 30-45 minute single sleep cycle naps, and in the middle of the night, you might hear that your baby is awake and he/she might be awake for a while.

Because of all the great developmental milestones being reached, he/she might be waking up between 1-3 am to try and practice this newfound skill and can get stuck crying and not know how to get back down.

You may need to help baby go from standing to lying down again for a few nights.

TIP: Focus on practising these new found skills during play time in a safe environment. This should give baby plenty of exercise during the day and help minimise practice time during the night!

What can be done about this regression?

Sleep will improve once your baby understands that you are still available for them when you are out of sight.

TIP: Play games like peek-a-boo. With yourself as well as with toys. Talk to your baby and tell them you are leaving and return soon after. Keep practicing this throughout her day.

This is a regression that you unfortunately have to wait out.

Give an extra-long wind down before naps with extra cuddles and one on one time. Also, follow this same loving bedtime routine to help fulfill her attachment needs and ease the separation anxiety. Take your time until you see this regression has passed. When responding to your baby during this regression might create new sleep associations. You may need to teach your baby to fall asleep on her own again if she has developed new sleep behaviors that you can’t keep up.

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