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The 9-Month Sleep Regression: Navigating Increased Mobility & Sleep

Reaching the 9-month mark with your baby can be a time of joy, discovery, and… yes, sleep disruptions. If you find yourself up in the middle of the night, you’re not alone. It’s entirely possible that your little one is navigating the waters of the 8-10 month sleep regression.

Development doesn’t follow a strict calendar, and there’s a whirlwind of growth and learning happening during these months, all of which can influence sleep habits. In this blog, we’ll shine a spotlight on how increased mobility, particularly the act of pulling to standing in the crib, can play a pivotal role in these sleep disturbances. If you’re curious about other factors like separation anxiety that can also disrupt sleep at this age, check out our blog on the 8-month sleep regression.

What is a Sleep Regression?

A sleep regression is when a baby, who’s been sleeping soundly, suddenly has trouble staying asleep or resists sleep altogether. The 4-month sleep regression changes the very structure of a baby’s sleep. However, disruptions at 8 or 9 months often tie back to new skills your baby is picking up. Even though we call them ‘regressions’, your baby’s ability to sleep isn’t getting worse; it’s just disrupted.

How Moving More Affects Baby’s Sleep

Your 9-month-old baby is likely on the move in various ways. Whether they’re scooting, crawling, or even pulling themselves up to stand, each new skill is a big milestone in their development. But as they explore these new ways of moving, it can also bring changes to their sleep patterns. Especially when they start pulling up to stand in their crib, it can introduce new nighttime adventures and challenges.

What Research Says About Movement and Sleep

A study by Aaron DeMasi and his team from the City University of New York looked into how babies moving more affects their sleep. Here’s what they found:

  • Waking Up More at Night: When babies learn new moves, they might wake up more at night. So, if your baby is trying to stand up a lot, they might not sleep as well.
  • Moving in Sleep: Babies move a lot in their sleep, especially during deep sleep. This helps them learn. As they get better at

What Parents Should Know

Your baby is learning a lot right now, and that can change their sleep. Here’s what might happen:

  • Trying New Moves at Night: Now that your baby can pull up to stand, they might do it at night too. This can make their sleep a bit messy.
  • Safety First: Standing means more chances of falling. Make sure the crib is safe. You might need to lower the mattress if your baby is trying to climb out.
  • Too Excited to Sleep: New moves can make babies excited. This can make it hard for them to sleep. Calm and consistent bedtime routines can help them relax.

Remember, it’s normal for sleep to change when babies learn new things. With some patience and small changes, things will get better.

Other Developmental Milestones at 9 Months Affecting Sleep

While increased mobility plays a significant role, other developmental changes can also influence sleep patterns:

  • Separation Anxiety: Between 8-9 months, babies start to grasp “object permanence,” understanding that things continue to exist even when out of sight. This can lead to separation anxiety when they’re away from primary caregivers. This might mean more wake-ups at night, difficulty settling to sleep, and being extra clingy during the day.
  • Teething: The emergence of new teeth can lead to restless nights.
  • Nap Transitions: If your little one has not yet made the shift from 3 naps to 2, by now they have likely outgrown their current sleep schedule and need longer wake windows between sleep periods. One surefire sign of this is that they consistently resist or skip the third nap.

Signs of a Sleep Regression at 9 Months

Reaching the 9-month mark can be a time of change for many babies, and as a parent, you might notice:

  • Sleep Disruptions: Even if your baby has been a star sleeper, they might start fighting sleep or experiencing more frequent night wakings. This can be made even trickier with feelings of separation anxiety.
  • Difficulty Falling Asleep: Your baby might seem tired but resist going to bed. This can be due to the big developmental changes they’re going through, and yes, separation anxiety plays a part here too.
  • Shorter Naps: Some babies might cut their naps short or skip some. If they’re waking up from naps looking worried, it could be that separation anxiety again.
  • Mood Changes: A bit more fussiness, especially around bedtime, can be a sign they’re going through a lot of changes, both with their development and their sleep.
  • Changes in Eating: Some babies might want to feed more for comfort. Others might get distracted during feedings, looking around to make sure you’re still there.

How Long Does This Last?

Most parents find the 8-10 month sleep regression lasts between 2 to 6 weeks. Every baby is different, though. Remember, as tough as this phase can be, it’s temporary and is often tied to big developmental steps forward.

Tips for Sleep During the 9-Month Sleep Regression

This can be a tough time for both babies and parents. Here are some tips:

  • Practice During the Day: Babies love practicing new skills. Ensuring they get adequate daytime sleep can also help reduce nighttime disruptions and contribute to better sleep overall.
  • Safety First: As your baby becomes more mobile, especially with pulling to stand, ensure the crib and sleep environment are safe. Adjust the crib mattress height if needed and always check for potential hazards.
  • Bedtime Routine: Given the mental stimulation from new skills, consider a calming pre-sleep routine. This could include a warm bath, gentle lullabies, or a short story.
  • Be Clear: It might be tempting to sneak out of the room when your baby’s distracted, but it’s better to say goodbye. It helps them understand you’re leaving but will be back.
  • Offer Comfort, But Stay Consistent: It’s okay to give a bit more comfort during this time. But try to stick to your usual bedtime routines. It gives your baby a sense of what to expect.
  • Stay Informed: Understanding the developmental milestones your baby is going through can help you empathize and adjust your approach. Consider reading up or consulting with a pediatrician for insights.
  • Seek Support: Remember, you’re not alone. Connect with other parents, join support groups, or consider professional guidance if sleep disruptions become too challenging.
  • Stay Patient and Understanding: This is a big time of change for your baby. They’re not trying to give you a hard time; they’re having a hard time. Your understanding can make a big difference.

Would Sleep Training Help?

As parents navigate the challenges of the 8-10-month sleep regression, two common questions arise: Would sleep training help, and is it advisable to sleep train during a sleep regression? The answers aren’t straightforward, but there are several factors to consider:

  • Ability to Self-soothe: By 9 months, many babies have developed the motor skills necessary to find ways to comfort themselves. This self-soothing ability can be a cornerstone of many sleep training methods, allowing babies to settle themselves during nighttime awakenings.
  • Nighttime Feeding: With the introduction of more solid foods into their diet, many 9-month-olds might not need as many nighttime feeds. This makes nighttime weaning more feasible, which can be a component of some sleep training approaches.
  • Understanding Object Permanence: As babies begin to grasp the concept of object permanence, they understand that things (including caregivers) continue to exist even when out of sight. While this cognitive leap can lead to challenges like separation anxiety, it also offers an opportunity for sleep training. With the right approach, this understanding can be used to reinforce feelings of security during sleep training.

Sleep regressions are a natural part of development and can’t be avoided – especially in the first year. In fact, avoiding them would mean that your baby isn’t growing and evolving, which isn’t what any parent would want. There’s never going to be a “perfect” time to work on sleep training – the early years are a whirlwind of developmental changes, teething, illness, and environmental changes like starting daycare or moving from room sharing with you to their own room. 

However, one potential benefit of undergoing some form of sleep training is that future regressions might be navigated with less disruption if a strong sleep foundation has been established. It’s essential to choose a method that aligns with your family’s values and comfort level. Every baby and family is unique, so what works for one might not work for another.

Final Thoughts

The 9-month mark is a big one, full of changes and challenges. But with understanding, patience, and the right strategies, you and your baby can navigate it together. Always reach out to your pediatrician if you have concerns. For more on sleep regressions at different ages, check out our other blogs. 

If you want to check your child’s sleep schedule – you can use our free sleep generator tool

This article was written by Batelle – team of sleep experts, lactation consultants, therapists, doulas, and early education specialists. Special thanks to Deanna.  

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