7 Month Sleep Regression
In the first year of life, a baby’s sleep schedule can be confusing and punishing to the loving parents who are going along for this very bumpy ride. Babies are initially born sleeping about 15-17 hours a day, give or take a couple of hours. It’s their night schedule, though, that causes much havoc in households. Since babies need to eat about every 3-4 hours, they rarely sleep through the night. Their rapidly growing minds and sensitivity to light will also cause them to sometimes be overstimulated and unable to sleep. Eventually, this levels off, leaving parents with a baby that often sleeps 6-8 hours a night be 3 months in (for lucky parents anyway).
And then something very odd happens. You may notice changes in your baby. The first common sleep regression stage is 4 months, but there’s another one on the horizon that happens to parents frequently. It’s the 7 month sleep regression that often confuses parents. We’ve all heard of the 4, 8, and 18 month regression, but 7? What is this?! Well, it’s just another sleep regression stage. Maybe your baby forgot to have a regression stage at 4 months and decided to surprise you at 7 months instead.
If your baby is in a 7 month sleep regression, you may notice:
- Different feeding habits
- More fussing at nap time and any time, just the general crankiness
- Less naps taken throughout the day and fussy behavior between naps
- Waking up at night like they did when they were a newborn
It’s easy to see why all of these things would cause concern for parents. A fussy baby might signal an illness, and multiple night wakings might signal an illness, too. If you’ve visited a pediatrician and ruled out an illness, it’s possible that all of these things are a sign of the dreaded 7 month sleep regression. Your baby is taking you on a wild new ride, and this one is a ride you didn’t expect.
What’s The 7 Month Sleep Regression?
If you missed the first few sleep regressions and have no idea what they are, you’re probably one of the lucky parents that had a child who skipped a 4 month regression. Congratulations, that was one less regression you had to live through. Now you’re facing 4-6 weeks of what is called a sleep regression stage. The 7 month sleep regression stage is where your 7 month old baby is experiencing changes in sleep cycles and brain development that causes them to revert to a previous sleep pattern. They’ve regressed back to their new baby selves, and they’ve left you exhausted and drained.
Many parents, especially parents who go to work early in the morning, begin to panic and look for magic fixes or may even wonder what they’ve done to cause this behavior to happen. If you’re waking up a few times at night to tend to your 7 month old who had previously been sleeping all night long, you’re probably experiencing the 7 month sleep regression. No one blames you for wondering why this is happening, but the reality is that you didn’t do anything to cause this, and there’s nothing you can do to prevent it from happening. There may even be more sleep regressions on the way, and there’s not a single thing you can do.
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Baby’s Brain Development
The reason you can’t prevent a sleep regression is because it’s perfectly normal for a baby whose brain is developing to have a sleep regression. As their minds develop and become more full of the neat things around them, it’s natural for the mind to become more excitable. They’re seeing and doing things now that they never have before, and their brain is darn excited about that! If you had all kinds of neat new things in your brain, you might become more wakeful, too. Babies are also experiencing deep sleep and light sleep cycles now, meaning that they can wake up from REM sleep just like you can.
What babies can’t do that you can do is soothe themselves back to sleep. Back in the old days when your 7 month old was a newborn, they’d wake you up when they woke up. It’s what they did. And now that their sleep cycles are developing more fully, they’re going to go back to what they know and wake you up again.
What To Do
Your baby in a 7 month old sleep regression did the right thing. They went back to what they knew by waking you up to get them back to sleep. And now, you’re going to have to go back to what you knew back then, too, and that’s how to soothe your baby and help them sleep better throughout the night. Getting them to sleep longer at naps is going to be a challenge as well because sometimes the night wakings might make them so excited they can’t sleep through a nap either. And that makes for a cranky baby. Your mission here is to stay calm and follow a few simple tips:
1. Practice taking a deep breath when things get too overwhelming.
You’ll want to stay as calm as possible because a frustrated, fussy you will make for a more frustrated, fussy baby. That’s the opposite of what you want. Even when you’re about to lose it, make sure you keep a soothe, gentle demeanor with your baby. The 7 month sleep regression can be tough on them, too. You’re in this together.
2. Go back to basics and use strategies that worked when your baby was a newborn.
If gentle back rubs helped, use them! If talking to your baby in a soft, gentle voice helped, use that soft, gentle voice.
3. Make sure you stick to a regular feeding schedule so that your baby doesn’t wake up cranky and hungry on top of the crankiness.
Sending a baby to bed hungry is definitely going to increase the nighttime wakings and make your life even harder than it already is during the 7 month sleep regression.
4. Keep the room dark and the noise down!
If you have other children who wake up through the night, instruct them to keep quiet. Baby is extra excited right now because of that developing brain. Noise proof their room as much as possible and keep household noise to a minimum at night and nap times.
5. Take some “you” time during those baby naps so that you can recoup and get ready for a frustrating night if one arrives.
There’s nothing wrong with pampering yourself a little during this. If you’re calmer and more relaxed, your baby is going to appreciate that and reward you.
It’s Tough, But It’ll Pass
The 7 month sleep regression lasts from between 4-6 weeks, give or take a week. You’re going to survive this, but there will be some especially tough nights where it sure doesn’t feel like you’re going to make it to work the next day. A 7 month sleep regression will usually catch you off guard. It’s not during the time of most common sleep regressions, but it does happen. Your baby is just a little early on the 8 month one. You can get through this, and you will. What it’s going to take is a lot of patience.
Your baby’s going to be fussier than usual, wake up at night more, and may even get hungry at different times. Pay attention to all of these things, keep as calm as you can, and know that this will all pass and eventually your baby will sleep through the night again. When the 7 month sleep regression ends, it’s going to feel like all is well with the world again, and you’ll look in on your blissfully sleeping baby at night and know they’re not going to wake up again until morning. And that is going to be a great feeling! Until then, if you’re researching this, you’re already doing a great job trying to help your baby and you through this.
Sleep difficulties with babies are some of the hardest problems for parents to deal with because most parents have busy schedules during the day. When you have to get up at night with your baby, it can throw your whole mood during the day off, and it’s frustrating. This is part of that critical first couple of years, though. It’s something you’re going to survive! Whenever things seem like they’re getting you down, and it feels like too much all at once, just remember the good feeling you’ll have 4-6 weeks from now when you get that first full night’s sleep again. That day is already on the way. Until then, just know you’re doing the best you can for yourself and baby.