By the time your baby is nine months old, they probably have at least the beginnings of their own little personality. Maybe they’re starting to babble in a more coherent way, or saying their first words. They could even begin to hoist themselves up and begin to cruise around the house. And while all of these developments are fun to watch, what’s not-so-fun is the nine-month sleep regression that could accompany them. How could your little one — who is so sweet and smiley during the day — turn into a wailing demon crying uncontrollably at night? As exhausting and inconvenient as it may be, it’s actually completely normal. Here’s what to know about a nine-month sleep regression, including tips for parents going through it.
Baby going through sleep troubles? Check out our entire sleep regression package for baby’s first year starting with the three-month regression, four-month regression, six-month regression, seven-month regression, eight-month regression, and nine-month regression.
What is sleep regression?
Generally speaking, sleep regression involves periods of time (usually between two and six weeks), when a baby or toddler who had previously been sleeping on a (semi) regular schedule goes rogue. This could involve waking up frequently during the night (and having difficulty getting them back to sleep), as well as taking much shorter naps than usual, or flat-out refusing to nap. In other words, it’s extremely frustrating for exhausted parents who thought that they’d finally get back on some type of normal sleep schedule themselves.
Starting in the 1940s, the idea of babies experiencing sleep regression has been studied by those working in developmental psychology. But after more than 70 years, although scientists know that sleep regression does happen, they still don’t know why or precisely when it happens, the New York Times reports. And despite the lack of hard data pointing to a precise sleep regression timeline, there is no shortage of books and websites that present specific “stages” of sleep regression as established milestones experienced by most (if not all) infants.
On the one hand, this can be really helpful for parents who are experiencing these stages with their own child — reassuring them that their child’s sleep regression is not unusual. But on the other hand, it can also give parents something else to worry about, in terms of whether their child is developing “normally” or not. Ultimately, parents should understand that sleep regression and development looks different in every baby, so if yours isn’t following the timeline precisely (or at all), it’s usually not cause for concern. And as always, ask your pediatrician if you have any questions about this.
What happens during a baby’s 9-month sleep regression?
If you’ve read the parenting books and blogs, you may have noticed a certain timeline for a baby’s sleep regressions, and it may not include nine months. But there is no hard-and-fast rule as to when these disruptions in their (and your) sleep schedule will occur, so if your baby’s sleep regressions aren’t like clockwork, that’s totally fine. And although scientists don’t yet fully understand what causes sleep regressions, they do seem to happen during periods when a baby is going through some pretty significant cognitive and physical changes, which may impact how and when they’re sleeping.
The signs of a nine-month sleep regression are similar to the ones your baby experienced during their previous regression period and may include:
- Waking up more frequently at night and taking longer to get back to sleep.
- Extreme fussiness and/or crankiness.
- Having trouble falling asleep.
- Taking shorter naps, or resisting them completely.
- Fighting sleep.
- More crying than usual.
What to do during a baby’s 9-month sleep regression?
First, do a quick temperature check to make sure your baby doesn’t have a fever — something that can also impact their sleep schedule. If it’s higher than normal, contact your pediatrician. If that’s not the case, they’re not teething, and your baby isn’t sticking to their usual sleeping schedule, they might be going through a nine-month sleep regression.
Here are some ways to manage your baby’s nine-month sleep regression:
- Stick to a bedtime routine and sleep schedule, including for naps. It may be tempting to keep them awake all day in the hopes that they’ll sleep through the night, but that’s not always the case. A well rested baby will sleep better at night.
- When it’s time for bed, make sure the baby’s belly is full and their diaper is dry.
- Remove any gadgets or toys from their crib that can distract them and/or keep them awake.
- Make sure your baby falls asleep in their bed as often as possible (instead of in a swing, or while being held, or in the car).
- Make sure they move around enough during the day to tire them out at night.
Look: we understand that after nine months and at least one round of sleep training, it can be hard to accept the fact that your baby is going through (another) sleep regression period. But remember that it’s only temporary and has nothing to do with your abilities as a parent — it’s just how babies work.
What should my 9-month-old’s sleep schedule look like?
Babies are strange creatures, and sometimes they fall asleep at the oddest times. However, there’s a certain number of hours of sleep your kiddo should receive each day. It’s considered normal for your baby to get about 12 to 16 hours of sleep a day. Keep in mind, this may not happen all at once but in spurts. At night they should get at least 10 hours of sleep. And don’t worry if they wake up throughout the night. It’s a very common thing for babies to do.
However, if you’re looking for a more structured way to keep track of your baby’s sleep schedule, What to Expect has created a helpful rest plan for babies.
- 7:00 a.m. Awake
- 9:30 a.m. Nap
- 11:30 a.m. Awake
- 2:00 p.m. Nap
- 3:30 p.m. Awake
- 7:00 p.m. Bedtime routine
- 7:30 p.m. Bedtime
Ways to help a 9-month-old baby sleep through the night
It’s hard to manage the energy of a nine-month-old, but thankfully we’ve found several exercises that will leave your little one ready for bed.
- Get a big plastic ball and have your baby sit a few feet away from you. Roll the ball to one another and if the ball gets away from you both, encourage them to bring it back. Not only does this mean a lot of walking around for your baby, but it’ll teach them what objects look like in motion and what it means to take turns.
- Play music together. It’s OK if you don’t have any instruments on hand. Bust out the pots and wooden spoons. Your child will enjoy all the noise and put all of their energy into it. This exercise can also boost their hand-eye coordination.