You have put so much effort into your little one’s sleep and they have finally been sleeping blissful 11-hour nights; which means you are getting sleep as well! Then it’s almost as if someone snapped their fingers, your baby turned 9 months old and something changed. You just told your friend that your baby had been sleeping so well but now you are awake at 2 AM asking “why is my 9 month old crying uncontrollably at night?”
You probably just settled back into a routine after that tooth popped through and BAM, your baby is up in the middle of the night again. Only this time, there are no signs of teething, no illness. It seems like you just went through a sleep regression at 4, 6, 8, and now 9 months. Sleep regressions are common and frequent, especially in an infant’s first year of life. Although a normal part of development, they can be a large source of frustration and exhaustion for parents.
What is the 9-month sleep regression?
The 9-month regression is a period of time when your infant’s sleep is disrupted, despite them being a great sleeper previously. It is seen anytime between the 8th and 10th month and often coincides with developmental milestones
What are the signs of the 9-month sleep regression?
-increased fussiness and/or irritability
-suddenly resisting naps or taking a prolonged time to fall asleep for naps
-trouble falling asleep at bedtime
-frequent night wakings
-prolonged periods of crying at night
What causes the 9-month sleep regression?
- Developmental milestones. Your baby’s brain is continually developing and working hard to learn and master new skills such as crawling, pulling up, standing, etc. These new skills bring excitement but can be overwhelming to infants, making it hard to settle their brains for sleep. Typically, your infant will be increasingly fussy and clingy the days leading up to these learned skills, which is what most refer to as a “developmental leap”.
- Separation anxiety. Around this age, infants start to develop object permanence, which is a child’s ability to know that objects (such as parents) exist even when they are no longer in sight; Hence, why infants often become upset when parents/caregivers are no longer visible
- Hunger. All this talk about growth and development sounds like hard work, right? A growing baby is a hungry baby and around this age, it is common to see your infant amping up their milk and solid intake
- Sleep pattern changes. Your infant’s sleep patterns will continue to evolve as he/she grows, including longer periods of wakefulness. This changes their previous sleep routine and schedule
How long does the 9-month sleep regression last?
This can vary. For some children, it may only last a few days. Others, it may last a few weeks.
How to navigate the 9-month sleep regression?
Try not to panic. This is temporary. If your baby was sleeping well previously, those sleep patterns will resume. However, there are things you can do to get your baby back on track sooner:
- Keep a consistent sleep schedule. Stick to your normal nap times and bedtime as best as possible. This helps to continue to reinforce your baby’s internal clock. If you are unsure what a typical 9-month old schedule should look like, refer to the schedule below
- Bedtime routine. A series of similar steps each night before bed can help your baby get geared up for sleep. An example of a calming routine could include a feed, bath, lotion massage, lullaby, and snuggles
- Ensure your baby has the correct sleep environment. This includes a dark room, white noise, and comfortable temperature. You want to ensure your baby isn’t getting too hot or too cold at night
- Food Inventory. Ensure your baby is getting enough calories during the day to prevent those middle-of-the night snack sessions. Solid foods are great at this age, but you want to make sure you aren’t skimping on the milk, or they will be hungry in the middle of the night. Breastmilk and/or formula is still their primary source of nutrition in the first 12 months
- Be patient with developmental skills: This is hard work for your baby, and it takes time to master these new skills. As frustrating as the lack of sleep can be, your baby is learning and that’s exciting! Allowing your baby to practice these skills during awake times, makes it less likely they want to focus on these during sleep
- Offer comfort while still fostering independence: It’s so hard to listen to your baby cry and its okay to comfort them when their upset. Let them know you are there for them if they are struggling with separation anxiety. While providing comfort is necessary, its equally important to help your baby learn to fall asleep independently and to avoid creating new sleep habits in the midst of an already sleep-deprived time
9-month sleep schedule:
At 9 months old, infants have specific total and daytime sleep needs. If you want your baby to sleep through the night then following an appropriate 9 month old schedule can help. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends infants need 12-16 hours of total sleep (in 24 hours) between 4 months and 12 months old. This should be an optimal balance between daytime sleep and overnight sleep.
Here is a 9-month old sample sleep schedule to help your little one optimize those sleep needs:
-Morning wake up time between 6:00-7:00 AM
-Nap 1 @ 10:00 AM (This nap should not last longer than 2 hours)
-Nap 2 @ 3:00 PM (Again this nap should not last longer than 2 hours).
-Bedtime 7:30 PM
**Nap 2 should end by 4:15 PM if you want to keep bedtime consistent. **For improved night’s sleep, I recommend capping daytime sleep at 3 hours TOTAL**
It’s important to tune into your child’s sleep cues and awake times. A misaligned schedule can lead to difficulty with naps and night wakings.
The 9-month sleep regression is temporary and as parents, it’s helpful to navigate this stage with patience and flexibility. Know your baby’s prior sleep patterns will return as he/she adjusts to this new stage in development. If your baby lacks independent sleep skills, it is likely these habits will intensify during the 9-month regression, leading to longer wakeful periods at night. If you are exhausted and unsure what to do, discuss with your pediatrician to exclude any health concerns first and if that checks out, working with a baby sleep coach can help.
I help exhausted parents, like you, teach their child to master independent sleep skills so you all can have restful nights. Learn more about my personalized sleep coaching services here. Whether you have more questions, want to know more about my process, or if you are ALL IN for more sleep, start with a sleep evaluation call here. With personalized sleep solutions for your baby, you can ditch sleep exhaustion and have “Dovely” dreams!
Kendra Dove is happily married to the love of her life for the past 10 years and is the mother of 2 amazing boys. She is an Indianapolis-based sleep consultant and primary care trained physician assistant. She has helped countless families, both locally and all over the US, get restful nights sleep. She loves sharing her sleep knowledge and expertise and is passionate about identifying each family’s sleep struggles and deeply understanding their needs to reach success!