The 9 month sleep regression can be a challenging time for many parents. As babies near this milestone, their sleep cycles begin to change, often resulting in frequent night wakings, early morning wake ups, and disrupted naps. But take heart! While this phase can be exhausting, it is temporary. With a little patience and some simple sleep strategies, you’ll get through this together.
What is 9 Month Sleep Regression?
Around 8 or 9 months of age, babies transition from infant sleep cycles to adult-like sleep cycles. Infants experience a lot more active or REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. But at 9 months, babies start shifting to having more restorative deep sleep.
This transition disrupts their sleep as they learn to connect sleep cycles. Babies can startle themselves awake more often as they come out of a sleep cycle. They may have difficulty settling back down, leading to frequent wakings.
Some other factors that contribute to 9 month sleep regression include:
- Separation anxiety – Around this age, babies become more aware of their surroundings. Being apart from parents at bedtime can provoke anxiety.
- Growth spurts – Physical development increases need for calories. This can disrupt sleep.
- Teething – Swelling gums and new teeth breaking through are painful. Discomfort wakes baby frequently.
- New skills – Mobility, speech, and independence are exciting! But practicing new skills can be overstimulating.
- FOMO (fear of missing out) – As babies engage more with the world, they fight sleep to keep playing and interacting.
While each baby goes through changes differently, most 9 month sleep regressions last 2-6 weeks. With consistency, understanding, and the right sleep strategies, this phase will pass!
Signs of 9 Month Sleep Regression
Here are some common signs your 9 month old is going through a sleep regression:
- Waking more often at night (2-6+ times)
- Early morning waking, before 6 AM
- Shorter naps or frequent waking at naptime
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Reliance on sleep crutches like nursing, rocking, pacifiers
- Wanting to play at bedtime instead of sleep
- Bedtime battles and stalling
- Separation anxiety and clinginess
- Crying when put down in crib
- Waking upset, more crying overall
Regressions can range from mild to more disruptive. But any change in your baby’s sleep pattern may indicate they are transitioning through a developmental leap.
9 Month Sleep Regression Week by Week
While each child adapts at their own pace, regressions often unfold in a similar progression. Here’s an overview of how the 9 month sleep regression may evolve week by week:
In the first week, you may notice subtle changes to your baby’s sleep. Early signs include:
- Slight decrease in nap length and quality
- Taking longer to fall asleep at bedtime
- A bit more fussiness surrounding sleep times
Your baby still may not fully wake or cry during the night. But you’ll see their sleep is just a little more disrupted overall.
By the second week, the regression is in full swing. Your baby’s night wakings and early mornings become more frequent.
Naps get shorter and may even be skipped. Falling asleep and staying asleep get much tougher. Your baby will rely on your help at sleep times.
This is the most difficult part of the regression. But take heart, you’ve made it through the worst already!
As you enter week three, you will slowly start seeing improvement. There will still be bumps in the road, but wakings and crying spells should be decreasing.
Your baby may start adapting to the new sleep cycles and begin self-soothing again. Naps may extend in length and bedtime gets a little easier.
By the fourth week, your baby’s sleep is looking more consistent again. They are back to just 1-2 night wakings and napping well.
Bedtime involves less stalling and struggles. Your baby falls asleep more independently. Things are finally returning to normal!
Of course, timelines vary. But most babies this age adjust to the new sleep cycles within 4-6 weeks. The key is staying consistent and ride out this temporary disruption.
Why Does 9 Month Sleep Regression Happen?
There are a few key developmental changes happening around 9 months that trigger regressions. Being aware of what’s going on can help you understand and respond patiently.
Transitioning Sleep Cycles
In the early months, babies spend about 50% of sleep in active REM sleep. By 9 months, this decreases to about 30% as babies transition to more restorative deep sleep.
But their sleep is still immature. Babies cycle quickly between sleep stages and still wake frequently. These more defined cycles mean babies come out of sleep more alert. If they don’t learn to fall back asleep, night wakings increase.
Around 8-10 months, your baby becomes much more aware of their surroundings. They start understanding you continue to exist, even when out of sight!
This realization can provoke separation anxiety. Your little one clings, cries, and resists bedtime without you. Even if they fall asleep independently, they may panic and wake when realizing you’re not there.
Some independence is normal at this age. But anxiety spikes during periods of developmental change. With patience and consistency, separation anxiety fades.
Your baby around 9 months needs more nutrition as they grow rapidly. Increased appetite can disrupt sleep. Your baby may wake hungry or have trouble settling with a full tummy.
Growth spurts are temporary. Feed on demand and keep sleep routines consistent. As the growth spurt ends, appetite and sleep improve.
Cognitive and Motor Advancements
So much exciting development happens around 9 months! Your baby is on the move, babbling, and eager to interact with the world.
Mastering new physical and cognitive skills is overstimulating. Your overly tired baby has FOMO (fear of missing out) and fights sleep to keep practicing new abilities.
Set an earlier bedtime and watch for tired signs during the day. Avoid over-stimulation in the evenings so your baby winds down for sleep.
Tips to Get Through 9 Month Sleep Regression
While every baby adapts differently, there are some key tips that can help everyone get through the 9 month sleep regression more smoothly:
1. Maintain Consistent Sleep Routines
Consistency and scheduling are crucial during regressions. Keep the same soothing bedtime routine every night. Follow age-appropriate wake times during the day.
Avoid letting naps and bedtime slide later. Early bedtimes help reduce overtiredness. Regular routines provide needed stability when sleep is disrupted.
2. Practice Independent Sleep Skills
Rocking, nursing, or other sleep associations can become unhelpful sleep crutches. Instead, focus on teaching self-soothing skills.
Put your drowsy yet awake baby in the crib and let them learn to drift off independently. Be consistent responding to night wakings the same way.
Over time, your baby builds confidence sleeping solo. Difficult periods pass faster if baby can self-soothe.
3. Use Transitional Objects and White Noise
Introduce a special blanket, stuffed animal, or soft music. These familiar cues signal sleep time and provide needed comfort when you’re not present.
A sound machine with consistent white noise blocks disruptive noises to help baby sleep through more. These tools help ease separation anxiety.
4. Offer Extra Daytime Nourishment
Growth spurts increase appetite. Be sure you respond to hunger cues appropriately. Offer more frequent feedings or meals.
Full tummies make it tough to sleep! Keep daytime full, but avoid overfeeding right before bed. Added calories during the day prevent disruptive night wakings.
5. Watch for Overtiredness
Fighting sleep and developmental changes lead to overtiredness. Watch for tired signals like eye rubbing, yawning, and fussiness.
Put your baby down to sleep a little earlier if needed. Adjust nap schedules to ensure adequate daytime rest. Prevent overtiredness and bedtime struggles.
6. Have Patience!
Regressions are frustrating but temporary! Your baby will resettle into more consistent sleep. Focus on consistency, self-soothing skills, and ruled-out health issues.
Remind yourself this too shall pass! Take shifts with your partner and trade off for your own rest when needed.
Sleep Training at 9 Months
The 9 month mark is a great time to sleep train if needed. Your baby is developmentally ready to learn independent sleep skills. Sleep training can help minimize the disruption of the regression.
Popular methods like cry it out or gradual retreat provide the opportunity for your baby to fall asleep on their own. This builds confidence and reduces separation anxiety.
Make sure you rule out any physical causes like teething, illness, or ear infections first. Then set up a consistent sleep training approach and commit to it.
Also ensure your baby is eating enough during the day before making bedtime changes. Sleep training takes consistency and patience, but results in more restful sleep for all.
When to Seek Help for 9 Month Sleep Regression
While some struggle is normal during regressions, take note if:
- Disrupted sleep lasts longer than 6 weeks
- Sleep training attempts don’t provide improvement after 2 weeks
- Night wakings suddenly increase without explanation
- Naps are consistently refused or super short
- You see signs of anxiety, excessive sadness, or developmental delays
Discuss concerns with your pediatrician. Sleep issues could indicate other health or emotional issues need attention.
Rule out pain from teething, illness, reflux, food allergies, ear infections, and other sources. Sleep struggles may warrant an evaluation for sleep disorders if they persist.
FAQs About 9 Month Sleep Regression
How long will the 9 month sleep regression last?
Most regressions resolve within 2-6 weeks. Have patience, remain consistent, and use sleep training if needed. If sleep issues last longer than 6-8 weeks, consult your pediatrician.
What are the 3-3-3 rules for sleep regression?
The 3-3-3 rule says to expect:
- 3 days of poor sleep
- 3 weeks of adjusting
- 3 months to fully reestablish healthy sleep habits
While timeframes vary, this rule sets realistic expectations for riding out regressions.
How do I stop rocking my baby to sleep during regression?
Gradually replace rocking with another soothing routine like bedtime stories or songs.
For night wakings, comfort your baby without taking them out of the crib. Stay consistent so they learn new associations. It takes time, but babies can adapt.
Should I start sleep training during the 9 month regression?
Yes, 9 months is a good time to start sleep training if needed. Just make sure your baby is eating enough during the day first. Be consistent with the training method you choose.
The disruption of the regression presents a good opportunity to help your baby learn to self-soothe.
Is it OK to nurse my baby back to sleep during the regression?
If that has been working well for you, it’s fine to continue through the regression. But watch for unhelpful sleep associations.
To reduce reliance on nursing, try other calming methods like shushing or patting instead. Teach independent sleep skills for long-term benefits.
The Bottom Line
The 9 month sleep regression can be challenging, but it will pass. Stay patient, consistent, and focus on teaching your baby healthy sleep habits. Pay attention to wake windows. Use sleep training if needed. Seek help if sleep problems remain unresolved after 6-8 weeks.
This too shall pass! With time and targeted sleep strategies, your baby will adjust to the new sleep cycles. You’ll make it through the 9 month sleep regression together.