Or should we say PROgression? Regression is such a negative description of this time but it's actually a moment of such incredible progression and development for your little one.
Like with any developmental leap, milestone or labelled sleep regression, the age specified is never exact. So although this is commonly coined the 8 month regression it could be a month or two either side.
It is thought that the predominant reason for this sleep regression is the first proper bout of separation anxiety.
It is widely believed that separation anxiety emerges around the time an infant begins to develop the concept of object permanence (Piaget, 1977).
Object permanence is when your child learns that an object or person still exists even when they are out of sight. Prior to this your baby had a very out of sight out of mind mentality. So when this change occurs they can start to worry that when you leave the room you wont return.
You might find;
Baby is extra clingy.
Baby cries when you leave the room.
Baby fights bedtime.
Baby has more nighttime wake ups with need for comfort.
But it's not just separation anxiety at play...
There are so many factors occurring at this time that could be contributing to your little one's sleep getting a bit rocky.
Solid food is increasing.
Might be starting to pull themselves up to test out some cruising.
In the latter stage of this time period, your baby may be dropping from 3 to 2 naps.
Everything we learn, and all new developments, consolidate at night while we are sleeping. So it's no surprise that a time that is so filled with new and exciting developments and skills would lead to some disruptions for your little one at night.
But what can we as parents do to help?
It's first important to note that this regression/progression may last a little longer than others. With the variables of what is changing and developing, it can take a little while for it to all settle down completely. But there are a few things you can do;
I would avoid any big changes over this period. Adding any extra challenges like moving to their own room, or stopping co sleeping could make the situation much trickier than it needs to be.
In the same vein as above, keep everything as consistent as possible. Bedtime routine and timings should remain the same so they have something solid they can rely on; this is calming for them.
Be a little more aware of your baby not becoming overtired, especially if they are dropping a nap. Over tiredness can cause more night wakings on its own without all these other extra factors so it's key to keep an eye on. Shifting the naps they are having so each wake window isn't too long is an option. You could also bring bedtime forward for a time while they adjust to not having their third nap.
To help your baby adjust to the object permanence it can be great to play games like peekaboo and hiding toys to then reveal them again. Solidifying the concept that something/someone can be out of sight but that they will come back can extremely beneficial.
Popping in and out of the room, vocalising to your baby that you will be back in a moment and then returning shortly after can also work in the same way as above.
You could introduce a comforter at this time if they don't already have one. Perhaps you, as the parent, could sleep with it for a couple of nights first so it smells of you.
Comfort, closeness and connection. You will NOT be 'pandering' to your child or 'making the problem worse' by giving them the closeness and support they need during this time. In fact by showing them that you are there for them and that you are there to keep them safe, you will actually give them confidence to work through their separation anxiety.
Like with any phase of sleep disruption and development it will pass. I know it can feel hard and you may be exhausted, but if you take any moments of rest you can to catch up on any lost sleep it can be a game changer. Whatever works for you to keep a level of calm around your little one will make such a difference, as they are sneaky detectives at picking up on our stress.