At nine months old, your baby is learning a host of new skills; they may be crawling or cruising, pulling themselves up on anything and everything and enjoying exploring the world around them. It’s a super fun age as your baby starts developing a personality of their own, and a period many parents enjoy.
However, with this exciting stage of development can come some major sleep disruptions.
I’m Chloe Waller, a certified sleep coach and founder of The Sleep Guide, and in this article, we’ll have the 9 Months sleep regression explained and will take you through some of the common signs you’re in the midst of the 9-month-sleep regression, the reasons why this regression might be happening and some tips on how to navigate it and get everyone in the family a bit more sleep.
Key Signs you’re in a Sleep Regression
It may be reassuring that the 9-month sleep regression usually only lasts a few weeks. It can occur anytime between 8 and 10 months, and there aren’t any specific triggers you can look out for.
Having said that, if you have gone from a previously great sleeper to now waking multiple times a night, there’s no doubt it can feel challenging and draining.
Here are some of the key signs to look out for that your baby is experiencing a sleep regression:
- More frequent night wakings
- Usual settling methods are not working or taking much longer than expected to work
- Nap refusals
- Increased crying or clinginess
- Bedtime battles or much longer bedtimes
Your little one may experience all of these or just one or two; unfortunately, there is no set formula when it comes to sleep regressions.
Developmental milestones are the most common reason to see a regression in sleep at this age. Your baby is probably processing significant physical changes, which can be hard work for their brains to process.
Most of this new information is being sorted while they sleep, so it makes sense that these changes in our baby’s worlds disrupt sleep.
The most common physical milestones to impact sleep at this age are:
- Pulling up to standing on furniture
A great way to help you through this regression is to practice any new skills your baby is developing away from sleep. This will help them solidify these new skills to become less distracting or exciting at night and nap time.
You can practise these skills in their cot during the day; for example, you can get your baby to practise pulling themself up in their cot and then encourage them to sit back down by placing a desirable toy on the mattress or patting your hand on the bed.
Once these new skills are mastered, they will cause much less disruption to sleep, and things will return to normal.
Separation Anxiety at Nine Months
Another common reason to experience a sleep regression at nine months is that your baby may be experiencing separation anxiety for the first time.
At nine months old, your baby is becoming aware of their surroundings and realising that you are a separate entity to them. This can be unnerving, causing them to become extra clingy and need more reassurance than usual.
Your little one may have just started spending some time at daycare or with family members instead of with you all day.
This separation is a normal part of your child’s development and growth and something they will get used to. You do not need to feel guilty about spending time away from your baby, even though it may be hard to see them distressed.
You can help your baby understand these periods of separation and feel secure in the knowledge that you will come back by using these few tips:
- Allow time in your day to connect one-on-one; even just 10-15 mins will make a difference.
- Say goodbye to your baby properly when you leave, don’t sneak out and leave with a big smile.
- You can practise short separation periods first, leading to more extended periods away.
- Allow some extra time for calming and settling at bedtime.
- Leave something comforting with your baby, like a special toy or comforter that smells like you.
The eruption of new teeth at this age can cause some babies discomfort when it comes to lying down to go to sleep. Even if their teeth haven’t been bothering them too much during the day, they can be more painful when lying in bed for naps or at night.
You can help soothe your baby’s sore gums by using white noise and familiar comforters to distract them from the pain in their cot. Or you could try a gentle massage around their cheeks and jaw to relieve any tension.
Another great way to ease the pain is to keep a washcloth or muslin in the freezer that has been dipped in their milk and let them chew on this cold cloth to soothe their sore gums.
Teething pain usually only lasts a few days, and the lead-up to a new tooth erupting is usually more painful than when it cuts through the gum.
Daily Sleep Schedule at Nine Months
At nine months old, the average baby will take two naps a day, totalling 2-3 hours of daytime sleep.
The average wake window for a nine-month-old is 2.5 – 4 hours, and lots of babies follow a 2, 3, 4 wake window schedule, with nap number 1 being 2-2.5 hours after waking, nap number two being 3 hours after their first nap and bedtime being four hours after the second nap.
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to schedule and routine. If your baby is sleeping slightly more or less than this, do not worry, each baby has different sleep needs. Some babies may still take three naps a day if they are cat nappers and have shorter naps; this is totally normal.
I always encourage parents to watch their baby and be curious about the unique signs they show to signal to you that they are ready to sleep to determine their schedule.
If your baby is on a two-nap routine, here is an example schedule of what their day might look like:
7 am – wake & feed
2.5-hour wake window
9.30 am – First nap
3-hour wake window
1.30 pm Second nap
3.5 – 4 hour wake window
6.30 / 7 pm bedtime
Gently Helping your Baby Settle at Night
As a sleep coach, I specialise in a responsive, attachment-based approach and the following method is a great way to gently encourage your baby to self-settle. This is especially powerful if your baby is struggling to settle at night during their regression and needs a lot more assistance from you than usual.
Give these gentle steps below a try to encourage independent sleep and to move away from having to rock them fully to sleep in your arms.
- Pick up your baby and rock or cuddle them until they are calm. You can also use your voice to help by shush-ing or singing quietly.
- Once drowsy and nearly asleep, slowly lower them into their cot and keep your arms around them once you’ve placed them on the mattress.
- Again use your voice to reassure them and slowly move your arms away, patting or rubbing your baby if needed until they are asleep.
- If they wake up or get upset, repeat the above steps. Your baby will soon feel comfortable falling asleep in their cot instead of in your arms.
Top Tips for Navigating the 9-month Sleep Regression
- Keep your routine consistent where possible, especially your bedtime and pre-nap routine. Routines and familiar patterns are comforting and reassuring to our babies. Keeping your routine consistent makes you more likely to get back on track quickly.
- Nap on the go, in the buggy or car, if needed during this time. Sometimes settling in the cot for naps can be tricky during regressions, and napping on the go is more relaxed for everyone involved! Use parts of your at-home settling routine for naps on the go, for example, using white noise, a familiar sleepy phrase and their special comforter.
- If your baby doesn’t already use a muslin or comforter for sleep, think about introducing one to their routine. They can be incredibly comforting for babies and make it easier for them to be away from you.
- Play with your baby in their cot away from sleep to help them build a positive connection with their sleep space. This can be a simple and powerful tool. Playing fun games or with their favourite toys in their room and cot can help your baby feel safe and secure enough not to need as much assistance falling back asleep during the night.
- Keep calm! This tricky phase will pass. It may feel endless whilst you’re in the thick of it, but regressions are temporary; they will soon pass.
Question: How Much Sleep does my Nine-Month-Old Need?
Answer: At nine months old, we’d ideally like to see 2-3 hours of day sleep spread across two naps and 10-11 hours of sleep overnight.
On average, they sleep 12-14 hours across 24 hours. However, some babies will need a bit less sleep than this or a bit more; it depends on your baby and if they have high or low sleep needs. Some babies still take three naps a day at this age if naps are on the shorter side, or ‘cat’ naps.
Question: How Long does the 9-month Sleep Regression Last?
Answer: The 9-month sleep regression can last a few days to a few weeks. It varies from child to child, but it’s important to remember it’s temporary and will pass, even if it feels endless while you’re in it!
Question: Why is my Baby Crying More than Usual?
Answer: Tears and crying are how your baby communicates with you. Whilst still developing their language skills, crying is still the number one way for your baby to tell you something isn’t quite right.
Teething issues are expected at this age, causing grumbling and general discomfort. Separation anxiety is also common in 9 months olds which can result in increased tears and clinginess.
Question: Is the 9-month Sleep Regression the Worst?
Answer: It can be one of the hardest regressions to navigate, as there is often more than one cause at play. Your little one may be experimenting with new skills, have new teeth emerging and experiencing some separation anxiety, all leading to very disturbed nights and a fussy, cranky baby during the day.
Each child is unique and will experience these developments differently, but it can be a challenging age. Remember that this is a temporary phase and your smiley, happy baby will return.
The 9-Month Sleep Regression: Key Takeaways
If you are short on time, like most sleep-deprived parents are, here are my key takeaways for the nine-month sleep regression:
- The nine-month sleep regression can occur any time between 8 and 10 months; there is no set time for it to start or end, and it depends on your baby’s development.
- It is most commonly caused by developmental milestones such as; crawling, cruising & teething.
- It is a temporary phase and will pass. Stay calm!
- Stick to your familiar routines and patterns to help your baby through this time; remember, routines are reassuring and calming for babies.
Don’t hesitate to contact your paediatrician if you have concerns about your baby’s development or weight.
For more practical help and advice on your baby’s sleep, please visit Upside Dad.
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Chloe is a certified Infant Sleep Consultant and Founder of The Sleep Guide where she works with tired parents to transform their baby’s sleep using gentle, actionable sleep teaching methods to give them confidence in their little one’s sleep.